History & origins of Carleton Homes


 By GeorgeW.Wrigglesworth




To understand the history & origins of our homes you need to put the history of Pontefract & Poor Law legislation into perspective.




  Pontefract was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 but referred to as “Tan shelf”. The later name of Pontefract means “Broken Bridge” (Latin, Ponte fractus). The town of Pontefract grew around the Castle originally built of timber construction in 1070. The castle was then re- built in stone in the 12th century.

So important was the Castle that during the English Civil Wars Oliver Cromwell believed it was “one of the strongest inland garrisons in the kingdom”. As a result the castle was constantly under siege and was only surrendered after Charles the 1st had been beheaded.

That is some accolade if you consider its dilapidated state in the late 20th century when we enjoyed taking picnics on sunny week end days.



Poor Laws


Well before the town of Pontefract was built were the existence of Poor Laws dating right back to 15th century (Olde Poor Laws). Why this legislation is significant is because all of us who resided in the homes did so as a direct product of this attempt at social reform.  It was designed to deal mainly with vagabonds & villains, referred to as “impotents”.

Fortresses were built to house "inmates" which were ruthless in an attempt to alleviate poverty. Later these laws were updated in 1601 towards the end of Queen Elizabeth the 1st reign (An Acte for the Reliefe of the Poore or the New Poor Laws).The act was designed to bring up unprotected children in the habits of industry, and to provide work for those capable.  




The next significant legislative step in our journey was the introduction of workhouses via the Workhouse Test Act of 1722/3. This allowed Parishes (in our case Wakefield) to create buildings & regimes to act as deterrent and relief given to those who accepted its harsh & brutal regime. 

A parliamentary survey discovered in 1813 that 4,094 workhouses existed just in England & Wales.

 Pontefract Workhouse itself sprung directly  from the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. This is one of the most significant pieces of social legislation in British history.  


At a stroke, it swept away an accumulation of poor-laws going back half a millennium, and replaced them with a national system for dealing with poverty and its relief based around the Union workhouse.




Although Pontefract did have a poorhouse before 1800 called Bead Hall which closed in 1911



The Pontefract Union workhouse was erected in 1862-4 at the north of Pontefract on a site bounded by Skinner Lane and Back Northgate. Administered by the West Riding County Council, the building was constructed of brick with a three-storey main building. Other buildings on the site included a large infirmary at the north-west of the main block, and a separate block for women and children to the  east.




The institution was transferred to the National Health Service in 1948 as Northgate Lodge Hospital, still providing geriatric care. The northern part of the site became the Headlands Hospital. Northgate Lodge closed in 1971 and some of the buildings were converted to offices for local social services. After the closure of Headlands Hospital, the whole site was redeveloped as housing. The main workhouse building still survives and has been converted to flats. 


Carleton Homes

Early homes history  

The conversion of Pontefract Workhouse into flats is not the end of our story. As part of the Workhouse regime Carleton Cottages were built in 1906 and this is the real beginning of our journey..



  Stemming from the large workhouses were smaller cottages. In 1903 there were 25 such cottages. Our Pontefract Union erected children's cottage homes at Carleton in 1906, with an additional top home being added in 1912.

In total, they could accommodate 120 children although in the 60’s this was reduced to around 70 excluding staff. The Carleton homes were located on Moor Lane and comprised two double cottages, and infants' nursery, and an administrative building referred to as 'Top Home' where the matron had her quarters and older children also lived prior to their leaving the homes.


In the great Wakefield Museum picture collection taken in 1910 on our site, it was clear the homes were used both to house and cure the sick. Many of you will recognise the “hospital wing” or “quarantine bay” that ended up as our entertainment hall behind homes 2 & 3.






The addition of home 5 in 1912 clearly coincided with the end of the “Workhouses”. They were replaced with a softer regime run by a board of governors and referred to as "poor law institutions




 The War Years 

During the First World War, many Boards of Guardians offered workhouse premises for military use, accommodating military personnel, prisoners of war and "aliens" complete with its own sick bay in the huts behind homes 1 - 4.


This rich “war” period will be elaborated on with a further article by ex residents from the 1960’s, Keith & Bryan Schofield. Bryan himself an ex-soldier, revealed at last year’s reunion that Carleton Homes (referred then as “Leipzig homes”) played a major part in our winning the 1st World War



1930 – 40 – 50’s  


After 1930, the homes were taken over by Wakefield district council and became known as Eastwell Lodge.  







       The period 1935 – 1942 is admirably covered by    Stanley Brigg’s article lovingly created with the help of his daughter Christine.


This period is known to the majority of existing resident & carers. 

The following picture is a copy of a hand drawn plan courtesy of William Henry Baines, resident 1950-60. The detail is very good although the football pitch goals shown on the right hand side were left to right in our time.

 note plan to be added



For this rich period for many of the older members we are fortunate to have sourced 3 actual West Riding County Council Eastwell Lodge reports by the chief inspector for 3 periods 1963, 1965 & 1968. It details the staffing levels from Superintendant & Matron down to the cooks, gardener & seamstress. By today’s standards the reports are considered lightweight but nevertheless are still fascinating. Especially when some names are still remembered with a mixture of trepidation & affection, for example Supers, Matrons & deputy’s (Furbers, Rawlings, Meiningens & Gowers).




A combination of the buildings 70 year age & usefulness was a fatal combination. The shift in policy by Wakefield District Council was from preventative care rather than residential care, after the damage is done. In effect children after assessment were to be farmed out to foster parents.


Final chapter 


It is Eastwell Lodge that all of us were part & remember as we nearly reach the end of our journey.





In 1977 the building closed as a children’s home but had a stay of execution in 1979 when it was temporarily used to house the Vietnamese boat children. However this new lease of life was short lived when in 1981 it was closed forever.


It is now completely demolished & replaced as mentioned earlier with reference to the Pontefract Workhouse by housing. Indeed it was on the day on our last 2009 reunion, on a beautiful summer morning, that Ken Griffin, Michael McMillan with his wife Linda & I visited the site & had a lovely but somewhat sad walk down Moor Lane, Carleton, Carleton green & back round again.







A special thank you to Peter Higginbotham, the creator of the wonderful site:



This site contains over 2000 web pages, 5000 photos and illustrations, and 1500 maps and plans.




Other grateful source materials are from;



Stanley Briggs article:




Pontefract Museum:



Pontefract & Castleford express:








     National Archives:




Thank you to Nigel Wrightson who polished up some of my rough edges.

George W.Wrigglesworth 


 If you have any thing to add to this document or see any inaccuracies then please contact     carletonhomes@aol.com