The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 allowed parishes to join together to form a Poor Law Union, electing a local Board of Guardians to oversee the administration of poor relief and the Union Workhouse.
The Solihull Poor Law Union was formed on 3rd June 1836 and comprised the parishes of:
- Baddesley Clinton
The hamlet of Bushwood was added to the Solihull Poor Law Union on 27th February 1857. The parish of Yardley was removed in 1911 when it became part of Birmingham Poor Law Union.
The first meeting of the Board of Guardians of the Solihull Union took place on 4th June 1836 at the Town Hall, next to St Alphege Church in The Square, Solihull.
The first Clerk to the Board of Guardians was George Joseph Harding (1806-1872), a solicitor and Clerk to the Solihull Magistrates. He remained Clerk to the Board of Guardians until c.1868, when he was succeeded by Edward Orford Smith (1841-1915).
The parishes of Solihull, Tanworth-in-Arden and Yardley already each had their own parish workhouse but the Guardians decided that none of these was suitable and the decision was taken to build a new workhouse to serve the whole of the new Poor Law Union. This would be situated in Solihull, described as the “central parish” of the Poor Law Union.
On 20th April 1837, the Board of Guardians of the Solihull Union issued an invitation to builders interested in securing the contract for the erection of the new workhouse at Solihull to inspect the plans and submit a tender by 23rd May 1837. It was noted that the Guardians did not bind themselves to committing to the lowest tender.
It looks as if the deadline was extended, as Aris’s Birmingham Gazette 5th June 1837 also carried the same announcement but with a date of 20th June 1837 for the submission of tenders.
The Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser of 15th July 1837 also included the same announcement, with the addition that the whole of the works should be completed by Midsummer 1838. Midsummer (24th June) was one of the Quarter Days, when rents were due and servants were hired.
On 10th July 1837, Aris’s Birmingham Gazette carried an appeal for a loan to build the new workhouse:
The Guardians of the Solihull Union are desirous of borrowing the Sum of about £2000 at 4½ per cent for the purpose of building a Union Workhouse, to be secured upon the Rates under the Poor Law Amendment Act. For particulars apply to Mr George Joseph Harding, of Solihull, Clerk to the Solihull Union
It would appear from records at Warwickshire County Record Office (ref.: CR1596/box 137/2/1/7) that the builder was James Benjamin Harper of Henley-in-Arden with Richard Gibbs a farmer of Blackford Mill, Wootton Wawen and William Gibbs, a farmer of Songar, Claverdon, Warwickshire providing the sureties.
The workhouse was erected on land off Warwick Road, Solihull, which was purchased from Rev. Archer Clive, Rector of Solihull.
Presumably, the work was completed around the target date of Midsummer 1838 as Aris’s Birmingham Gazette – of 2nd July 1838 carried an advertisement for the “Building hitherto occupied as the Solihull Workhouse, with Outbuildings, together with a good Garden containing half an acre.” The building was advertised to be let from Michaelmas (29th September) next.
The first Governor
The post of Governor (often referred to as Master) of the Workhouse was advertised in January 1838, with the stipulation that the Governor’s wife would act as Matron. The couple would receive a joint salary of £70 per annum.
SOLIHULL UNIONLeamington Spa Courier, 3rd February 1838
WANTED, a Man and his Wife as GOVERNOR and MATRON for the WORKHOUSE of the above UNION; united Salary £70 per Annum.
Tenders, with testimonials of character and competency, must be forwarded to me (post-paid) on or before Tuesday, the 20th Day of February Next, and the Candidates will be expected to appear at the TOWN HALL, SOLIHULL, at 11 o’Clock on the following Morning.- Security will be required.
G. J. HARDING
Clerk to the Guardians
Solihull, January 1838
The successful candidates were Job Genders (c.1794-1855) and his second wife, Alice (née Newman, formerly Dixon) (c.1804-1845), who had married in Aston on 12th February 1838. Job Genders was born in Birmingham and had served in the Army for 28 years. He was Troop Sergeant Major with the 7th Dragoon Guards for almost 11 years of his service, having previously been Corporal (July 1822-May 1827) and Private (March 1809-July 1822).
It seems that he was stationed in Ireland c.1824-1827 as the 1841 census suggests that two of his children were born in Ireland at this time. His son, John Genders was apparently born in Dundalk c.1824. It’s possible that Job’s first marriage also took place in Ireland, but we haven’t been able to find details.
Job Genders had enlisted in the Army on 24th March 1809 at the age of 17, giving his trade as a jeweller, and he was discharged to pension on 10th January 1838 at the age of 46. He was described in army records (WO97/72/68) – under the name Job Jenders – as being unfit for further service on account of being “worn out” and subject to rheumatism and that this was not as a result of “neglect, design, vice or intemperance.” He was given a good character reference: “The Regimental Board is of opinion that the conduct of Troop Serjeant Major, Job Jenders, has been most exemplary in every respect.”
Alice Genders died on 6th March 1842, at which time she and her husband were still Matron and Governor of Solihull workhouse. It seems likely that Job Genders left his employment soon after his wife’s death.
Job Genders remarried in February 1846, marrying his third wife, widow Hannah Ingall (née Smith) (born c.1805) at St Martin’s Church, Birmingham. By 1849, the couple had moved to Leamington Spa and Job Genders was listed in rate books at Newbold Street, Warwick. He was described as a Victualler, and newspaper advertisements publicised his shooting gallery at the Newbold Inn. He promised that, with his 28 years in the Army, he was “fully capable of giving instruction in Rifle and Pistol practices.”
He died on 9th February 1855, and is buried at St Paul’s Church, Warwick. The burial register gives his age at death as 62, although Army records list his age as 64.
Boards of Guardians were abolished in 1930 by the Public Health Act 1929. Their responsibilities were transferred to the Public Assistance Committees of County Councils or County Borough Councils.
The Solihull Public Assistance Institution, or the Solihull Institution, as the workhouse became known, became the responsibility of Warwickshire County Council until the formation of the National Health Service in 1948.
In 1934, a campaign began to erect a cottage hospital for Solihull and district. One of the main fund-raising goals of Solihull Carnival in May 1934 was to provide the nucleus of a fund for this, as it was stated that “lengthy journeys to Birmingham’s already overcrowded hospitals” had caused much inconvenience.
The Birmingham Mail 21st July 1945, carried the announcement that the scheme to build a cottage hospital for emergency cases had been abandoned, owing to Warwickshire County Council’s conversion of the Public Institution at Solihull into a General Hospital. The monies in hand as of 30th June 1945 – amounting to £1474 11s 1d – were distributed between six other charities – the British Legion, Cancer Research Fund, Evans Convalescent Home, Infant Welfare Centre, Toc H, and the Toddlers’ Home.
When the National Health Service started in 1948, Solihull Hospital came under the jurisdiction of the Birmingham (Selly Oak) Hospital Management Committee (BSOHMC).
Gin, ale and poultices…lasers and scanners: Solihull Workhouse and Hospital 1742-1993 by Joy Woodall.
This is a comprehensive history of the workhouse and hospital up to 1993 and is available to borrow from Solihull Libraries.
Minutes of the Guardians of Solihull Poor Law Union 1836-1930 and records of the Public Assistance Committee are held at Warwickshire County Record Office.
As the documents may contain personal information about living individuals, the records are confidential for 100 years, although it may be possible for some information to be disclosed. Contact Warwickshire County Record Office for further advice.
Other Solihull Poor Law Union Records are also held at Warwickshire County Record Office
Library Specialist: Heritage & Local Studies
© Solihull Council, 2021.
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