AN author has published a book detailing the history of the poor, sick and elderly in Bridport and surrounding parishes and the development of the Bridport Union workhouse.

Titled "Down and Out in Bridport and the Surrounding Parishes", the book uncovers some of the area's history dating back to the year 1200 until 1900.

It contains the story of Bridport and 20 surrounding parishes, stretching to Whitchurch Canonicorum in the west and Swyre in the east.

Bridport resident and historian Sylvia Stafford began researching the history of the local parishes, sparked by an interest in the Union Workhouse Building on Barrack Street.

An interest in the Grade II Listed former Bridport Union Workhouse, led to some extensive research and to this history of how the Bridport Union of twenty local parishes was developed, and the lives and care of the poor, sick and elderly.

Providing many examples from the parishes, the author traces the role of the monasteries, leper houses, charities and almshouses, and care within the community and village poorhouses and workhouses, to the early history of Bridport Union Workhouse.

Further chapters give insight into the provision and access to education, training and employment, and the widespread use of child labour.

The impact of the plague, cholera, smallpox and other infectious diseases on the neediest in local society is explored, together with the medical and hospital care available.

The book is illustrated with numerous photographs, maps and tables, and provides signposts for further research.

Ms Stafford is donating 20% of the sale price to support the newly established Bridport Hardship Fund, which continues to help those in need today in Bridport and many of the surrounding parishes. 

The book costs £12.00 and is available from Bridport Tourist Information Centre, Bridport Museum, West Bay Discovery Centre, The Book Shop, Bridport, Little Toller Books, Beaminster, and Waterstones in Bridport and Dorchester.