The old Kirkby Lonsdale workhouse is still shown as a workhouse on the 1859 OS map.

It is thought to have operated mainly as a casual ward. The Stricklandgate workhouse was built on a sloping site and had a somewhat irregular layout, the main part forming a U-shape open to the road at the south.

The Visiters and Guardians meet on the first Wednesday of every month, and the paupers are fed at the weekly cost of 2s. Milnthorpe could house up to 300 and was used for the aged and infirm, infants, able-bodied women, and unmarried mothers.

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A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded local workhouses in operation in Old Hutton (for up to 10 inmates), Kirkby Lonsdale (15), and Lambrigg (6), although no mention was made of the Kendal workhouse. Kirkby Lonsdale former Gilbert Union workhouse, 2004. Milnthorpe (or Milnthorp) with its close neighbour Heversham also formed a Gilbert Union in conjunction with fifteen other townships (in Westmorland: Beetham, Burton, Crook, Natland, Hincaster, Levens, Sedgewick, Stainton, Scalthwaite-Rigg with Hay, Underbarrow with Bradley-Field, and Witherslack with Ulpha; in Lancashire: Dalton and Yealand-Redmayne). Kendal Poor Law Union formally came into being on 15th July 1836.

Eden, in his 1797 survey of the poor in England, reported of Kendal that: The insides of cottages near the town exhibit every appearance of misery. In 1813, the union erected a workhouse at a cost of £4,990 and designed by Francis Webster of Kendal. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 67 in number, representing its 57 constituent parishes and townships as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians where not one): Westmorland: Ambleside (2), Applethwaite, Barbon, Beetham, Burton, Casterton, Crook, Crosthwaite and Lyth, Dilicar, Docker, Farleton, Fawcett Forrest, Firbank, Grasmere, Grayrigg, Haverbrack, Helsington, Hincaster, Holme, Hugill, Hutton Roof, Kendal (7), Kentmere, Killington, Kirkby Lonsdale (2), Kirkland (2), Langdales, Lambrigg, Levens, Longsuddale, Lupton, Mansergh, Meethop and Ulpha, Middleton, Milnthorpe and Heversham (2), Natland, Nether Graveship, New Hutton, Old Hutton and Holmescales, Patton, Preston Patrick, Preston Richard, Rydal and Loughrigg, Scalthwaitrigg-Hay and Hutton'ith Hay, Sedgwick, Skelsmergh, Stainton, Nether Staveley, Over Staveley, Strickland Kettle, Strickland Roger, Troutbeck, Underbarrow and Bradley-field, Undermillbeck, Whinfell, Whitwell and Selside, Witherslack.

In 1861, Nicholson's Annals of Kendal described the workhouse as: ...a large, uniform building, two stories high, occupying three sides of a quadrangle, the fourth, which is the entrance, being open to the street.

It contains, for the purposes of the paupers, one large general dining-room, kitchens, store-rooms, sick-rooms, &c.

Dinner—Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, milk pottage and bread ; Monday, Thursday, Saturday, broth, boiled beef, potatoes and bread ; Tuesday, hough stewed, potatoes and bread. There were in the house on 4th April, 1795, 136 persons, viz., 57 males, 79 females, of which 38 were under 10, 26 between 10 and 20, 12 between 20 and 30, 8 between 30 and 40, 15 between 40 and 50, 4 between 50 and 60, 17 between 60 and 70, 10 between 70 and 80, 6 between 80 and 90. Men are generally employed out of the house ; women spin and make Kendal cottons, etc.; children are generally sent to the different manufactories, where they earn about 1s. Encouragement money is paid to the industrious, viz., 1d. The whole is built on an excellent plan, and is well conducted by the Governor, Mr. The paupers grind all the corn used in the house at a small hand-mill, and many of them are employed in weaving coarse linen-cloths, checks, linsey-woolsey, &c. Kendal, which in 1849 could accommodate up to 335 inmates, catered for able-bodied men, and children over 7 years.

In 1800, the workhouse began the manufacture of 'hardens', a type of coarse sacking.

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