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Social History: Workhouses

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posted on Mar, 26 2011 @ 12:32 PM
For those of you interested in social history, you may find this website about UK workhouses absolutely fascinating:Workhouses

It has a wealth of information and resources, which I am only now starting to explore. However as a taster, it contains:

* Details and contents of the Poor Laws
* Details of the Poor Law unions
* Workhouse locations and information
* In depth details of workhouse life, including medical provision, uniforms, work, death etc
* Rules of specific workhouses
* Links to numerous other records, resources and archives

In addition to this, it also contains "real life" stories of those who experienced life in a workhouse - including none other than Charlie Chaplin!

In 1896, seven-year old Charlie briefly became an inmate of the Lambeth union workhouse, together with his mother, Hannah, and his older half-brother Sydney. They went through the usual admission procedure of being separated from their mother, the children having their hair cut short, and the workhouse uniform replacing their own clothes which were steamed and put into store.

From a personal perspective, it was wonderful to find out more about the workhouse that I live right around the corner from:

The Neath Union workhouse was built about a mile the east of the town on a narrow site the north side of the Llantwit Road, backing onto the Neath Canal. The building, opened in 1838, later became known as "Lletty Nedd" (or "Neath Lodgings"). In 1895, it was described as "a substantial building of stone, erected in 1838 & since rebuilt and improved, adapted for the reception of 140 poor & has a well-furnished boardroom".

Hope that those of you who find social history of interest, enjoy the site as much as me

posted on Mar, 26 2011 @ 01:18 PM
Thanks for the info.. I have a great grandfather who at the age of 6yrs was in a workhouse 1861 with his mother as his father had died in 1871 I found he was a ships boy, presumably at the age of 11 he would have been sent on to one of the training ships as qiute a lot of young boys in the workhouse were.. It really makes you think how hard life must have been, he later went on to marry and have 11 children 3 of whom were lost during the 1st world war.

posted on Mar, 26 2011 @ 02:27 PM
reply to post by nanny

Cheers for sharing your story nanny

It's awful to think how people had to live and grow up in these conditions. And to think this was all happening relatively recently too.

I hope you find the site useful and find more information about the workhouse he stayed at.

posted on May, 21 2011 @ 01:07 PM
I have a story of a workhouse in my life from birth and probably until death of my closest one, let me expand.

I was born in an hospital in my local city.

Prior to being a hospital there had been a big church and a workhouse here.

In the 18thc due to the consumption etc that spread across the UK many hospitals became seperated to contain such utbreaks so new ones were needed to look after those without TB.

The workhouse aspect of this church was then changed into a local community hospital. The building going full circle from place of control and dlavery abuse to one of love and healing.

I was born in that Hospital. The church which was big still stood with lots of grounds.

Later on the Church which still owned the land and had leased it to the hospital in the 1980's and previously did not renew the lease as they wanted to seel the land, it is within 5 mins walk at most to the very center of a capital city in the UK.

The buildings were boarded up abondoned waiting for a buyer nothing happened for about 3 years, so at the time being very active environmentally, politically and socially and within the community myself and some others who were at the time trying to help the homeless in our city and improve the community decided that it was a waste and travesty, these guys were sleeping on the streets when empty "holy" places were empty.

We formed a co operative and by committe fashion a "community" was generated. We then "squatted" the land, Within 3 months every window had been replaced, the church left ruined and stinking was holding music events and community meetings, youth clubs etc, the old hospital was rewired, plumbed and tiled.

All of this was done for about £200 we used all recycled free "refuse" material and the homeless people (committe agreed DRY place fresh start) and some others myself included did this ourselves.

Within 6 months we had the following again all done with lots of love hard work time learning and using "waste", accomadation for 10 sinlges or couples, beds electricity, water sinks, showers, central heating, a community room and workshop, and chill out room.

2 community meeting areas in the church one "library" of sorts information point before the net was about as such and coving giving info on many of the topics on ATS.

Also an opne to the public by churchs main entrance a fully health and safety anf food hygiene checked "Vegetarian Cafe" (as most of us were and it was the philosophy vibe of the place).

The homless people worked there for free, we never charged anyone for food or drinks as long as they were DRY and CLEAN (drugs) upon entry, we had lawyers stopping on way to work meeting probably for the firts time in their lives properly not through work ex offenders homeless people. We let people donate towards their food what they wanted to or thought it was worth.

£200 belief, love hard work, some support and the transformations of this place from abondoned building to the centre of the positive transformation to the community. We got on TV were visited even by some special Native American Indians touring the UK, got in the local papers etc.

However as things were working so well, crime dropped in the community, the local police and community were amazed, one of the "residents" was hired by a cafe customer and is now a top chef in our city managing a kitchen of 12 and earning way over the national average wage.

He was drunk with a black eye, a lot of pain emotionally and alone lost just 8 months before when I fisrt sat with him outside for 30 mins when he arrived to see if he was suitable, had the spark to go for it to become a resident as such. This man had been homeless for 12 years on the drink after thatcher closed the Mines down and he couldnt get another job, his wife threw him out moved in his best friend.

The majority of the local councillers, police, community were happy talking of it bringing us food and presents getting involved breaking the barriers.

However things went down hill very suddenly, the land was empty for 3 years we petitioned the church to allow us to "rent" the land, a full business plan, cafe, events, community hall, etc we could have made it work. we thought they would be happy the "Lords" house was now providing free food to anyone, a place of love support and hope even transformation in many places for some of the most vulnerable in this city. The church as soon as it got above the local reverand were not interested very legal and heavy.

I had a meeting with one and he said "this will never happen we will have the land sold within 6 months then you will have to move"

"move where?"

"not my concern if you dont move out we will evict you with all neccessary means!"

" we will just squat then and get the press here, a church displacing homeless onto the streets closing a popular cafe and community centre?"

"Do as you like who cares about those sorts of people anyhow, will be forgotten by the next days headlines, who cares really?"

I smiled said very slowly "Jesus" and walked out disgusted this was a top level apparent "Bishop"

What was soo frustrating to me was that the land was going to be used a following 3/4 car park 1/4 new office small block.

We tried we fought peacefully all the evictions, got locals involved petitions with tens of thousands of names,but one night the riot gear came in about 3am smashed up 3 "caravans" and 2 "mobile homes" parked there and dragged from their beds naked not letting them get their possessions the "residents" from the only safe and secure accomadation the only home some of these had EVER had since childhood.

For the first time in over 6 months 10 people were made homless again at that point.

Within 4 weeks the car park was making a healthy profit office block being built etc.

That was many years ago and the experience opened my eyes to a lot in life on soo many differant levels.

About 10 years after that with the property boom the company who owned the land sold it to another developer, they put a small block of luxury flats there, a 1 storey office for an HOUSING ASSOCIATION i.e. in uk to find accomadation to go on list for 5 yeards first lol the rest was sold to the local health authority and another small community mixed hospital was put where the church had been.

As some know on here I spent some years giving up business and career to care for a family member with mental health problems. When they needed 24/7 and were no longer safe in the community they have ended up in that hospital, and will probably pass away there to as the nature of the ward and age disease.

Talk about going full circle.

Anyhow just my experience of a workhouse place in the UK and its more modern history.

Hope you well LizzieJayne The workhouses of yesterday are the Call Centres of today.

Kind Regards,


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