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:
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.
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.