The Strange Death of Marlborough Union Workhouse
21 March 2024

The Strange Death of Marlborough Union Workhouse

7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

SPEAKER: Nick Baxter

Nick Baxter is a local historian, author, lecturer and tour guide


Opened in 1837, the Marlborough Union Workhouse’s early years were fraught with difficulties. In January 1849 inmates wrecked the kitchen and smashed windows. Boards covered the broken windows, except in the able bodied men’s ward where the paupers were left to freeze.

In 1930 the workhouse became a Public Assistance Institution following the abolition of Poor Law Unions. Buildings were converted to the use of a Children’s Convalescent Home, and later Hospital and School, which closed in the 1980’s. In the 1990’s it was re-developed into luxury flats for older people. Controversy erupted when the developer chose to name the development “Digby Court” after a Civil War general who was involved in the sacking of the town in December 1642. After extensive media coverage “Digby Court” was dropped and replaced by “St Luke’s Court” after the patron saint of physicians. Further controversy came when the plaque, identifying the building as originally a workhouse, was removed by the developer. This was vigorously resisted and the plaque eventually reinstated.

The horrors of the Civil War, and the sufferings of those incarcerated in the workhouse, are not the images desired by some. But in attempting to erase those images, history risks being distorted and sanitised.