Saturday 24 November 2012

At the Workhouse

I left the Society's Office at half-past ten o'clock, accompanied by Mr. Jones, and proceeded to the St. Martin's workhouse; there I found nineteen persons lying on the pavement in the street, unable to obtain shelter within the establishment. They consisted of one man, fifteen women and three children. The porter readily admitted me to examine the casual wards, was very civil and readily answered all my inquiries. He informed me he had forty-eight persons, male and female, and that the wards were quite full. I examined the male ward, and discovered that the accommodation consisted of beds and rugs, and that the inmates were in a state of nudity; or in other words, had no other covering except the rugs, a practice he informed me, which was introduced and maintained by the paupers themselves as they were less liable to catch the itch or any other disease from each other. Bread and gruel are supplied to them in the morning before they leave the house. I enquireed whether the poor did not suffer from fever, and was informed that they did to a great extent; that they sent several cases to the Fever Hospital; and by a reference to a file which he showed me, proved that deaths were very frequent in consequence, a dead body that day been sent back from the Fever Hospital. The officers on duty also suffered from fever.  He expressed his deep regret at not being able to afford shelter to the poor creatures sleeping on the stones outside, particularly to the children who were crying, although he said he was quite sure them others or women in charge of them were pinching and otherwise inflicting pain on them in order to excite commiseration and secure a shelter. The door and office windows, I was informed, were constantly being broken by unsuccessful applicants for admission, and the parish authorities were engaged in enlarging the building. His duty commenced at from six or seven a.m. until twelve at nighht, and he was obliged to attend to all after applications. 

Poor Man's Guardian, 1847

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