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  Themes Homepage > Christmas Day in the Workhouse
 
Living in Slough
Christmas Day in the Workhouse

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Upton Hospital, June 2004
Upton Hospital, June 2004

Many people are unaware that workhouses existed until well into the 20th Century. In 1836 the Eton Union Workhouse moved from Chalvey to specially built premises in Albert Street and remained open until the 1940s.

The Workhouse was built on the site of what is now Upton Hospital and it was one of the first workhouses to be opened under the new Poor Law Act. It was regarded as a model of its type and was visited by people from all over the country. The Workhouse could accommodate 440 people. A chapel was built in 1837 and an Infirmary to take 80 patients added in 1906.

 

An inmate's view of workhouse life

Some people definitely did not like the Workhouse regime, as the lines penned by a former inmate of Reading prison (written on the walls of a cell) show. The man was a tramp, one of many who were expected to earn their keep in the Workhouse. He obviously preferred to be in prison!

I cannot take my walks abroad,
I'm under lock and key,
And much the public I applaud
For all their care of me.

The lowest pauper in the street
Half-naked I behold,
While I am clad from head to feet
And covered from the cold.

Thousands there are who scarce can tell
Where they may lay their head,
But I've a warm and well-aired cell,
A bath, good books, and bed.

While they are fed on Workhouse fare
And grudged their scanty food,
Three times a day my meals I get,
Sufficient, wholesome, good.

Then to the British public "health",
Who all our care relieves;
And while they treat us as they do
They'll never want for thieves.

Quoted by Major Poulton, Chief Constable of Berkshire, while addressing a meeting of the Charity Organisation Society in February 1911.

 
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