powered by FreeFind




Old Books - Workhouses
Essentials for Local Historians, Genealogists & Family Historians


Sunshine in the Workhouse

AUTHOR: Unknown
FIRST PUB.: 1859

CD-ROM £10.00

Re-print of the edition first published in 1859.

73 page book supplied as a PDF document on CD-ROM.


In 1698, William III., in his speech in Parliament, stated:—
"For Workhouses, under a prudent and good arrangement, will answer all the ends of charity to the poor, in regard to their souls and bodies; they may be made, properly speaking, nurseries for religion, virtue, and industry, by having daily prayers, and the Scriptures constantly read, and poor children Christianly instructed."
"The purpose of a Workhouse is to be a refuge to the homeless, houseless, helpless poor; to night wanderers; to orphan children; to the lame and blind; to the aged who here lie down on their last bed to die."—Communion of Labour, p. 85. IN the Quarterly Review of September 1855, there is a striking article on the charities and poor of London, where this passage occurs:—"As Workhouses are now constituted, it is painful to consign age and infirmity to their inhospitable shelter. But this is an artificial difficulty, the existence of which is contrary to the intentions of the law and the dictates of humanity. The Poorhouse, while it is justly made distasteful to the able-bodied vagrant, should present a different aspect to those who are driven there by no fault of their own; and the grievance we have to complain of is one which, for the sake of all concerned, should be remedied without delay. We impute no blame to the Poor Laws, but are glad to avail ourselves of the opportunity of pointing out defects in their execution, which every Magistrate and Poor-Law Guardian may do something to amend."

With this I fully agree, and, after visiting in our own Workhouse since 1850, I feel that I can do no less than state my corroborating experience to the fact, that while the English Workhouses are fitting abodes for those who can work and will not work, for the lounging beggar and the idle reprobate, for the unwedded mother and the bold-bad girl, whose only wages are sin; yet I would, also, unhesitatingly state, that as asylums for the aged, the infirm, the crippled, and the incapable poor, whether old or young, they are sadly deficient in the loving charity which should make the pauper's last earthly home a quiet, happy, cheerful one; where "routine" (for them) should be laid aside as far as possible, and "the stern, hard machinery" of Workhouse rule hidden away from those of our deserving poor, who take refuge there to live out their few remaining years, and there die.

And I urge this strongly on all who are concerned in Workhouse jurisdiction, because I feel confident all thelittle kindnesses and considerate arrangements I would suggest for the aged and infirm, would not prove any additional expense to the house, or burden on the ratepayers.

I think it needful to speak boldly on this point, for I know that the poor-rate is a heavy item in all our expenditure, and I would not have it thought that I am urging measures which would increase its burden. I believe that, for the same sum now expended, all the indulgences I yearn to see granted might be allowed. Nor do I quarrel with the outdoor relief afforded, 2s. 6d. Or 2s. 9d. per week, as a public pension, allowed to those whose characters are good, and are now past work, being a creditable allowance, private charity stepping in to aid. Nor do I think the New Poor Law necessarily a harsh law, but,— I do think it is often harshly carried out by the indifference of Guardians, by the want of kindness in the officers of many Unions, by the determination of English rate-payers to look on all in the house as so many living burdens on them, thus seeming to forget that our Great All-Father says to us: "If thy brother be waxen poor, and his hand faileth, then thou shalt relieve him, yea, though he be a stranger or sojourner, that he may live with thee;"