History in Structure

New Street Flats (Former Quaker Workhouse)

A Grade II Listed Building in Bristol, City of Bristol

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Latitude: 51.458 / 51°27'28"N

Longitude: -2.5826 / 2°34'57"W

OS Eastings: 359615

OS Northings: 173385

OS Grid: ST596733

Mapcode National: GBR CBJ.V6

Mapcode Global: VH88N.6M05

Plus Code: 9C3VFC58+5W

Entry Name: New Street Flats (Former Quaker Workhouse)

Listing Date: 1 June 2009

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1393302

English Heritage Legacy ID: 506417

ID on this website: 101393302

Location: Newtown, Bristol, BS2

County: City of Bristol

Electoral Ward/Division: Lawrence Hill

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Bristol

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bristol

Church of England Parish: Easton Holy Trinity with St Gabriel and St Lawrence and St Jude

Church of England Diocese: Bristol

Tagged with: Architectural structure

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901-1/1/10164 RIVER STREET
02-JUN-09 St Judes
New Street Flats (Former Quaker Workho

Former workhouse, built for and by the Quakers in 1698-1700. Later used as school and Mission House in C19 and council flats in C20.

MATERIALS: Constructed of Pennant stone rubble brought to course, the C19 block has freestone quoins, although the entire building is now covered in cement render. The windows were replaced in c. mid-C20; before this they were freestone cross windows with hoodmoulds. The roof was replaced in the mid-C20 and is clad with concrete pantiles.

PLAN: Originally U-shaped plan around courtyard, with an additional block added in the mid-C19 across the open south-east end of the courtyard. The building is of 2 ½ storeys with basement.

EXTERIOR: 8-window range to north-west with 4 dormers, 6-window ranges to either side with 3 dormers. The C19 block is also of 6 bays but sits back from the courtyard and does not extend across the returns of the side ranges. Cantilevered walkways were added in c.1930 to the inner courtyard walls at first and second floor.

INTERIOR: The interior was refurbished and reordered in 1928 when the building was converted into flats. Plans from this time show that the stairs and some partitions were added. The BaRAS report notes the presence of blocked-in fire places, which may be original, in some of the flats.

HISTORY: The building was constructed in 1698-1700 by the Quakers. A committee of Friends had been appointed in 1696 to establish a workhouse in the city, intended to provide work for poor unemployed Quaker weavers and to educate children. A site was agreed upon in 1697 which lay outside of the old city boundary and, until the early C20 when it was culverted, was bounded by the River Frome to the north. A building committee was appointed in 1698 and minutes of a meeting in October 1699 state that construction was nearly complete and some Friends were already in occupancy. The total cost of building and setting up the workhouse was £1,300. A paved footpath laid down to provide access from the east of the city (Lawford's Gate) was being referred to as `New Street' by 1705. At around the same time a Friends' burial ground was established immediately to the east of the workhouse. Millerd's map of c.1715 shows a 2 ½ storey U-shaped building. Roque's map of 1742 depicts an H-shaped building, marked as `Quaker Work H', as does Donne's map of 1773. These extra wings were probably weaving sheds, and the large scale 1828 Plumley and Ashmead map clearly shows the building to be U-shaped with two small rear extensions.

Initially the residents earned money through the production of cantaloons, a type of woollen cloth, and orders from the 1700s survive (in Bristol Record Office), as well as samples of the product, but by 1721 production had ceased. At some point early on a school was also established in the building. An inventory of 1771 lists 17 residents as well as details of household goods and organisation of the building: two wings and a central range with living accommodation in the attics and at first floor level, and a dining room, meeting room, committee room and kitchen and service rooms on the ground floor.

J.P.Sturge & Sons surveyed Friends' properties in Bristol in 1861 and it was noted that the site was `used as an asylum for poor friends'. In 1867 the SE block was added and the courtyard roofed over to create a hall. By this time the building, still owned and run by the Quakers, was in use as a boys and infants school as well as housing the New Street Mission. An insurance plan of 1896 describes the building as being of 2 ½ storeys with a tiled roof. Photographs from the early C20 show freestone cross windows with hoodmoulds to both windows and doorways and single dormers to the attics.

The Quakers' ownership of the building ended in 1929 when it was refurbished as 17 flats for the Bristol Churches Tenements Association. This work, to plans produced by local architect C.F.W. Dening, resulted in an extensive rebuilding of the interior. The flats were again refurbished in the 1960s when the building was transferred to the council. A new meeting house was built in 1958 on the site of the burial ground and this is still in use today.

The Quakers had their own systems of administering to their poor during the C17, with each Monthly Meeting being responsible for its own paupers. The emphasis was on self-help by providing work for impoverished Friends, but not necessarily re-housing them. The Quakers produced numerous pamphlets during this time based on their experiences, with proposals, sometimes ambitious in scale, for institutions which would care for the sick and elderly and educate and train the young. The Quaker workhouse in Clerkenwell (1702) was well-documented at the time, and although the building no longer survives, much is known about its organisation and occupants. Its development runs parallel with that of Bristol, having been initiated in 1697, using an existing building to house 56 old Friends and orphans.

The Quakers were not alone though in their attempts to provide poor relief and were a part of an intellectual movement from the mid-C17 onwards which sought to advocate various forms of relief based on experiences and experiments across the country. The Quakers were also closely involved with the establishment of institutions outside of their community, particularly in Bristol; by the end of the C17, the city had a higher percentage of Friends within its population than anywhere else in the country. At around the same time as the establishment of their own workhouse, Quaker involvement in the foundation of the Bristol Corporation Workhouse (1696, known as the Bristol Mint and using an existing early-C17 house) was substantial and many of the founding committee members were Friends.

SOURCES: John Bryant, Archaeological Building Assessment of New Street Flats, St. Jude's, Bristol. Report No. 2082/2008 (2008). Bristol and Region Archaeological Services.
D Butler, The Quaker meeting houses of Britain (1999) Friends Historical Society
M Fissell, Patient, power and the poor in eighteenth century Bristol (1991) Cambridge History of Medicine.
Andrew Folyle, Bristol Pevsner Architectural Guide (2004) pgs. 173-4
Timothy V. Hitchcock (Ed.). Richard Hutton's complaints book: The notebook of the Steward of the Quaker workhouse at Clerkenwell, 1711-1737 (1987) pgs. 7-23. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx-compid=39816 Date accessed: 23 April 2009
Hubert Lidbetter, The Friends' Meeting House (London 1961, 1979 & 1995)
M Pease, A brief historical account of the Friends' Meeting house premises called the Friars situated between Broad Weir and Rosemary Street, Bristol (1937)
Kathryn Morrison, The Workhouse: A Study of Poor-Law Buildings in England. (1999) RCHME pg. 9-18, 132
Gwynne Stock, Quaker Burial Grounds in Bristol and Frenchay Monthly Meeting. http://www.digitalbristol.org/members/quakers/BurialGrounds.html. Accessed August 2006.

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION: The former Quaker Workhouse on New Street, built in 1698-1700, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* It is one of the earliest known surviving purpose-built workhouses in the country
* It is potentially the oldest surviving workhouse of U-shaped plan
* It is the earliest, and perhaps only, known surviving example of a workhouse constructed for and by the Quakers
* There is good documentary evidence regarding the C18 occupants of the building, their work and the organisation of the workhouse
* It reflects the ambition of the large Quaker community of Bristol in the late-C17
* Continuity of use for philanthropic purpose into the mid-C20

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