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This allowed the giving of relief to the able-bodied so long as they were prepared to undertake hard manual labour such as stone-breaking in a specially set up labour yard.Few were prepared to take this option and tried to scrape by as best they could.It contains 55 rooms, 35 of which are lodging rooms, very judiciously distributed. Beans and cabbages are occasionally substituted for potatoes, and bacon for beef, but the usual rotation is : Breakfast—Every day, hasty pudding and milk, or milk boiled with oatmeal. On beef days each person is allowed half-a-pound of beef without any distinction being paid to age or sex. According to an 1829 directory: The house and garden occupy two acres, and, detached from the house, upon a pleasant eminence, is a fever ward, belonging to the institution. The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £12,728 or 7s.9d. Kendal was somewhat unusual in that it permanently retained two pre-1834 parish workhouses, the one at Kendal and another at Milnthorpe.Dinner—Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, milk pottage and bread ; Monday, Thursday, Saturday, broth, boiled beef, potatoes and bread ; Tuesday, hough stewed, potatoes and bread. There were in the house on 4th April, 1795, 136 persons, viz., 57 males, 79 females, of which 38 were under 10, 26 between 10 and 20, 12 between 20 and 30, 8 between 30 and 40, 15 between 40 and 50, 4 between 50 and 60, 17 between 60 and 70, 10 between 70 and 80, 6 between 80 and 90. Men are generally employed out of the house ; women spin and make Kendal cottons, etc.; children are generally sent to the different manufactories, where they earn about 1s. Encouragement money is paid to the industrious, viz., 1d. The whole is built on an excellent plan, and is well conducted by the Governor, Mr. The paupers grind all the corn used in the house at a small hand-mill, and many of them are employed in weaving coarse linen-cloths, checks, linsey-woolsey, &c. Kendal, which in 1849 could accommodate up to 335 inmates, catered for able-bodied men, and children over 7 years.In the yard behind the Workhouse stands a commodious School-room for boys, and the contiguous building, which was formerly the harden manufactory, is, the lower part of it, appropriated as a play-ground, and the upper part is used for dormitories.What was formerly the Fever Ward is now occupied partly as a schoolroom for girls, and partly as girls' dormitories, with apartments for the schoolmistress.
A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded local workhouses in operation in Old Hutton (for up to 10 inmates), Kirkby Lonsdale (15), and Lambrigg (6), although no mention was made of the Kendal workhouse. Kirkby Lonsdale former Gilbert Union workhouse, 2004. Milnthorpe (or Milnthorp) with its close neighbour Heversham also formed a Gilbert Union in conjunction with fifteen other townships (in Westmorland: Beetham, Burton, Crook, Natland, Hincaster, Levens, Sedgewick, Stainton, Scalthwaite-Rigg with Hay, Underbarrow with Bradley-Field, and Witherslack with Ulpha; in Lancashire: Dalton and Yealand-Redmayne). Kendal Poor Law Union formally came into being on 15th July 1836.
As noted above, the former Gilbert Union workhouse at Milnthorpe was retained by the Kendal Union for accommodating the aged and infirm, infants, able-bodied women, and unmarried mothers. The site included a block at the south with a semi-hub at its centre — a relatively unusual feature in workhouses of this period but found at a few other places such as Caistor. In 1918, the site became Milnthorpe Hospital for the Mentally Subnormal, later Milnthorpe Hospital.
The workhouse was situated at the east of Kirkgate Lane. Kendal Milnthorpe workhouse main block from the south-east, 2001. A central wing from its rear, now demolished, may have contained the workhouse dining hall and kitchens. A single storey lodge at the west of the workhouse is dated 1869. The hospital closed in 1960 and the surviving buildings have now been converted for use as housing known as Chelsea Court.
Subsequent to this, paupers were accommodated at Castle Park. for the week 3rd April are paid to a number of casual Poor, mostly for children, but the average for the previous ten weeks was £5 12s. The weekly pensions to regular Out-Poor amounted to £6 2s. The weekly charge for bastards out of the house was 17s. At a charity school 50 boys and 30 girls are clothed and educated, and there is a free grammar school for children of every description. In 1803, a code of rules relating to the workhouse was drawn up for the guidance of the churchwardens and overseers.
In 1767 Kendal promoted a local Act of Parliament to enable it to manage its own poor relief and other local affairs through a body called the Kendal Fell Trust. The deaths in the house were : 1791, 33 (a fever prevailed) ; 1792, 15 ; 1793, 15 ; 1794, 10. Eight poor widows are provided with cottages and receive 1s. In its introduction they were requested to: ...visit the house at least three times in the week, varying their days, to furnish all who want with proper clothing, to see that cleanliness is universally maintained (for which purpose they should look into every room of the house, and visit every part of the premises), to attend to the complaints of the poor, to see that all the officers do their duty, and in short, to know that all the rules are strictly fulfilled. In one week in May, 1819, a total of 13 men, 6 women, and six children were relieved by the office, at a cost of of 10s.8d.
The cross wing contained the Master's quarters and office. Local people remember in the early 1900s groups of paupers sitting on Kendal Green breaking stones from the quarries.