Social Issues in Victorian England
By: Anasya Dowell

Poor Houses

Poor houses where tax-supported residential houses where people who could not take care of themselves where required to go as by the  Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.They were developed as a method for a least expensive form of modern day welfare. The people living in these poor houses earned money by doing jobs at the poor house( also known as a work house). Orphaned/abandoned children, mentally ill, disabled, and elderly and unmarried women all lived in these houses together.

Elderly woman in poor house

The work house provided a place to live, to work, and earn money, free medical care, food, clothes and free education and job training for children. The government made people fear these houses in an attempt to stop people from coming. In "Oliver Twist", Oliver lived in one of these workhouses now because he was of age(9) to work. He had to work in the house and barely got any food. He was treated poorly by the ones who ran the house and was suppose to be taking care of him.

The workhouses where broken into seven groups:

  • Men infirm through age or illness
  • Women infirm through age or illness
  • Able-bodied men over 15 years
  • Able-bodied women over 15 years
  • Boys between 7 and 15
  • Girls between 7 and 15
  • Children under the age of 7

The groups where not allowed to mingle in order to keep them from reproducing. The buildings where prison like, windows high above so no one can see out, the people inside had no contact with the outside world, high walls, and the buildings had sharp corners no round edges.

Spaces in the dormitories where extremely small and crammed for  example:eight beds could be put into a narrow dormitory only sixteen feet long; thirty-two men were put into a dormitory 20 feet long; ten children and their attendants were put into a room 10 feet by 15 feet. They slept on wooden beds with stuffed mattresses and no pillows because they where considered a luxury. No sheets where provided and beds where often shared. Almost all of the furniture was wood from stools to tables. No games or toys where available for the children. Here is the routine set by the Act in 1834:

5.00 a.m.Rising bell

6.00 a.m. - 7.00 a.m.Prayers and breakfast

7.00 a.m. - 12 noon Work

12 noon - 1.00 p.m.Dinner

1.00 p.m. - 6.00 p.m.Work

6.00 p.m. - 7.00 p.m.Prayers

7.00 p.m. - 8.00 p.m.Supper

8.00 p.m.Bed

Work was oakum picking and upon arriving at the workhouse they where searched, washed, hair fixed and given work clothes. For women that was a dress, a shift, long stockings, and knee length drawers and also a bonnet. Men where giving stripped shirt, pants, a vest, underwear and socks, a neckerchief, and in the winter a coat. The quality and quantity of the food served often led the people on the road to starvation.

Works Cited

Barrow, Mandy. "The Workhouse." Project Britain- The Victorians., 2013. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.

Bloy, Marjorie Dr. "Conditions in the Workhouse." A Web of English History., 26 Oct. 2013. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.

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