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 What was a

History of the

Life in the

Work in the

Food in the

Extract from
   When I was a
   Child by
   Charles Shaw

   of the Spittals

Workhouses - What was a Workhouse?
      PAGE 1 OF 1 

A print of Chell Workhouse, circa 1839.

A print of Chell Workhouse, circa 1839.

The workhouse was 19th century England’s attempt to solve the problem of poverty.
England at this time was a thriving industrial centre, but there was still a huge growth in the population that meant thousands of people lived in poverty.
Hunger, disease and squalor were a part of everyday life for so many. The government decided to try to stop this and make the country a better place for the poor to live in.
Following on from the
1601 Poor Law Act, the 1834 Poor Law Act was passed. In it was the instruction to all unions to build a place in which all their poor could be housed.
Workhouses were originally meant to be places where the poor could work in return for food and board but the workhouse was not a place of comfort for those who were forced to enter them. Instead they were institutions of terror, in which inmates were harshly treated, put to work and made to suffer for being a burden. They were essential being punished for being poor, and the workhouse served as a deterrent to being poor.