The story of Mildenhall's workhouses uncovered after 100 years

Danny Pearson stood outside the former Mildenhall Workhouse building, the subject of his new book

Danny Pearson stood outside the former Mildenhall Workhouse building, the subject of his new book - Credit: Danny Pearson

A new book is to tell the story of Mildenhall's workhouses, almost 100 years since one of them was demolished. 

Mildenhall opened it's first workhouse in the 1700s after the local landowner donated two buildings to be used. 

As times changed, the Government decided that workhouses needed to be more prison like and so a new workhouse was built in the town. 

“There were two workhouses in Mildenhall,” said author Danny Pearson. 

“One of them is still standing, one of them was demolished in 1924.” 

While only one of the workhouse buildings remain, there are still remains of the other hidden around the town. 

“I had believed that there was nothing left of the one that was demolished in 1924 but I managed to find the original foundation stone for it in a totally different part of town," said Mr Pearson.   

The foundation from one of the workhouses in Mildenhall 

The foundation from one of the workhouses in Mildenhall - Credit: Danny Pearson

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“I made contact with the owner of the house and he had no idea where it had come from.” 

Life in the workhouse was tough and often tragic, much of Mr Pearson’s work focuses around researching names from old newspapers and seeing what happened to the residents.  

“Each chapter is more about the paupers who passed through the door,” he said. 

“There’s some grave robbing, there’s attacks on other inmates and lots of death and disease, including involving children.” 

Grave robbers took bodies to be used for dissection by universities keen to learn more about the human body. 

Those behind the workhouses also led particularly interesting lives. 

"Odin Reed was the chairman of the board of guardians, which looked after the inmates," he said. 

"He was pretty much involved in every club that's ever happened in Mildenhall."

The history of the workhouses is often forgotten, Mr Pearson said, because of its less than savoury memory. 

One of Mildenhall's workhouses back in the day

One of Mildenhall's workhouses back in the day - Credit: Mildenhall Museum

"I think society realised that it was probably wrong to treat the poor as prisoners and it wasn't a solution to lock them all up together.

"I think it's an interesting part of history." 

'A Victorian Workhouse, The Lives of The Paupers of Mildenhall Suffolk' will be released next month. 

Further details about the book can be found online


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