Living at the Workhouse in Secret?

on Wednesday, 19 June 2013. Posted in Archives

An interesting enquiry recently came in from a person seeking corroboration of the birth of her ancestor in Highworth and Swindon workhouse in 1909.
This child’s birth certificate gave her address as 8 Highworth Road, Stratton St Margaret. Read on to discover why……

It provided an example of the implementation of the advice of the Registrar General, who in 1904 suggested that the birth and death certificates of inmates should have a euphemistic address, one that spared the family the disgrace of the workhouse.

The correspondent will send this example to the website which alerted her to this practice, which has interesting implications for family historians. Intrigued by this I did a spot check on two births in the Devizes workhouse in December 1909. The birth register gave the address as 7 Commercial Road, Devizes. In each case the address was for the roads in which the institutions stood.

Checking the Devizes example was possible because all but the most current registers of the Wiltshire Registration Service are held in the History Centre. Its copy certificate service is now based at the History Centre and their email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Below are a list of the euphemistic workhouse addresses issued in 1904:

Alderbury: Tower House, Coombe Road, East Harnham

Amesbury: South Hill

Bradford on Avon: The Square, Avoncliff

Calne: 77 Curzon Street

Chippenham: 1 Rowden Hill

Cricklade & Wootton Bassett: North View, High Street, Purton

Devizes: 7 Commercial Road

Highworth & Swindon: 8 Highworth Road, Stratton St Margaret

Malmesbury: 1 Bristol Road, Brokenborough

Marlborough: 4 The Common

Melksham: Semington Lodge

Mere: Castle Street

Pewsey: 1 Wilcot Road, Bowling Alley

Tisbury: Monmouth House, West Tisbury

Warminster: 33 Sambourne

Westbury: Eden Lodge

Wilton: King Way House

Steve Hobbs


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