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Coventry Workhouses

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morgana
the secret garden
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1 of 41  Wed 7th Dec 2011 9:41pm  
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Coventry Workhouses
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
K
Somewhere
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2 of 41  Thu 8th Dec 2011 1:18pm  
Member: Joined Nov 2011  Total posts:566

I can recommend the book "Workhouse" by Simon Fowler, if anyone wants to read the history of workhouses. If you'll permit a little "topic drift". There were two serious cases in 1850 of the abuse of workhouse inmates, that led to the law being changed. Jane Wilbred and Mary Anne Parsons. There was a practice for workhouses to offer inmates as cheap servants to well-off families, for which the workhouse was paid, not the inmate. Both these girls were sent to work thus, Mary Anne to a family of farmers (the Birds) near Bideford, Jane to a lawyer's family (the Sloanes) in London. Mary Anne was beaten, starved, tortured (she had finger nails pulled out) and whipped with a home made lash of 18 leather thongs, 3 feet long. She died of a head wound and other fractures, on 4th January 1850. She was 14. Jane was older, 17. She too was starved, fed just broth, 1 bowl per day, otherwise mustard or pepper as a punishment. She was required to go to the loo at precisely the same time every day, otherwise was forced to eat her excrement. She was beaten repeatedly. She was forced to work in full view of the master, stripped to the waist. She was never once given fresh clothes or bedclothes, or had any washed, for the two years she was employed. When she was rescued, she weighed just 59 lbs. (The story is here: LINK) Mary Anne's employers were tried three times, for murder, manslaughter, and common assault. Each time the judge said there was no case to answer. Jane's tormentors were imprisoned for two years for common assault, on the basis that Jane was old enough "to have run away" (potentially a criminal offence, since she was under the control of the workhouse). Both employers were pillars of the local church, and considered to be devout and upstanding Christians. The cases led to the Master and Servant Act. I hope you find this an interesting insight into the treatment of workhouse inmates. They were generally considered not to have any soul or social value.
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
morgana
the secret garden
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Thread starter
3 of 41  Thu 8th Dec 2011 5:16pm  
Member: Joined Nov 2011  Total posts:2227

Thanks for the tip on the book, such cruelty and to think it still exists today even though laws are implemented to outlaw this sort of thing. Sad
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
K
Somewhere
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4 of 41  Thu 8th Dec 2011 6:30pm  
Member: Joined Nov 2011  Total posts:566

Yes, most workhouses were very harsh places. People who fell on hard times were regarded as being at fault, and the workhouses should be used to (a) not make them too comfortable, and therefore disinclined to try to get work and out of them, and (b) "not be a burden to the community". But the way they treated children and separated husband and wives, was pretty inhuman, particularly by modern standards; and yet they didn't all close until around 1949, as I remember - and their role was partly taken over by "mental institutions".
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
DBC
Nottinghamshire
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5 of 41  Thu 8th Dec 2011 8:48pm  
Member: Joined Apr 2010  Total posts:169

I now live in Nottinghamshire, just a few miles from the Southwell Workhouse which is now owned by the National Trust. This was the model for all the Union Workhouses which were built after the Poor Law was changed in the 1840's. If you are ever in the area, the place is well worth a visit to see what grim places workhouses were.
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
TonyS
Coventry
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6 of 41  Fri 9th Dec 2011 9:39am  
Moderator: Joined Jan 2011  Total posts:1553

Thanks for the link Morgana. It is amazing to think this was all happening in the not too distant past! Keith: Shocking story! - I wonder just how widespread this sort of thing became! DBC: We have recently re-joined the NT so will be adding this to the list! Cheers
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
Midland Red
Cherwell
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7 of 41  Fri 9th Dec 2011 10:02am  
Moderator: Joined Jan 2010  Total posts:4929

My dear old Mum, who was always worried about her money after Dad passed away, often said words to the effect that she would "end up in the workhouse" - obviously remembering stories from her childhood days
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
K
Somewhere
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8 of 41  Fri 9th Dec 2011 11:05am  
Member: Joined Nov 2011  Total posts:566

On 9th Dec 2011 9:39am, TonyS said: Thanks for the link Morgana. It is amazing to think this was all happening in the not too distant past! Keith: Shocking story! - I wonder just how widespread this sort of thing became! DBC: We have recently re-joined the NT so will be adding this to the list!
Those were the worst cases, but they were apparently far from rare, hence firstly the public outcry over them after the cases against the Birds were dismissed, and ultimate the new law. There was absolutely no legal protection for workhouse inmates, whether inside, or as outworkers. Many children were exploited by unscrupulous "benefactors", like the entrepreneur who employed children to make fusee chains for watches and clocks around the Christchurch area workhouses. This is the latter book: We have several workhouses around here. The one at Gressenhall is now a museum of country life (they call this "life"?), and is quite an interesting and popular place to visit, with steam engines etc., as well as an section about its time as a workhouse; and the one at Forehoe, Norfolk, near Morley was the isolation hospital - I think it may now be flats; and the one near Pulham Market, which is now flats and a garden centre. I hope you find this interesting. Thumbs up Workhouses are quite an important aspect of our country's history! I apologise that it's not Coventry history per se, but it's a topic relevant to any town or city in the country.
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
K
Somewhere
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9 of 41  Sat 10th Dec 2011 2:29pm  
Member: Joined Nov 2011  Total posts:566

We went out this lunchtime to a cafe next to the Depwade Union workhouse, and there is something there I forgot about. Surrounding much of the building is a 10-12 foot high wall. Now, it makes me wonder, was it to keep the inmates in, or stop others from getting in to this paradise on earth? Wink (And, of course, to keep the men and women apart.) Answers on a postcard. It's interesting to notice that the building is very much like a prison in layout. Central tower with a viewing belvedere, and radiating wings, each 3 floors high. [The workhouses website has both plan and photographs]. It was used as a hotel for a time (and people seemingly can't have wanted to to stay there!!! Oh my Lol You can see the high wall in the photographs). It's now flats. There is a bit about the ticket system. If an inmate couldn't be provided with work by any local employer, they had to get each potential employer to fill in and sign a 'ticket', otherwise they got no food. That resulted in someone trying to burn the workhouse down in 1844. That workhouse didn't finally close until very recent times; it was no longer called a workhouse after 1955, but that was still effectively what it was.
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
heritage
Bedworth
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10 of 41  Sat 10th Dec 2011 7:27pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2011  Total posts:374

Workhouses, one of my favourite subjects. As well as the workhouses in the centre of Coventry there were workhouses in Foleshill which up to the boundary extensions of the 1920s started at Cash's Lane. A few notes about the Foleshill Poor Law Union and Workhouse The first Foleshill Parish Workhouse was built on land in Three Well Field, Rowley's Green, (very close to the Ricoh Arena of today) and financed by a legacy from an unknown donor in 1724-5, but it was only to remain in use until 1733. It was replaced by a cottage on Partridge Croft at Court House Green (Partridge Croft ran parallel to Proffitt Avenue). The cottage which was divided into two tenements, was certainly occupied by families placed there by the parish officers. The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 11,965 with parishes ranging in size from Willenhall (population 120) to Foleshill itself (6,969). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £5,621 or 9s.5d. per head of the population. It's believed that this second parish workhouse may have been replaced in turn about 1787 by a cottage and garden in Brick Kiln Lane (now Broad Street) at Great Heath which by 1775 belonged to the overseers of the poor, though it is not known how or when they had acquired them. It appears that the whole property was sold to meet the costs of furnishing the new House of Industry, also built in Brick Kiln Lane, which became the first Foleshill Union workhouse in 1836. When the Foleshill Union took over the existing Foleshill workhouse, the Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £400 for it be "altered and enlarged". This followed the introduction of the New Poor Law Act of 1834, the Foleshill Poor Law Union being declared on 28th June 1836. The workhouse in Brick Kiln Lane was a neat brick building erected around 1805. The building was able to accommodate 66 people but the average for people using it was reported to be around 55 each night. In the mid 1800s a mill was erected for grinding barley which was part of the staple diet for many workhouses. The 1851 census recorded, Mr. Rufus Sharp and his wife Mrs. Marien Sharp as Master and Matron of the Foleshill Workhouse. To confuse the issue there was also a workhouse in Bedworth which also came under the control of the Foleshill Guardians (meeting alternative weeks). It stood in Industry Yard (George Street) close to the entrance to the new Tesco car park. It closed around the mid 1850s.
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
K
Somewhere
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11 of 41  Sun 11th Dec 2011 2:37pm  
Member: Joined Nov 2011  Total posts:566

Here's an interesting and useful site about The Union Workhouse Plus: Foleshill Workhouse and its 1881 Census. And you might be interested in this link. A lot more information here, and location map here Hope you find it all interesting and informative!
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
K
Somewhere
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12 of 41  Mon 12th Dec 2011 1:33pm  
Member: Joined Nov 2011  Total posts:566

If you look on the Workhouses website, a small map shows that it was by the tram depot, and the text says between Stoney Stanton Rd and Lythalls Lane, and is now an industrial estate. That was Foleshill Union Workhouse, whereas the Gulson Rd one was Coventry Workhouse. According to the records.
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
heritage
Bedworth
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13 of 41  Mon 12th Dec 2011 3:59pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2011  Total posts:374

For the site of the last Foleshill Workhouse, think very close to Foleshill Fire Station. This was the cost of a workhouse burial.
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
morgana
the secret garden
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Thread starter
14 of 41  Mon 12th Dec 2011 4:04pm  
Member: Joined Nov 2011  Total posts:2227

I wonder if its the old building on the corner of Old Church Road the name of that say old union place on it, thanks for that Heritage, Cheers Thumbs up and great book you have there was it a sort of ration book 8/6d wouldn't get us buried nowadays but even seems expensive for those days. It's down Old Church Road where the industrial estate is on the corner it now has a unit there, picture of place on this link
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses
anne
coventry
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15 of 41  Sun 24th Jun 2012 8:33pm  
Member: Joined Feb 2012  Total posts:287

I've been reading, with interest, about the Coventry Workhouse in Gulson Road. Dutchman has written some interesting stuff on here and elsewhere. I was fascinated by the people who were the staff and residents at the time of the 1881 census. This can be seen here. I was wondering if anybody on here has antecedants on this list or knows of anyone who does? I'm also fascinated by the mix of former employment of the people and the way their disabilities are described! I was born in Gulson Road hospital! Wave
Local History and Heritage - Coventry Workhouses

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