History-Workhouses

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  • Do you know what happens to people who demonstrate this behaviour? No cheese for a week! Fighting in school is unacceptable!
  • I'm sorry! I, I didn't mean to, they made me!
  • Please Miss, this Oakum Picking is cutting and burning my fingers!
  • Oh put up with it, stop being so childish!
  • That took a while!
  • Why was I disorderly at prayer time? Now I'm locked up for 24 hours on bread and water!
  • Workhouses were created for people who really were the poorest they could be. Before the Poor Law Amendment Act, you had the choice of indoor or outdoor relief. Indoor relief was working at the workhouse, but it was easier, and outdoor relief was living at home with a job. However, people started to notice that they were paying for others to sit around and do nothing. Then there was the Poor Law Amendment Act, which made every poor person who couldn't afford the basics have to go to the local Workhouse.
  • Workhouse inmates had a variety of jobs to complete daily, and most of it was to do with running the workhouses. Women had jobs such as cleaning, helping in the kitchen, sewing, spinning and weaving. Whereas men had jobs such as stone- breaking, corn- grinding, oakum picking and wood chopping. Inmates had to work 10 hours a day, with only a half hour break for breakfast and an hour break for dinner and supper. A roll- call was performed half an hour after the bell for rising was rung each morning.
  • The workhouse had a list of rules, which were generally the same throughout workhouses. The list was printed and displayed clearly throughout the workhouse often, and were read aloud each week so people who couldn't read had no excuse for disobeying them. Some examples of broken rules are: Being noisy and swearing, quarrelling, fighting in school, breaking windows and refusing to work. These were dealt with by issuing punishments, such as: Being locked up and not given meat or cheese for a week.
  • Workhouses had to employ at least one qualified nurse and have a room especially for sick inmates. However these usually had poor sanitary facilities and bad ventilation. Disease spread quickly, as the room was very small and patients often had to share a bed. The nurses employed, were often the worst of the applicants, because workhouses employed whoever wanted the lowest salary, which was usually people who were newly familiar with the profession.
  • If and inmate died in the workhouse, any family would be notified and given the opportunity to organise a funeral themselves, which was very rarely the case because it was an expensive event. Usually a burial would be arranged in a local cemetery with the cheapest coffin possible and in an unmarked grave, which would often be filled with several coffins. Later, new rules allowed the burial to take place on the dead persons own parish, if they or their relatives asked.
  • Although workhouse diets are thought to be very boring, some workhouses provide their inmates with an exceptionally good diet for the time. They had 6 meat meals per week as well as weak beer every day, for all ages. Meals often differed depending on your gender and age. Women and some older men, for example, had a pint of tea with bread and butter for breakfast whereas men and children had bread and gruel.
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