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A guide to a workhouse

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Introduction

A guide to a workhouse The buildings themselves were dreary, undecorated, prison-like structures. There were no curves only sharp corners. There was no architectural decoration. High walls surrounded the whole workhouse, cutting off the view of the outside world from the inmates. Even the windows were six feet from the floor, and a further 'adaptation' was to have the window sills sloping downwards, preventing them from being used as seats of shelves. If heating was provided it was useless. The workhouses were made to be awful to prevent people from going there and finding work for themselves instead. Workhouses contained dormitories, washrooms, workrooms, a solitary confinement ward, the mortuary, bake-house, receiving wards, dining halls and a chapel. Any sick or old person housed on the upper floors would be virtually a prisoner in the ward because they would be unable to get back down the stairs! Space was usually rare. Too many people were crammed into the smallest spaces possible: for example, eight beds could be put into a narrow dormitory only sixteen feet ...read more.

Middle

The Commission classified the inmates into seven groups: Men frail through age or illness Women frail through age or illness Able-bodied men over 15 years Able-bodied women over 15 years Boys between 7 and 15 Girls between 7 and 15 Children under the age of 7 The seven groups were to be kept totally separated at all times, even during 'leisure' time. Married couples, even the elderly, were to be kept apart at all costs so that they could not 'breed'. Each of the seven classes was supposed to have its own exercise yard. There was no segregation of inmates after the seven classes had been separated. This meant that the old, ill, insane, slightly unbalanced and fit were kept together both day and night with no form of change. Inmates simply sat and did nothing if they were not working. On admission, an inmate's clothes were removed and stored. They was searched, washed, had there hair cropped and were given workhouse clothing. ...read more.

Conclusion

cheese, water Thursday 11/2 pints of gruel; 8 oz bread, water 11/2 pints of soup, bread, water 6 oz. bread, 11/2 oz. cheese, water Friday 11/2 pints of gruel; 8 oz bread, water 7 oz. bread, 2 oz. Cheese, water 6 oz. bread, 11/2 oz. cheese, water Saturday 11/2 pints of gruel; 8 oz bread, water 5 oz. bacon, 3/4lb. Potatoes, water 6 oz. bread, 11/2 oz. cheese, water Sunday 11/2 pints of gruel; 8 oz bread, water 7 oz. bread, 2 oz. Cheese, water 6 oz. bread, 11/2 oz. cheese, water Women and children received the same food as men, but less of it. Speaking at mealtimes was forbidden absolutely and some workhouses did not provide cutlery, forcing the inmates to eat with their fingers. Tea and butter were provided only for the over-60s, if at all. Meals were as dull, predictable and tasteless as poor cooking and no imagination could make them. Often the quantity, quality and lack of nutrition meant that workhouse inmates were on a slow starvation diet. Alex Butcher ...read more.

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