More stories from the workhouse

As Sunday is a day off from the A-Z challenge, I thought I’d better get back to stories from the workhouse.

A reminder – I’m researching our local workhouse, the Blean Union Workhouse in Kent, and these are notes taken from the minutes of the Guardians of the Board, the locals who were charged with overseeing the administration of the workhouse. The first collection of stories is here, and searching the workhouse category on this blog will discover other articles I’ve written about my research.

In February 1879 a fire was reported in the drying closet. The firm who installed the closet were called in to inspect, and discovered that a grating had been removed that should stop clothing falling on the pipes. They made it secure and advised that when used for airing purposes a smaller fire should be kept.

Later that year, a builder, Mr S. Stupple, was accused of theft of an iron bar belonging to the guardians. Upon investigation, the accusation was found to be unfounded, and made by an apprentice whom Mr Stupple had recently discharged for misconduct.

Around 1880, issues were reported with the contracted coffin maker, who caused “serious inconvenience and scandal” when a coffin supplied was larger than ordered, the hole then proving to have been dug too small. A further, similar complaint was made a few weeks later and he was told to pay any charges accrued from the inconvenience. He reported that the confusion was due to measurements not being stated as internal or external. By the end of the year he had lost the contract for workhouse coffins, the contract instead being awarded to Daniel Stupple, who was presumably related to Mr S. Stupple (above).

In January 1880 three boys in the school were “brought before the Board by the Master, two having absconded from the workhouse by getting through the dormitory window, visiting a public house and stealing therefrom a bottle of gin, which they brought and consumed with other boys in the yard, and the other having used grossly insubordinate language to the master; they were ordered by the Board to be severely flogged and confined to the Workhouse until further orders.”

An order was put in for about four tons of flints to provide work for the able-bodied inmates and vagrants.

Parcels were opened because it was believed that money was being sent and kept by inmates. The sender was admonished and the money was “appropriated towards the paupers’ maintenance”.

In September of 1880, a year after a trial change in diet had been initiated, it was taken to the Local Government Board for permanent approval, the change having proved beneficial for the children and aged at the workhouse.

I’m looking forward to getting back to the library and continuing my research – there’s still a lot more to read through!



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