Guardians of Plymouth

Roundel – Photograph (PWDRO 244/1 & 244/6); possibly 1907-1909

This roundel bears the words ‘Incorporation of the Guardians of Plymouth’ around the edge, and in the centre are the four castles (symbolic of Plymouth) around a beehive and the dates ‘1630’ and ‘1708’. The wording and dates refer to the implementation of poor law in Plymouth. The first workhouse, the Hospital of the Poor’s Portion in Catherine Street, was created as a charity in 1630 ( In 1708 Plymouth was one of the first towns to be incorporated by a local Act of Parliament, which allowed the two parishes of Plymouth St Andrew and Plymouth Charles to unite for the purposes of poor law administration, and the Hospital was transferred to a Corporation of the Guardians of the Poor. A new workhouse was built and completed in 1858, later becoming Freedom Fields Hospital. Between 1907 and 1910 a major development was undertaken to improve facilities. This included the erection of two large ward blocks, an administration block and a nurses home, all linked by corridors (PWDRO PCC/60/1/7102). Designed by Thornely and Rooke, the new infirmary was opened in 1909. The nurses home in Greenbank Terrace, known as Freedom House, was the only building left standing when Freedom Fields Hospital was demolished and housing built on the site in 2000. It is in an Edwardian Baroque style, with an elaborate cartouche over the main doorway that includes a shield identical in design to the roundel made by V. Pinwill. The probability is that the carving was made for Freedom House or another building in the new complex during the period of building between 1907 and 1909.


PWDRO 244/1 Photograph Album. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO 244/6 Photographs. Various. Woodcarvings.

PWDRO PCC/60/1/7102 Planning Application. New Infirmary Plymouth Workhouse 1906-07.