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Initially, the possibility was explored of retaining and upgrading the three existing parish workhouses at St Martin's, St Mary's, and St Margaret's, the latter being located on Humberstone Gate.However, it was calculated that the cost of a new building (about £6,000) less the proceeds of selling the existing buildings (£3,650) would be £650 less than the cost of improving the old buildings.The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 39,135 with parishes ranging in size from Castle View (population 149) to St Margaret's (23,954).The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-5 had been £12,274 or 6s.3d. The new Leicester Board of Guardians had their first meeting on 12th July 1836 at the Guildhall, although subsequent meetings were held at St Martin's workhouse until a board-room at the new union workhouse came into use.This changed at the end of the year and, for the able-bodied poor at least, all that was offered was admission to one of the three interim workhouses in which segregation of the sexes was introduced.
The same report mentions plans for a workhouse to be set up in St Mary's parish.
Martin's Parish determined to convert their Parish-Houses into a Workhouse, by joining two of the lower Apartments into one, for a Working-Room, and fitting up two others for a Kitchin, a Cellar, &c. They first made Choice of a Master, who has the immediate Care of the Poor, to keep them in Order, and employ them in such Work as they are capable of, and see that their Food is duly prepared and given to them, &c.
He has two Apartments assign'd to him, his Diet and Washing, and 12l. The Parish Overseers buy all things for the House, and the Poor in it : For their Cloathing, they buy whole Pieces of Woollen and Linnen ; which, when cut out, is made up into Cloaths, by such of the Poor as are capable of it.
They are all confined within the Precincts of the House, and are not to go out of it without Leave of the Master; if any of them have Imployment abroad, they are obliged to return in a due Hour ; and whoever imploys them, agrees with the Master for the Wages, and pays them to him ; which, together with the Product of the Labours of the rest, he delivers to the Overseers every Friday in the Evening, who then take the Accounts from the Master; and add out of the Parish-stock, what is wanting for making Provision for the following Week. The Charge this Year in cloathing the Poor, upon placing them in the Workhouse, and buying Utensils, &c.
The general Method for employing them (besides what is abovementioned) is in spinning Jersey ; such as cannot spin, are set to knit Stockings for the rest, and one is appointed to teach the Children to read. The Product of their Labours, one Week with another, is about 14 s. The Charge of maintaining the Poor us'd to be about 250 l. is much greater than can be in future Years ; and yet the Overseer assures me, that he is confident the Parish will even this Year save 100 l.