The Victorian Workhouse was a place where the poorest of the poor lived and worked. It was an incredibly difficult place to live, with very poor living conditions. The people who lived and worked there were from all walks of life, but they all had one thing in common – they were desperately poor.
In this article, we will take a look at the types of people who lived and worked in the Victorian Workhouse, and we will also explore the appalling living conditions that they endured.
Why And When Were The Victorian Workhouses Created?
The Victorian Workhouse was established in 1834 by Sir Robert Peel, who privately believed that the government should look after people rather than say “Sir, you are poor; therefore I will not have anything to do with you”, but also believed that assistance should be given for a fee. The New Poor Law Act was introduced in 1834.
These workhouses were designed to make able-bodied people go out and work by offering shelter for wage earners, day workers, and apprentices where there wasn’t any work available locally.
There were strict rules imposed on inmates of these institutes, including no begging or receiving charity money.
Who Lived In The Victorian Workhouses?
The people who lived and worked in the Victorian Workhouse were from all walks of life. They included the very poorest of the poor, as well as criminals, the homeless, unmarried mothers, the elderly, and the mentally ill. The living conditions in the workhouses were appalling, and most inmates lived in total poverty and squalor.
What Were The Conditions Like Inside The Victorian Workhouse And Punishments?
The conditions inside the Victorian Workhouse were appalling. Inmates lived in total poverty and squalor, and most of them were malnourished and poorly clothed. There was very little food available, and the available food was often low quality. In between meals, they had to earn their food and bed by working hard at the jobs given to them by their guardians.
In addition, the living quarters were extremely cramped and unsanitary. The inmates were also subjected to frequent beatings and other forms of punishment.
What Was The Food Like Inside A Victorian Workhouse?
The food that was available in the Victorian Workhouse was often of very low quality and sometimes rotten.
For breakfast, they were served gruel, a kind of porridge made from oats and water. For the main meal of the day, they would have been served a broth or soup made from low-quality meat and whatever vegetables were in season.
What was a typical day like in the workhouse?
The inmates were woken in the morning by a tolling bell, and this same bell called the inmates to breakfast, dinner and supper.
In 1835, the Poor Law Commissioners laid out the timings of the workhouse day as follows:
|Hour of rising||Breakfast||Work starts||Dinner||Finish work||Supper||Recreation||Bed|
|25th March – 29th September||6am||6.30-7am||7am||12-1pm||6pm||6-7pm||7-8pm||8pm|
|29th September – 25th March||7am||7-7.30am||8am||12-1pm||6pm||6-7pm||7-8pm||8pm|
What was life like for a child in a Victorian workhouse?
Most children in a workhouse were orphans. Everyone slept in large dormitories. It was common for younger children to sleep four to a bed.
Every day for three hours, Victorian workhouse children were expected to have lessons in reading, writing, mathematics and bible studies.