The windows at Tower Court that shed light on what was once an Ely workhouse and then a hospital

PUBLISHED: 17:18 23 August 2018 | UPDATED: 11:04 25 August 2018

Tower Court in Ely. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

Tower Court in Ely. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS


Permission has been given to re-instate 10 bricked up windows in Tower Court, Ely that was built 180 years as workhouse, converted to a hospital in 1948 before becoming private housing in 1999.

Nicholas Sweeny successfully applied to East Cambridgeshire District Council to remove the bricked up apertures of the south frames which are thought to have been altered in the 1940s.

“The brick infill will be removed and replaced by modern double glazed windows of the same appearance as those installed to the east elevation and elsewhere within the development,” he said in his application.

Internal works will include removal of a non-load bearing partition wall to merge the current kitchen and lounge.

Other improvements could follow but Mr Sweeney said “unforeseen circumstances may dictate that only the internal works are undertaken”.

He promised that the design principles will take account of the “special architectural and historic importance” of the building by restoring the original architectural appearance of the elevation.

The stone mullion window frame is still visible but the rear faces were cut away to accommodate brickwork. The original stone components will be restored by a stonemason.

The part of Tower Court to be improved is on the first floor with octagonal turrets at the sides.

Ely Union workhouse was built in 1836-37 to house 300 inmates and cost £7,000 to build. The workhouse, built in yellow brick, was a variation on the standard cruciform plan.

In 1912 it became officially known as Ely Poor Law Institution, then as Ely Public Assistance Institution from 1930.

With the advent of the NHS in 1948 it became known as Tower House Hospital and then as Tower Hospital. It finally closed in 1993 and was later developed for private housing.

Mr Sweeney’s application noted that although built as a workhouse “it has an impressive and distinct design and is unique to the area”.

The application site forms part of the central tower “which is an impressive focal point of the development” says Mr Sweeney. “The central tower used to form the three storey administration block for the workhouse”.

The council says a discussion with the conservation officer agreed that the proposals were acceptable and the overall impact on the listed building is considered to be neutral.


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