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What they wanted was short term relief which would allow them to continue with what little employment there was until times gradually improved.Eventually, in 1848, the Poor Law Commission allowed the Kendal Guardians to operate an "outdoor labour test".Designed by Richard Peddar, it was described as "a neat, airy, and pleasant building, large enough to contain 80 persons." In 1776, Peddar drew up plans for an additional wing. The paupers were "farmed" by a contractor who was paid by the township. The union erected a workhouse in 1811 at a cost of £2,150.

This was more than the workhouses could cope with and would anyway have been very expensive for the Union - the cost of keeping someone in the workhouse was much more than giving them modest out-relief either as food or as a small cash payment.

The weavers themselves were far from being totally destitute.

Eden, in his 1797 survey of the poor in England, reported of Kendal that: The insides of cottages near the town exhibit every appearance of misery. In 1813, the union erected a workhouse at a cost of £4,990 and designed by Francis Webster of Kendal. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 67 in number, representing its 57 constituent parishes and townships as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians where not one): Westmorland: Ambleside (2), Applethwaite, Barbon, Beetham, Burton, Casterton, Crook, Crosthwaite and Lyth, Dilicar, Docker, Farleton, Fawcett Forrest, Firbank, Grasmere, Grayrigg, Haverbrack, Helsington, Hincaster, Holme, Hugill, Hutton Roof, Kendal (7), Kentmere, Killington, Kirkby Lonsdale (2), Kirkland (2), Langdales, Lambrigg, Levens, Longsuddale, Lupton, Mansergh, Meethop and Ulpha, Middleton, Milnthorpe and Heversham (2), Natland, Nether Graveship, New Hutton, Old Hutton and Holmescales, Patton, Preston Patrick, Preston Richard, Rydal and Loughrigg, Scalthwaitrigg-Hay and Hutton'ith Hay, Sedgwick, Skelsmergh, Stainton, Nether Staveley, Over Staveley, Strickland Kettle, Strickland Roger, Troutbeck, Underbarrow and Bradley-field, Undermillbeck, Whinfell, Whitwell and Selside, Witherslack.

The Poor are either relieved at home or maintained in a Workhouse, which is a commodious building, in an airy situation, and kept with great neatness and propriety. Each township subscribed towards the building according to the average amount of their poor rates during the previous three years. The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 26,906 with parishes and townships ranging in size from Fawcett Forrest (population 61) to Kendal itself (10,015).

A now much altered block at the north of the site was probably the infirmary erected in about 1865. Like many other northern manufacturing areas, Kendal found it difficult to operate the "workhouse or nothing" principle of relief enshrined in the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act.

Slumps in the local textile trade could lead to hundreds of handloom weavers suddenly in need of relief.

A productive garden is attached to the Workhouse, cultivated by the labour of the inmates. Until the 1860s, children at the Kendal workhouse were all taught in the workhouse's own school-room.

The workhouse location and layout can be seen on the 1911 map below. The main wing at the east contained accommodation for the elderly and infirm, dining hall, stores and workshops. In 1865, female orphans were placed at the new orphan home on Milnthorpe Road established by Mary Howard of Levens Hall. For the boys, a military-style band was established.

In the yard behind the Workhouse stands a commodious School-room for boys, and the contiguous building, which was formerly the harden manufactory, is, the lower part of it, appropriated as a play-ground, and the upper part is used for dormitories.

What was formerly the Fever Ward is now occupied partly as a schoolroom for girls, and partly as girls' dormitories, with apartments for the schoolmistress.

It contains 55 rooms, 35 of which are lodging rooms, very judiciously distributed. Beans and cabbages are occasionally substituted for potatoes, and bacon for beef, but the usual rotation is : Breakfast—Every day, hasty pudding and milk, or milk boiled with oatmeal. On beef days each person is allowed half-a-pound of beef without any distinction being paid to age or sex. According to an 1829 directory: The house and garden occupy two acres, and, detached from the house, upon a pleasant eminence, is a fever ward, belonging to the institution. The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £12,728 or 7s.9d. Kendal was somewhat unusual in that it permanently retained two pre-1834 parish workhouses, the one at Kendal and another at Milnthorpe.

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