Poor house and workhouse in Chesham

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    There are two buildings in Chesham related to the care of the poor and needy in the town since the 17th century.

    In 1601 the Old Poor Law was passed and this remained the basis of the Poor Law system until 1834. The oldest and Elizabethan Poorhouse is situated at the corner of Germain Street and The New Footpath. Nearby are the allotment gardens on the corner of Germain Street and Wey Lane that were designated for the inmates to work. These are now in private hands.

    The second and larger workhouse was instituted in the 18th century in the houses now named Weylands and The Old School House in Germain Street.

    Behind the Georgian facade, which was added in the early 1700s, is a building that started life as a Jacobean farmhouse. A Parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a parish workhouse in Chesham for up to 90 people.

    After the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was passed, local workhouses were combined into Union Workhouses. The local one was to be in Amersham in the building which later became Amersham Hospital.

    Chesham people protested at their relations being taken from the town’s workhouse and The Times reported a riot of July 1835 as the cart with paupers on board made its way from Germain Street,
    along Amy Lane to Amersham Hill. A magistrate, Mr. Fuller, was injured and at the later trial Chesham men and women were found guilty and then imprisoned.