Heritage Heroes

Discover your local heritage and become a Heritage Hero!

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Heritage Heroes: Schools, Hospitals and Workhouses

Find out how you can become a heritage hero...

Wherever you live, there’s treasure to be discovered! 

Not just gold and gems, but stories of buildings, locations and people. 

Our heritage is a great wealth… and it’s all around us. Sometimes standing proud in the open air – sometimes hidden behind some bushes. 

And to help find it, we’re looking for Heritage Heroes – could you be one?

You can find clues in all sorts of places to find out what happened in your street, neighbourhood and further afield, from famous visitors to historic events.

Here are three tips to help you become a Heritage Hero…

Let us know about your local heritage here…


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It’s been compulsory to go to school since the late 1800s – and a clue to that is the huge number of Victorian and Edwardian schools – Tall brick buildings with large windows in the classrooms.   

The gates would often have carvings to show which entrance was for girls and for boys.

Many early schools were established by the Church who had a vision that every parish had a school for the education of poor children. By 1900, there were 5,700 state and 14,000 church funded schools, and even today, 25% of primary schools have a Church of England foundation. 

Another early type was Industrial Schools, where children were housed to keep them away from bad influences at home, fed, clothed, educated to an elementary level and given some industrial or agricultural training. 

Many schools had to be rebuilt after the Second World War and loads of new ones were built because of the growing population and an older school leaving age. These post-war schools were made of more modern materials – they were often boxy, using glass, metal and prefabricated materials. They might not look new now but after the austerity of war, they must have seemed very shiny and modern!   

Whilst your school may have been built or rebuilt recently, it’s history might be old. 

Why not find out how old your school is and when it was originally built?

Have the buildings changed over the years? 

Why might that have been?

Your school may have pictures and documents you can look at.

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Today, if you’re sick or injured, you go to a hospital.  In medieval times, it was monasteries and churches who cared for the sick and disabled. 

And when bespoke hospitals began to be built in the 1800s, many were small – hardly bigger than cottages. 

Places called Alms houses were developed from hospitals – they were built to provide long-term shelter for the disabled and aged.  In time, they became a common feature in many towns. Perhaps there’s one where you live? 

Another place that was used for caring for the sick, were Sanatoriums.  These were built in rural areas in the early 20th century with architectural features that enhanced exposure to sunlight and fresh air – vital for those recovering from the scourge of tuberculosis. 

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Why not try our Family Walks series to explore more!


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Workhouses were places to sleep and be fed, but if you were in any way able, you’d have to work hard like crushing rocks or bones, or working in the fields.

They were meant to be a way to help the poor and prevent crime and begging but often caused more harm than good.  Amazingly, the last workhouse was only closed in 1948. 

Whilst most workhouse buildings no longer exist – some do and have been converted into homes, shops and offices. 

If you go to www.workhouses.org.uk, you can search an interactive map to find any workhouses in your area. 

If they’re still standing, why not have a look – imagine what life might have been like if that was your home! 

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Now it’s over to you!  Here’s a reminder of things to look for to help you find out about the place where you live. 

1 – Have a look at your school and others in your area – how old are they?  How can you tell?  Did they have separate entrances for boys and girls… or perhaps the teachers!

2 – See if there are any cottage hospitals, alms houses or sanatoriums that you can explore.  Remember, if people live there, ask for their permission first.

3 – And was there a workhouse where you live.  Is the building still there, and what’s it used for today?

Here are some helpful links that will help you become a Heritage Hero! 

Find out more about Workhouses: workhouses.org.uk 

Explore Old Maps: townmaps.history.ac.uk

Learn more about your local area: heritagegateway.org.uk

Find out more about Churches: churches-uk-ireland.org 


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Heritage Heroes

Discover your local heritage and become a Heritage Hero!

More From Heritage Heroes