Walcot, one of the oldest houses in Redlingfield, was once the parish workhouse. The starting date for this is not clear.
Redlingfield does not appear on the National Survey of Parish Workhouses 1776. Ipswich Record Office has a box of vouchers and bills relating to our workhouse, the earliest I have found so far is a bill from 1803 for cheese costing £3 3s 3d and milk at 7s.
There is a bill for shoemaker work from John Clarke dated from 1808 Which gives a long list of names and the repairs or new shoes provided. This is a small part of it:
“May 14 the girl Mutimer’s new shoes 2s ?d 22 Thomas Markes shoes soald 2s ?d and girl Thorndikes highlows soald 1s ?d and boy and girl huntens new shoes 10s 6d and boy Jacksons new shoes 5s ?d”
The pennies are missing because the edge of the paper has degraded. Highlows were ankle boots.
Repairs to the. “Town House” (ie. workhouse) are listed in 1826 by Mr. Lockwood.
There are bills for blankets, clothing, mending clothes, fabric – cotton, calico and flannel. Also doctors’ bills and charges for transport to hospital in Bury. £1.15s worth of coal “laid in the Town House” cost 12s to transport from Debenham, in 1830.
In 1827 A. Wilson was provided with “ 2 handkerchiefs 1s 2d, Jacket Waistcoat 12s 0d 2pr hose 3s 4d Cap 2s 6d Trowsers 8s 0d”
Thomas Bean, carpenter/ wheelwright, whose workshop was close to the site of the old school, put in a bill for 1827/28 including: “coffin for Ann Read 18s coffin for John Holms child 7s 6d coffin for Simon Brunnin 18s”.
By 1837, Redlingfield had been incorporated with the Hartismere Union Workhouse on Castle Hill in Eye, as requests for payment to Hartismere for that year show. The tithe map of 1839 shows the property as a cottage and garden owned by William Adair and occupied by John Rose and four others.
Workhouses came about as the result of many Acts of Parliament going back to the reign of Elizabeth I.
The care of the poor had been on a voluntary basis with religious bodies playing an important part. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 provision for the poor declined sharply. Money had to be raised through taxation in the form of poor rates, a tax on land.
An act of 1597 introduced the Parish Overseer, an unpaid person from the parish to oversee the care of the poor.
Larger parishes were more inclined to establish workhouses, Ipswich and Hadleigh had them by 1557. Out Relief was used before and during the time of the workhouse. Money collected through the poor rates funded the relief of the poor in their own homes by providing coal, food, clothing etc.
I have found no clues to the day-to-day running of Redlingfield workhouse or the diet of the residents but the bills show that quite a lot was spent on the poor of the parish. It is not possible to say whether this was always true or just for certain years.
The book “At the Overseer’s Door” by Ray Whitehand gives some detailed information about Suffolk’s parish workhouses.

Linda Hudson (Published in Athelington, Horham & Redlingfield News Autumn 2019 issue No 47).