Bedford charities to share cash from House of Industry


Two charities will share over £35,000 following their successful bids to a Bedford Borough Council Committee.

Trustees of the House of Industry Estate Management Committee manage the trust that owns a “significant” part of the land around North Wing Hospital and the Bedford Blues Rugby Club, as well as a piece of land called Freemen’s Common.

This week, (31 October) the chair, cllr Henry Vann (Lib Dem, De Parys), said the applications for financial assistance and grants before the committee were “in line with our charitable object as a trust” in terms of the relief of hardship and distress.

The first successful application was for £27,940 from Samsons Academy for salary costs.

Samsons Academy’s target group is people on low income, refugees and asylum seekers, unemployed people, disabled people, people living in an area of deprivation and Women and girls.

Lee Phanco, chief officer for assessment, application & business, said: “This [application] is around specific courses to help children and young people to understand where they may be at risk of child sexual exploitation, and how to be able to resist those.

“And it also includes providing some wider training around schools and the community.”

Cllr Colleen Atkins (Labour, Harpur) said: “This is yet another example of the excellent work they’re doing.”

The second successful bid was for £7,068 to fund project expenses for 46 sessions of Music24’s Singing Café programme to be held in Bedford borough.

The charity’s application said the twice-monthly Singing Cafés are open to anyone who is looking for a way to get out of the house and have more social connections.

The House of Industry

The Bedford House of Industry story goes back to 1793 when it was built on what is now Kimbolton Road to house those incapable of supporting themselves from the then five town parishes.

After the 1834 Poor Law Act, the building became the Bedford Union Workhouse to include the rural parishes and let on perpetual lease to the ‘guardians’ in 1835.

Those entering were segregated and rarely mixed with each other. These included sick men, able-bodied men, boys aged 7-15, sick women, able-bodied women, girls aged 7-15 and children under seven.

In 1842 the Masters Report Book said there were 151 residents occupying just 92 beds.

In the early 19th century, a chapel and a central wing were added, and then in 1916, an infirmary and ‘lunatic’ observation wards were opened with a nurses’ home and other buildings added after 1924 and the building became St Peter’s Hospital.

While further additions were made after World War II, the workhouse closed in 1949 and came under the management of the NHS with many modern-day Bedfordians knowing the building as Shires House or the ‘north wing’ of Bedford Hospital.

The original building has been derelict for many years, with more modern buildings, Health Village and Archer House, being built around and adjoining Shires House.

What was left of the building was destroyed by fire in 2019.

Read: Massive fire destroys Shires House at Bedford Hospital ‘North Wing’

Bedford Hospital North Wing Image: Jon Pauling
Bedford Hospital North Wing. Image: Jon Pauling

While the building has been out of use for many years, the House of Industry Estate remains as a charitable trust which is managed by Bedford Borough Council, whose councillors act as trustees.

They provide assistance throughout the year, subject to funds being available, through grants for voluntary, community and charitable organisations.

You can find out more about the House of Industry Estate at the Charity Commission website and apply for grants via Bedford Borough Council.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

additional reporting by Paul Hutchinson
for the Bedford Independent