Ripon Workhouse closed in 1950, and was converted to an old people’s home. However the Vagrants cells remained in use till the 1960s. In 1974 the residents in the home were moved to a purpose built home, leaving the workhouse exterior pretty much recognizable from when it was built in 1854. The main buildings are now used by the CAB, Girl Guides and various local charities. The Vagrants rooms have become a Workhouse museum, and that’s where we headed for our afternoon in the Workhouse.
Had we been a vagrant back in the day the first place to stop would have been the bathroom, for a lovely shower.
And the water in the baths wasn’t changed between bathers. Clothes were taken off for fumigation.
In there, and replaced with the uniform.
The smock on the chair is the uniform for tramps, you can see the dress for female residents above.
The bed here is what a Mum and a child would share. Men and women had separate accommodation. There was a strict regime of prayers and work. Work could include tasks to help with the running of the establishment, maybe in the kitchen ,the laundry, workshop or garden. Or picking oakum just like Oliver Twist. Oakum being rope, which when worn was pulled apart to be reworked into new rope. Hence money for Old Rope. Vagrants could stay two nights only and then had to move on , they too had to work for their keep. Meals were eaten in silence and meat was served three times a week, about 6 ounces per male inmate. There was a Doctor in attendance so often poorer Mums to be would go to the Workhouse to have their babies to ensure medical attendance.
Vagrants had individual cells to sleep in
Basic education was provided for children
The Kitchen Garden would have been quite a good place to work I think
Better than building these coffins
Chopping wood would have been hard labour too.
As you go round the museum you realize that by far the biggest groups of residents were the elderly who were too frail to work, and those with learning difficulties or mental ill health. Treatment of “difficult” people was barbaric, but that it is to judge it through the eyes of 21st Century England and not in context of knowledge at the time.
A restraining chair, not nice.
Apparently my Great Grandfather was a Clerk to the Governors, obtaining this position some time between 1870 and 1880 in Pickering. I didn’t really know what this entailed till I did some research at home later. The Governors in Ripon met fortnightly, about 35 of them representing the the rate payers of all the parishes served. To quote from the Museums booklet 9 by Anthony Chadwick, ” Their business was assisted by a Clerk, always a solicitor….A lawyer was needed since the Poor Law was complex, and difficult decisions had to be made over poor relief ( the Dole, or Benefits as we would call it in 2015) , or even admission to the workhouse, since the poor had statutory rights, as also had the ratepayers.”
Now further investigation tells me that the very minutes to the meetings at which my Great Grandfather was clerk to are actually in the local county records office. I feel another journey coming on, but maybe in the Spring next year.
Thanks for stopping by, I can most definitely recommend this museum.