Lytham St.Annes Coat of Arms
Lytham St.Annes, Lancashire, England


Fylde Union Workhouse, Kirkham - 1940


Through the Archway of the Fylde Institution to a Home for All.



Fylde Union Workhouse, Kirkham, 1940
The flower-lined path of the Fylde Institution leads to shelter for all in need.

OUR FATHER, which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread . . . ."

The beautiful, familiar words came huskily from the rows of figures kneeling before a small wooden altar where two candles flickered beside two vases of garden flowers. On one side were men whose faces bore the ravages of time, evidences of hard times, hard luck, misfortunes, mistakes. But their dress, though worn, was neat; their hair was tidy. The women wore simple woollen frocks of different colours, and clean white caps above white and grey hair, clean aprons to give a note of freshness and self-respect to bent, tired figures.

It was the time for the weekly service held each Sunday afternoon in the Fylde Institution, Wesham.

Have you ever lain awake at night and wondered what would happen to you if you had not the blessings of a good home, good health, food, warmth clothing, someone to love you, someone to worry when you were ill, to be glad when you were happy? Have you ever tried to imagine the misery of being unwanted?

Blessedly, there are those who have so thought, and there are those who have done something about it, and if the social system is not what idealists would have it be, this England that we fight to preserve has the best, most generous form of social service of any nation in the world.

Sympathetic Understanding.

Thus those who pass through the archway, along the flower bordered path to the entrance of the administrative block of the Fylde Institution are assured of a roof, of a simple but secure and peaceful life.

Symbolic of the spirit that pervades the building is the fact that the way to the men's and women's wards is through the home of the master and matron, Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Lunn, who have lived there for 14 years.

Kindliness, intelligence, a sympathetic understanding and a firm lack of sentimentality seem to be possessed by these two people whose whole life, being bound up with the Institution, is inevitably devoted to its cause.

Sister Hartley's 21 years in the infirmary, Mrs. S. Hill's 23 years as organist are typical of the service rendered in the red brick buildings.

There are 72 women in the female house at the present time. During the week all is bustle. On Sunday afternoon, as we walk together with matron along the spotless, shiny-walled corridors, all is quiet.

Privilege Never Abused.

Although used for meals every day, the tiled dining-room has an air of sanctity when service is held. Women not attending through illness, or because they go to the Catholic communion bob and smile at Miss Jane Rossall, J.P., O.B.E., vice-chairman of the house committee who is with us. She knows many faces, has a friendly, teasing word for each one.

We see the sewing room where, under the supervision of the seamstress, all linen and uniforms are mended, all stockings darned. Those inmates who can help with this work or in the laundry or bakehouse do so.

All those over 50 have the privilege, in the summer time, of going out by themselves. The Fylde Institution is the only one in the country to allow this and the liberty has never been abused. Every attempt is made to bring about a more homelike atmosphere. There are special Sunday dresses to replace the clothing of the week and to be worn outside.

For the “Grannies."

For those who would be destitute but for humane laws there are rows of clean white beds, cream walls and pink curtains, green walls and brown curtains.

For the 16 " grannies," all turned 80, there is breakfast in bed. They have lunch at 9-30, dinner at 12, a cup of coffee—tea in peace time—at 3-0, tea at 6, and a cup of milk before they go to bed. The night nurse visits the ward twice, at 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. for no one knows when these weary old bodies may be poorly. All inmates over 60 are allowed 2s.—taken from their old-age pension if they have any—once a week so that they need not go out with empty pockets.

To be unwanted in old age is one of the tragedies for which individuals are themselves sometimes responsible, but no one can blame the unwanted baby.

Curly-headed Louise has No Mummy.

In the nursery, with its story book figures dancing on the walls, its rocking horse, pens, and the cream painted table and forms built specially low provide a home for many a little one who, thrown on the mercy of the world outside would become starved of body, twisted of soul. Not all are unwanted. Some come because their mothers are unable to care for them while in maternity homes, but there is, for instance, blue-eyed, curly headed Louise, who has neither mummy nor daddy, but a wide mouth and a winning way which livens up the building.

For her and others like her it is a mercy that there are the pretty blue cots and daintily draped cribs in the night nursery. When she grows older there will be the room upstairs, for older children, with green painted beds and green enamel chairs to match. If she is ill she can be sent to the infirmary to be nursed. One small but significant point which has been carefully studied is that each of the tiny ones wears a different kind of frock. They are individuals, not units.

They Agree to differ!

Another quarter brings a dry smile. Here old couples over 60 may spend their time together—but most of them prefer to remain apart!

The spotless neatness of the whole building is exemplified in the lofty roofed kitchen where meals are prepared in huge boilers and ovens. The kitchen is the focal point of a miniature village. There is a storeroom where all kinds of bedding, linen, uniforms, shoes, collars, ties are kept. Each inmate of the Institution receives a new garment for an old one. A wireless system serves all the rooms with a loud speaker, and headphones in the hospital. From the library, where there are 1.500 books, supplied chiefly by the British Red Cross, a trolley goes round the wards three times a week.

The big cakes of soap with that inimitable, reassuring, refreshing carbolic smell occupy a compartment by themselves: so do eggs, milk and bacon. Each inmate has an egg once a week for breakfast and one a week for tea. A refrigerator is being installed.

Miniature “Village."

Like a small shopping centre is the general store of groceries—beans, rice and other cereals in big brown bins, rows of jam on neat shelves, the room upstairs with all kinds of brushes, baskets, jugs, mugs, glassware and electric bulbs.

At the other end of the " village " are a shoemaker's and a tailor's shop, a painter's shop, a wood-cutting shop, a carpenter's shop, and even an anvil for a blacksmith, though it is not often used.

The tall red brick water tower, a landmark for miles around, creates sufficient pressure to supply all three blocks of the Institution and the laundry itself, where, with the calenders, row of electric irons and modern machinery, the laundress and three other women work at top speed during the week for the Institution and the Cottage Homes as well.

Great 12½lb. golden brown loaves, slab cakes and roast meat are prepared in the bakery, which also supplies the Cottage Homes.

Ready for Any Emergency.

Best of all, the long corridors and big windows not only admit air and light and sunshine, but afford a soul-satisfying view of green fields, crops and, away in the distance, misty purple hills. Round each of its sections the building has grass, flowers and trees. In addition to 6½ acres occupied by kitchen garden and orchard, stretch 16½  acres of farm land, from which revenue contributes to much-needed funds. The Institution supplies its own bacon, the pigs on hand sometimes numbering nearly a hundred, but war-time feeding supplies have necessitated a reduction in stock.

Three trained nurses and 15 assistants staff the hospital block. Besides being a State registered nurse and qualified mid-wife with all the responsibilities of disciplining this “village”, the matron also prepares the necessary drugs and medicines in the dispensary.

She and her staff have to be ready for any and many an emergency, as can readily be imagined.

Knights of the Road—

A humane and much-needed purpose is served by the observation ward for mental cases. Previously cases were sent direct to a mental hospital, but few are so dealt with now. Instead, they are put under special treatment and care for 14 days and some, at the end of that time, recover.

Not all who come to the hospital block are rate-aided, some are able to pay for themselves, but all are glad of the care and relief which it has to offer.

The casual ward calls to mind a quint humour in the nation's charity. Englishmen, perhaps, have a sneaking sympathy for the wanderer. There may be many rogues among tramps, Englishmen say to themselves, but there are also poets, grimy and with a twisted philosophy perhaps, but with the adventurous spirit to sacrifice comfort and security for the sake of the open road, of the countryside and of freedom.

—and a Roof for All.

But tramps, too, need a night's shelter and food. The law does not allow a man to sleep out if he has not the wherewithal to sleep in!

So destitute men came to the Fylde Institution for a night and in return were required to do a day's work.

But now no one has a right to be free to roam the country, even by the sacrifices that a tramp makes. Each and all owe it to their country to work for the freedom that conventional men, as well as tramps, hold dear. No citizen can make the peacetime excuse, sometimes justifiable, that labour cannot be found.

So the casual ward at the Fylde Institution is closed—only those institutions on main roads between town and town are kept open—but even now a night's shelter must not be refused if it is sought.

The Fylde Institution has a roof for all.

N. H.