Saturday, 16 July 2011

Working at the Workhouse, Southwell

Last week we had a trip to the Workhouse in Southwell, its a National Trust property and is the most complete workhouse in existence, it was also the first one ever built. Its funny because I expected it to be quite dreary and a bit dirty but in fact it was quite the opposite. The staff told us that this was how it would have been kept then too, even the wall colours where original. It had to be very light and bright due to no electric lights. And it was so clean because they wanted to keep everyone very busy. When we arrived we were all given an audio handheld to talk us round. This made for quite a strange experience as we were all very quiet listening to the audio. Think I should record one for the children everyday just for the quiet it ensued! We watched a short film in the first room which was all about how life worked in the Workhouse, the procedures that were followed etc. If you had arrived as a family, you would have been separated and may occasionally been allowed to see each other on Sundays but  not always. Very humbling thought being separated from your spouse and children. The children all had a trail to do so there were lots of things to look out for.

The first room they would have entered would have been this one:

 There were lists of rules hanging up, telling you what you were allowed to have in your possession.
 Then you would have been separated in to groups of Males, Females and children and sent through each of these doorways to be washed and dressed in the Workhouse uniform.
 If you look closely at this photo, you will see marks where someone in the male exercise yard has tried to mark the wall. They aren't sure if this was part of a game or if it was an attempt to record the days. As it is out of sight of the masters window thy got away with it. I can't imagine the master being very happy if he had observed them doing this!
 The master's window, which is central to the building and which means he could see in all the yard's.
 The toilet cubicle for the exercise yard. We did notice that you could probably have been able to chat to the person in the next cubicle. So men and women might have been able to have a conversation whilst spending a penny!
 Lots of quiet as we moved through the rooms and listened to watch each room was used for.
 This would have been an office as it was slightly more luxury furnished. Although most of the rooms are quite empty because all the furniture was sold off and the national trust don't want to guess at what was in the rooms so they have left them mainly empty.
 Down into the cellar, where mainly the women would have worked sorting out food and also unravelling rope, which was apparantly very painful and not very good for your hands.

 It was pretty dank and depressing down here to be honest and very cold.
 In the kitchen, the range was still in here and lots of info on what people would have eaten whilst they were in Workhouse.
 Very meagre portions!

 Lots of milk and potatoes
 This is what 40z of potatoes looks like, which is what the children would have had.
 Very little variation in what you got to eat.
 Ruben trying "school" in the Workhouse. Quite amusing as he has never attended school. He helped himself to a bag with a chalkboard and chalk in it and began copying off the board.

 Closely followed by Cordelia. This is what they wrote:

The children's rooms were very sad, a lonely crib in this tiny room and frosted glass in the children's room so they couldn't look out of the window. We heard on the audio how the teacher's didn't last long here as they were responsible for the children from 7am through to bedtime with no holidays, days off or time away. A few children died, although there weren't many diseases due to how clean everything was kept, but the staff found it all to much and didn't last very long.
 Piper thought it was all very sad too :-(
 A typical bedroom for the women.

 After the tour we went into the activity room and the girls and daddy decided to dress up as workers. This photo makes me both sad and laugh at the same time!! It is very much how the family on the video we watched at the beginning look like. Thankfully, we could just act they were there for real.
 As we left there was a noticeboard asking if you had to choose one thing from toys, pets, fashion and electronic equipment what couldn't you give up? Quite thought provoking! What couldn't you live without? Me and daddy decided the internet. So did Bailey, well XBOX. Piper chose Pets. Ruben and Cordelia chose toys.

 Outside we walked around the fab veg patch, very inspiring! And the children were gifted with a national trust garden pack which included free veg seeds for next years planting!

 The master's private entrance. The employees would never have gone through this entrance.
Very imposing building. But amazing that it has managed to survive. I think because of its location it couldn't really be used as much else so therefore survived whereas other workhouses were adapted to be hospitals and factories.

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