Dundee Crest

The Poorhouses of Dundee

Liff and Benvie Poorhouse.

The Poorhouse

This establishment which was latterly known as the Western Poorhouse was erected in 1864 on a site known to modern day people as that occupied by Logie Secondary School. Later used as an annexe for Harris Academy, it was destroyed in a fire and the site was made available for redevelopment in 2002. This building was erected to accommodate 200 paupers. The completion of the building and its formal opening occurred on Tuesday 5th April 1864, at a cost of £7,000. During the first 15 years it was known as the Poor House of Liff and Benvie. In 1879 the Parochial Board united with Dundee and from that date forward the building was known as the Western Poorhouse.

The cost of the maintenance of a pauper in the Poor House was 7 shillings weekly and it cost eight shillings for each lunatic. This money came from the Poor Law Assessment Rates that were collected from owners, tenants and occupiers of property in the area.

The design of the building was such that the men's apartments were situated to the west end and the women's apartments to the east end of the building. At the extreme end of each section, apartments were reserved for male and female lunatics.

It appears that by the latter stages of the 19th Century it was mostly "elderly, infirm or insane" individuals who were sent to the Western Poorhouse and those who were young and fit were accommodated in the more spacious Eastern Poorhouse.

The surviving Register for Liff and Benvie is one for all the general poor, outdoor as well as indoor, so it does not give us a clear list for those applicants who were actually inmates of the Poorhouse. It was not until the latter half of 1914 that the last of the paupers to live in the Western Poorhouse were transferred to the East Poorhouse. This was so that the buildings of the Liff & Benvie Poorhouse could be prepared for military occupation. This section has given a very brief history of the origin of the Liff & Benvie Poor House and as the Poor Law was dealt with in the East Poorhouse narrative we will move on to some information on the inhabitants of the Poor Houses.

The appearance and the living conditions for the occupants of the poorhouses have been written about in several source materials. I have taken just a few tit bits to give a flavour of how these people were dressed and the general conditions of their lives.

Meals in the Poorhouses, when looked at from the vantagepoint of the 21st century, would appear meagre. An excerpt from "The Life & Times of Logie School" gives details of the Menu for Dinners which consisted of:

A description of the male paupers' apparel, taken from "The Life and Times of Logie School", gives a description of the male inhabitants as being dressed in "fashionably-made sac coats of brown beige and a waistcoat of the same material, buttoning up to the throat, 'peg top' trousers of grey tweed and 'guid braid bonnets'."

Finally, it is possible from a page taken from the Liff & Benvie Poorhouse PettyCash Book to see where some of the money came and went. For example we see an incoming amount of money coming from J. Dow & Co. Rag & Bone of 9s. 9d., and on the outgoing side: clothes baskets, which needed repair cost £1.5s.8d; two lunacy reports cost 4s 9d; a cart of firewood cost 15/-; 36 gooseberry bushes cost 12/-; fish cost 9s.10d; and killing 2 pigs cost 4/-.

Plans: 49 architectural drawings of Liff & Benvie/Dundee West Poorhouse from 1862 to 1907 are in the National Archives of Scotland, Edinburgh, ref RHP 30845 and 30846

Liff and Benvie Poorhouse site


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