Monthly Archives: May 2013


Before the welfare state Britain had the workhouses. These were places were the indigent could be taken off the streets and provided with food and shelter.

This is the workhouse in Ripon in Yorkshire. It was built in 1854. Part of it is a museum and the rest is used as accommodation for Ripon’s Social Services Departments.

Workhouse 40x

Workhouse 39x

Life in a workhouse was intended to be harsh, to deter the able-bodied poor and to ensure that only the truly desperate destitute would apply.   Poverty was seen as the fault of the poor and deserving of punishment. A philosophy that would seem familiar to some US Republicans and UK Conservatives.

Demand for accommodation often exceeded its supply so supply was rationed by making the workhouses unpleasant. Sometimes very unpleasant.

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