Being poor and destitute prior to the 1500s was an occupational hazard, so much so that from the 16th century onwards, it was the responsibility of the parish to relieve the hardships of the poor. How each parish interpreted this responsibility was something of a lottery. Thankfully, Stroud took its responsibility seriously and appointed four Overseers of the Poor, each year, to discharge this duty.
Overseers, together with Church wardens, were empowered to build houses for the poor and levy rates on Stroud inhabitants to provide necessary funds for poor relief.
In 1724, the parish appointed Thomas Poole of Minchinhampton, a joiner, to construct a 16 bay Workhouse, to be built in Silver Street. Part of that building was later incorporated into St Alban's church
The paupers who lived here were usually employed in one of the branches of the cloth industry. However, the cyclical nature of employment meant that numbers and costs fluctuated, and in times of depression the poor relief costs were substantial. In the 1820s, the cost was around £2000 per annum. Part of this money went to the Workhouse and the rest went on occasional and weekly payments to people who lived in their own houses, and who were in financial distress.
In 1836, the law changed and parishes were grouped into Poor Law Unions, which shared the poor relief costs more equitably. This was a good thing. In response, a large new Workhouse was built to serve the whole district, at the east end of the town. This was a bad thing.
With the Workhouse came draconian new regulations, which insisted that anyone who needed any relief at all, had to enter the Workhouse, where conditions were harsh and unpleasant.
This system remained in place until the 1920s, by which time a more flexible system of support - pension and benefits and health care eliminated the need for a workhouse. It is now Stone Manor.