Tag Index: workhouse

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‘No Cure, no Pay, Boarding excepted’

‘Mason’s Madhouses’ in old Fishponds

Front cover shownig a head with a plan of the mad house projected onto it.
Long before the NHS, those who did not fit ‘the norm’ were consigned to workhouses or to private lunatic asylums. The latter provided a profitable business opportunity, as the wealthy were only too keen to offload family members whose behaviour was inconvenient. It was a system open to abuses that Daniel Defoe and others were keen to expose. In the Fishponds area of Bristol, one family lived off the proceeds for more than a century. The revealing tale of ‘Mason’s Madhouses’ explains what life […]

Bedminster Workhouse: The Life and Death of Hannah Wiltshire

  In 1855 rumours of murder and a cover up were circulating in the small north Somerset village of Walton-in-Gordano. An epileptic destitute country girl, Hannah Wiltshire, had died in the Bedminster Union Workhouse at Flax Bourton. The Board of Guardians were suspected of concealing the true magnitude of neglect at the workhouse, leading to accusations of medical negligence. Wiltshire's death caused public outrage after letters were written to the local newspapers. This talk illustrates […]

An Alternative History of Westbury-on-Trym Workhouse

Gilbert’s Act of 1782. ‘An act for the better relief and employment of the poor’

In November, 2019 Louise Ryland-Epton gave an engaging talk entitled ‘By Pity and by Terror? A Contrary View of Workhouses’ at the M Shed, Bristol as part of the UWE Regional History Centre series of talks. As I had read and examined reports on shocking victimisation, neglect, exploitation and dehumanising treatment of later workhouse inmates I was intrigued to hear about an alternative, pre 1834 Poor Law Act, workhouse erected in Westbury-on-Trym. We are all familiar with the many indignant […]

The Life and Death of Hannah Wiltshire

A Case Study of Bedminster Union Workhouse and Victorian Social Attitudes on Epilepsy

HAnnah Wiltshire Front Cover
During the year of 1855 rumours of murder and cover up were circulating in the small north Somerset village of Walton-in-Gordano. An epileptic destitute country girl had died in the local institution known as the Bedminster Union Workhouse. Her death caused public outrage after letters were written to the local newspapers. The Board of Guardians were suspected of concealing the true magnitude of neglect at the workhouse, leading to accusations of medical negligence. In this pamphlet, Victorian […]

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