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.The Poor are either relieved at home or maintained in a Workhouse, which is a commodious building, in an airy situation, and kept with great neatness and propriety. Each township subscribed towards the building according to the average amount of their poor rates during the previous three years. The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 26,906 with parishes and townships ranging in size from Fawcett Forrest (population 61) to Kendal itself (10,015).
The cross wing contained the Master's quarters and office. Local people remember in the early 1900s groups of paupers sitting on Kendal Green breaking stones from the quarries.
The west wing included accommodation for the able-bodied and for "imbeciles" including a padded room. Huge stones were brought by cart and they sat there winter and summer. The Kendal workhouse later became Windermere Road Institution and after 1948 was known as Kendal Green Hospital.
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.
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.
Designed by Richard Peddar, it was described as "a neat, airy, and pleasant building, large enough to contain 80 persons." In 1776, Peddar drew up plans for an additional wing. The paupers were "farmed" by a contractor who was paid by the township. The union erected a workhouse in 1811 at a cost of £2,150.
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.
Subsequent to this, paupers were accommodated at Castle Park. for the week 3rd April are paid to a number of casual Poor, mostly for children, but the average for the previous ten weeks was £5 12s. The weekly pensions to regular Out-Poor amounted to £6 2s. The weekly charge for bastards out of the house was 17s. At a charity school 50 boys and 30 girls are clothed and educated, and there is a free grammar school for children of every description. In 1803, a code of rules relating to the workhouse was drawn up for the guidance of the churchwardens and overseers.
In 1767 Kendal promoted a local Act of Parliament to enable it to manage its own poor relief and other local affairs through a body called the Kendal Fell Trust. The deaths in the house were : 1791, 33 (a fever prevailed) ; 1792, 15 ; 1793, 15 ; 1794, 10. Eight poor widows are provided with cottages and receive 1s. In its introduction they were requested to: ...visit the house at least three times in the week, varying their days, to furnish all who want with proper clothing, to see that cleanliness is universally maintained (for which purpose they should look into every room of the house, and visit every part of the premises), to attend to the complaints of the poor, to see that all the officers do their duty, and in short, to know that all the rules are strictly fulfilled. In one week in May, 1819, a total of 13 men, 6 women, and six children were relieved by the office, at a cost of of 10s.8d.
What they wanted was short term relief which would allow them to continue with what little employment there was until times gradually improved.