SK7154 : The Workhouse

taken 11 years ago, near to Normanton, Nottinghamshire, Great Britain

This is 1 of 4 images, with title The Workhouse in this square
The Workhouse
The Workhouse
Built in 1824 and managed by the National Trust, this is the best preserved workhouse in the country. The Reverend John Thomas Becher first experimented with a small workhouse for Southwell and wrote a pamphlet called 'The Antipauper System', explaining how the workhouse had reduced the poor rates by 75%. He then organised the 49 local parishes to pool resources to build this much larger Incorporated Workhouse to take advantage of economies of scale. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 recognised this workhouse as the best existing example of managing the poor, and the model employed here was rolled out across the whole country. Several hundred workhouses were built, all with much the same design and management processes.

Public attitudes towards the poor ranged from pity to blaming their condition on idleness. The workhouse was a place of care for those who had no home or food. But it was also a deterrent - the accommodation was basic and often overcrowded, the food was bland and sparse, the work was long and repetitive. Men, women and children were separated, so families had a particularly hard time. The point was that the community would see the workhouse as a place of last resort and this would encourage people to make greater efforts to avoid it. Becher's famous quote was that the only good workhouse was an empty one.

The building has three wings around the main entrance (white porch). On the left is the wing for women, divided into two sections - the able-bodied, and the old and infirm. The lower floor had a day room and the two upper floors are dormitories. Each section had an outside walled yard for work and exercise. On the right is the wing for the men and behind is a smaller wing for the children. The Master lived and had his offices above the main entrance, from which he could oversee all the yards. In the foreground are some of the gardens, which would have been tended by the more trustworthy residents. The house would have been largely self-sufficient in food, but would also trade surplus/deficit with local businesses. The work would be boring, like rock crushing or oakum picking - designed to be off-putting rather than for making a profit. The staff would include the live-in Master and Matron (often his wife), live-in Teacher, plus the part-time and visiting Clerk (record-keeper), Chaplain, Medical Officer and various Relieving Officers. The workhouse was funded via parish taxes and overseen by the Guardians, who were elected upstanding representatives from the parishes, often local businessmen or farmers.
SK7154 : The women's Back Court
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SK7154, 81 images   (more nearby search)
  (find more nearby)
Date Taken
Saturday, 1 May, 2010   (more nearby)
Thursday, 6 May, 2010
Workhouse   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SK 711 542 [100m precision]
WGS84: 53:4.8446N 0:56.3574W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SK 711 542
View Direction
East-northeast (about 67 degrees)
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Image classification(about): Geograph
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