Huddersfield Chronicle (29/Feb/1868) - Huddersfield Union: The Poor-Law Inspector's Reports

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors.



From special reports, just issued by the Poor-law Inspectors, we extract the following referring to the Huddersfield Union. The visits were made on the 18th and 19th of October, 1866 :—

Honley Workhouse. — Area, 66,560 acres; population, 131,336 ; workhouse accommodation for 172 inmates ; workhouse erected in 1861 ; land 10 acres 21 perches. This is a new workhouse, but it is much to be regretted that so ill-arranged and incomplete a building was ever erected. Owing to its original imperfections and to the exigencies of the union, parts of the house have been converted to uses for which it was not originally intended they should be applied. The vagrant wards have been converted into men’s sick wards. The female receiving ward, in accordance with a suggestion of a Commissioner in Lunacy, has been made into a bathroom for female idiots. The male receiving ward is used as an infirm ward. The children, of whom there are 24, go to the village school, and when not there, are under pauper superintendence exclusively. They have no dayrooms. The boys associate with the adult male paupers, the girls with the able-bodied women; they are not separated at night. The ventilation is most imperfect. All the waterclosets are so constructed that the foul air is drawn inwards and into the main body of the house. None of the skylights are made to open to the external air. A ward (B) is especially defective in ventilation ; a close unwholesome odour pervades the whole ward. The lying-in ward is wholly unventilated. I was assured that each inmate had the authorised cubic space of sleeping accommodation. They have not, however, sufficient area space. Many of the beds touch ; most of them are too close together. The sick wards are especially faulty in construction ; they are small square rooms containing from three to four beds in each. The fireplace and the doors (there are two in some rooms) take up so much space that the beds cannot be properly separated and arranged. Nothing can be more inconvenient and uncomfortable than the interior of these rooms. There is a paid nurse who gives the medicines and stimulants, and otherwise attends to the sick. The beds and bedding were in a proper state ; the house was clean and in as good order as I could expect. None of the inmates had any complaints to make.

Birkby Workhouse. — Workhouse accomodation for 121 inmates ; workhouse erected, unknown ; land, seven acres. A detached building is used as a hospital or infirmary. It is wholly unfit for the purpose, and quite devoid of comfort and convenience. There is a paid nurse, who doubtless performs her duties as far as it is practicable for her to do so. The medical officer considers that this building is quite insufficient for the purposes for which it is used. There is however a detached fever ward. Some of the aged men sleep together in the same bed. All the beds are much too close, and too much crowded together. The dayrooms are much too small, and are very seriously crowded. There is no classification beyond an imperfect separation of the sexes. The men and the women complained of the violent conduct of two insane or idiotic inmates, one in each ward. The house, beds, bedding, &c., was very clean, and in as good order as it could be kept. The inmates, with the above-named exception, seemed to be quite satisfied and contented with the condition in which I found them.

Kirkheaton Workhouse. — Workhouse accommodation for 50 inmates ; workhouse erected, unknown ; land, none. This old dilapidated building has none of the requisites of a workhouse. Ventilation, in the proper sense, does not exist. At the present time the house contains — Men, 2 ; boys, 16 ; women, 6 ; girls, 21 ; infants, 2 ; total, 47. They are under the sole charge of a matron. The only classification is an imperfect separation of the sexes. The 16 boys and two men occupy eight beds in two small rooms, The women, girls and infants, 29 in number, occupy 13 beds in another part of the house. Two of the elder girls are affected by “incontinence of urine ;” they are placed to sleep together in the same bed ; it was in a very improper state. Three of the boys are in the habit of “wetting the beds ;” they are placed to sleep in the same bed ; it was in an abominable condition ; the urine had not only saturated the bedding, and the boards beneath the bed, but had found its way through the floor into the room below. The children, when not at school, are under pauper superintendence. In the dayroom (with the boys) is an old man, who is imbecile, utterly deaf, and when excited is violent and outrageous. The boys sometimes tease him ; he then “swears” at, and, in his passion, strikes them. He sleeps in the same room with the boys at night. The Guardians have been advised to remove this man for fear of the consequences. They have not done so however. The girls associate with the women day and night. One of the women is the mother of a bastard child. No diet has been sanctioned by the Poor-Law Board for the inmates of this workhouse. Its “domestic offices” are, as may be supposed, of very humble character. The copper in which the foul linen is boiled is used also for cooking the food of the inmates.

Golcar Workhouse. — Workhouse accommodation for 22 inmates ; workhouse erected, unknown ; land, 26a. 2r. 35p. This workhouse consists of two old cottages. There are no yards or divisions of any kind further than that one cottage is occupied by men and the other by women. The building is wholly unfit for a workhouse. The men sleep together, two in the same bed. At times as many as 14 men sleep in one small room containing seven beds only. At present there are seven women and five children occupying four beds in one small room. This room is also the “lying-in-ward,’’ and confinements take place in this room, although occupied at night by the number above mentioned. Some of the inmates are allowed to wear their own clothes. The kitchen and washhouse is a small shed or “lean-to.” The “puddings” are boiled in the same copper as the foul linen is boiled and washed in. Prayers are read of a morning by the matron. Latterly prayers have not been read in an evening, as the old woman to whom the evening duty is deputed “has a bad cold.” No dietary has been prescribed for the inmates of j this house. The food, which, as far as I could ascertain, was good in kind, and sufficient in quantity, is not weighed out to the inmates after it is dressed ; by long habit the matron is able to apportion the rations pretty evenly between those who consume them. It is right to add that the women and children are particularly clean ; the children seemed healthy. The house and the bedding were clean, and the inmates seemed to be contented, and perfectly satisfied with the condition in which I found them.

Huddersfield Chronicle (29/Feb/1868) - Huddersfield Union: The Poor-Law Inspector's Reports


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