The Workhouse

Our National Trust membership has been well used this year. Our last trip took us to The Workhouse in Nottinghamshire.


The large institutional building looms as you enter the car park. Most of the National Trust properties we visit tend to have beautiful sprawling grounds to explore but The Workhouse is very much about the building so it’s definitely more of an in day than an out day. It does have a Victorian vegetable garden to the front. Outside of it’s gates there is a good sized grassy picnic area where you can sit should you wish.

Anyway, back to the house. A short video guide describes how working life might have been for those choosing to be there. Apparently it was a choice although circumstances outside the workhouse life must have been pretty grim to choose it.  Once signed in you weren’t able to come and go although looking for work outside of the workhouse would have been acceptable.

The wash room is one of the first rooms you come too. Workers clothes are removed from them on signing up.  Carbolic soap has a distinct and unforgettable smell.


Room by room with the odd living history actor helping the story along, you discover the various work that went on and how everyone was very much separated.

Back in the day, if you entered the workhouse as a family then you were separated and would barely see one another, if at all until you left and the Man of the family would not be able to leave his family behind. Enter as a family, leave as a family. Women, Men and Children all separated with the old and infirm separated from the younger generations too.

Although they worked hard it appeared that they were well fed and mostly warm. The portions seemed quite large to me but then they were working hard. The kitchen would have been the most attractive proposition for it would have been the warmest room in the house. The cellars would have been pretty grim, damp and cold. The rules were very strict and punishable too if broken.

This task you see here pulling the rope apart to pick the Oakum is where the phrase *Money for old Rope* came from.


Here’s the outdoor privy. In the yard there was only one spot where you could hide from the workhouse masters watching from their windows and it wasn’t here!


In short, the trip made for interesting discussions on poverty then and how we deal with it now.

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