Explore the Coventry Workhouse deaths and discover is your ancestor unfortunately died in a workhouse. The records provide you with your ancestor’s age at the time of death as well as your ancestor’s burial arrangements.
With every record you will see a transcript of the original details found in the death register from the Coventry Union Workhouse.
Age at death
County and Country
This collection has been expertly transcribed from the original death registers. The Death Registers that were meticulously kept by the various Masters of the Workhouse have been transcribed here. There are about 8,300 names of men, women, children and infants who died at the Coventry Union Workhouse between the dates of 1845-1943.
The Registers are an invaluable aid to family historians, especially when an ancestor cannot easily be found. If he died in the Workhouse, Admittance and Discharge Registers can be consulted to see what his circumstances had been to lead him there. He may have gone in and out of it many times for various reasons. If lucky, a list of his personal items, carried in his pockets, may be recorded, a purse and coins or a handkerchief etc. The Guardians’ Minutes or the Masters’ Reports may mention him in some way or if he was sick when he went in, the Medical Officers’ Reports may give details of his record of health.
The Death Registers from 3rd April 1914 to 15th June 1943 include a lot more information than the earlier ones. The cause of death is listed and where applicable other details such as suicide and inquests, which can be followed up in the local newspapers of the time because they usually carried the details of Coroners’ Reports. The burial arrangements are also very useful, not only because the researcher can be directed, for the most part, to the London Road Cemetery Index, but for those who were buried in other areas, perhaps totally unsuspected. Of those buried at the London Road Cemetery in purchased graves, by friends and family, when the Cemetery records are consulted and the grave located, it is often surprising how many other members of the same family are also interred there.
You can also explore the Warwickshire Baptisms which contain more that 1,700 births from the Coventry Union Workhouse.
Life in the workhouse was harsh, it had to be seen to be, in order to act as a deterrent to those who were work shy or idle, but for the majority of people who entered the institution, it was the only choice they had.
In 1801, the Directors of the poor in Coventry sold the two parish workhouses and purchased the remains of Whitefriars Monastery, situated on the London Road. The building was in a dilapidated condition, possibly being previously used to house the poor families of weavers and jersey combers. By 1804 the former cloister had been glazed and was used as a dining room for the inmates and the upper floor was divided longitudinally by a brick wall and various new partitions and fire places had been inserted. A new block had been erected, facing what is now Gulson Road. It was now a three storey high building of red brick, hipped slate roof and eleven bays. Victorian History of the County of Warwick V V111
Conditions were harsh in the house of industry, there was very little heating and sanitary arrangements were inadequate. There was a sick ward situated in the main body of the house, this was a small room off one of the dormitories, containing sick inmates of both sexes, tended by able-bodied female inmates. The sick received little medical attention, if any at all, a medical practitioner visited the house once a week. Those who died were buried in Holy Trinity or St. Michael’s churchyard.
The new Poor Law came into being in 1834 because the Government thought that too much money was being paid to the poor in outdoor relief, a wage supplement paid in times of hardship, to keep families in their homes. But although Coventry was bound by this Act, outdoor relief continued to be paid to the sick and even some of the able-bodied too. It was thought that in the long run this was cheaper than indoor relief.
The parishes of St. Michael, Holy Trinity, St. John and St. Peter were joined together to form one workhouse and together they were renamed Coventry Union Workhouse. The union was managed by the Guardians, a group of usually professional men, elected by the local ratepayers. The Board of Guardians supervised and chose the staff who ran the workhouse.
Perhaps the worst part of the new Poor Law was that husbands and wives were separated, children from their parents and brothers from sisters. Infants were allowed to stay with their mothers. These harsh regulations were to act as a deterrent for people asking for help. For those who did seek help, life was harsher under the new Poor Law, than it had been prior to the Act of 1834. In 1842, the Guardians fell in line with the Commissions recommendations of classification. Families in Coventry Workhouse were separated, uniforms introduced, visitors prohibited and the inmates had to work a twelve hour day in winter, thirteen in summer, with only 30 minutes for breakfast and one hour for lunch.
In 1843 the house could accommodate between 450 and 500 paupers. The dormitories for the inmates contained rough wooden forms and straw mattresses. An inventory taken on July 31st 1845, states that there were 182 beds, 141 straw, 33 flock and 20 feather mattresses in the workhouse, 240½ pairs of sheets, 278 blankets and 223 rugs. The census of 1851 lists 234 people resident at the workhouse, so some of those would have slept two to a bed, a rough wooden form, straw mattress, a straw bolster, a pair of sheets, one blanket and a rug. On the wall hung a framed copy of the rules, which were strictly imposed at all times.
On entering the workhouse the new admissions were taken to the Receiving Ward and examined by the Medical Officer. If the inmate were sick, he would be allocated to a ward, if he were fit he would be sent to the house. Firstly though, he would be bathed and disinfected, given a uniform with a number on it. His own clothes would be purified and stored until release. This rule did not apply to the casual poor, vagrants or wayfarers. Every pauper would be searched and any prohibited articles found on him would be taken away and only restored to him on departure. Tramps and vagrants were discharged each morning providing the allocated work had been completed.
The uniform consisted of; for the men, shoes, stockings, trousers, shirt, waistcoat, hat and coat, each inmate had one handkerchief. Boys wore suits, a shirt, shoes and stockings. Women wore stays, under-petticoats, shifts, a gown, apron and cap, shoes and stockings. Girls wore under-petticoats, shift, frock, pinafore, shoes and stockings. There was no mention of nightwear or underwear.
The dining room was situated in the cloister on the ground floor of the main building of Whitefriars, the fittings that held the benches still remain fixed to the walls.
A typical menu for an able-bodied man would be 7oz of bread and 1½ pints of gruel for breakfast. 6 oz cooked meat with vegetables at dinner, 5 oz bread and 2 oz cheese or 1½ pints of broth. Old people, over sixty years of age, could have 1oz of tea, 7 oz of sugar and 5 oz of butter per week instead of the daily gruel for breakfast.
Breakfast was at eight, those who were late and arrived after the Master had shut the door went without. Meals were eaten in absolute silence and on the first Wednesday of each month the rules were read out to the inmates by the Master. The rules were strictly adhered to, penalties for breaking them ranged from restricted diet (bread and water) to prosecution.
The Coventry Workhouse Death Registers, transcribed here, contain information on the deaths of 8,381 inmates who died during the period 1845 - 1943.
The original death registers are numbered;
CU/REG/8/1 23.2.1845 - 9.7.1875
CU/REG/8/2 29.3.1875 - 27.9.1913
CU/REG/8/3 2.10.1913 - 28.3.1914
CU/REG/8/4 3.4.1914 - 30.9.1920
CU/REG/8/5 3.10.1920 - 20.6.1927
CU/REG/8/6 3.7.1938 - 15.6.1943
b.b.f - buried by friends. Body claimed by family or friends and buried in a purchased grave, usually at London Road Cemetery.
Birmingham University Body sent to School of Anatomy at Birmingham University
B.L. - British Legion
C.C. Coventry Cemetery. London Road Cemetery. If this is the only reference it would have been a burial provided by the Guardians.
c.s.b.G - coffin supplied by Guardians. Grave supplied by family or friends
c.s.p.b.G - coffin and shroud provided by Guardians, grave supplied by friends or family
c.h.p.b.f - coffin and hearse provided by friends (or family)
g.p.b.f - grave provided by friends (or family)
g.b.G - grave provided by Guardians
L.P.C - Local Pensions Committee
p.g - private grave
n.f.a - no fixed abode
Look at the various ways of spellings for the names that you are looking for. The records have been transcribed as they were written even if obvious that a mistake has been made in the original register.