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Workhouse Records

By the 1870’s one-third of the population over 70 lived in the workhouse. There are many reasons why and mainly because people were too poor, sick or too old to support themselves. Reasons for this maybe unemployment, for example when Britain went through a stage during the early 1830s of economic depression, this had a huge effect on rural areas which was reducing the need for Agricultural labourers, due to mechanisation. Many unmarried pregnant women entered the workhouse as their only option when they were disowned by their families.

Once entering the workhouse it was like a small village kept hidden from the rest of the world. It had a school, a chapel, an infirmary and work yards that were segregated. Entering the workhouse, all paupers were stripped, bathed (under supervision), and then given a workhouse uniform. Their own clothes would be washed and disinfected and then put into store along with any other possessions which they only got returned to them once they had left the workhouse. The Workhouse was separated into seven sections and each person went into the section which was suited and under no ircumstances were families allowed to mix or even talk to each other.

The Seven Sections were separated according to the
following :

  1. Old or infirm men
  2. Able bodied men, and youths above 13.
  3. Youths and boys above seven years old
    and under 13.
  4. Old or infirm women
  5. Able-bodied women and girls above 16.
  6. Girls above seven years old and under 16.
  7. Children under 7 seven years of age.

The role of every pauper was to make sure that every person fulfilled their duties in their trades. Whether they were bone crushing, sewing, doing the laundry, at school or regulating coal supply, life was work and the only days they had off in the year was every Sunday, Good Friday and Christmas Day. Life got easier in the workhouse as time went on By 1930, when workhouses
were officially abolished, conditions in some places had become much more relaxed.

© Cheryl Horncastle, FamilyPast.co.uk