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How valuable is the southwell workhouses a source of evidence of how far they were treated in early Victorian times?

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How valuable is the southwell workhouses a source of evidence of how far they were treated in early Victorian times? The southwell workhouse was built in 1834, introducing a harsh and revolutionary system that was designed to cut the cost of caring for the poor. This system was later adopted adopted across a national network of over 600 workhouses. In this essay I will explain how life was in the southwell workhouse and how paupers were treated there back in the 19th century. The workhouse was built in southwell after the poorlaw amendment act was passed in 1834. The building housed 158 inmates and was designed specifically segregate the different classes. This gave the effect of a prison building. When you come up to the workhouse you are left with a path down the left hand side of the building which was known as paupers lane. Here the paupers would walk until they were faced with the massive building where they would be working. ...read more.


After the walls there is a small field and an orchard where some of the inmates would have worked. Able bodied inmates completed a number of menial tasks at southwell such as picking oakum and stone breaking in the yard. One piece of evidence I found at southwell was on one of the walls in the mens yard. It looked to be a grid that was scratched onto the wall. The place in which it was done was where the overseer couldn't have seen. If we can rely on this evidence then I suspect it was done purely because the work was dull and boring. It could possibly have been used as a calendar to remind the inmates in the yard of how long they have been in the workhouse. One piece of evidence I found was in one of the mens dormitories. One of the jobs that they had to do was to paint walls. However this wall had clearly been painted more than 15 times. ...read more.


It usually consisted of meat, potatoes, and peas. This diet was boring but consistent, and it would hit them hard if there diet was reduced due to a punishment. Luckily for the people who entered the southwell workhouse, it was generally a well run establishment. Unlike Huddersfield and Andover where there was a lot of trouble and inmates were badly treated. The picture above shows southwell workhouse before it was restored. Currently the workhouse is just a huge building filled with nothing. You can get some information from the audio tape that was provided. As well as the volunteers that gave us information on the day but as for primary evidence and a feel for what the workhouse was like was unfortunately lacking. We can learn a lot from southwell workhouse, for example the layout, the structure and the plan. But because there is no furniture or fittings we cannot get a feel for what it was like in the 19th century. I agree with the national trust for keeping the workhouse in its current state. However for people who want to learn for the first time, it is not very informative and could give people the wrong idea. ...read more.

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