Saturday, June 06, 2009

Brixworth Workhouse: The "dark portion of rural England"

Brixworth is a large village on the road from Market Harborough to Northampton. I went there this afternoon to photograph its Saxon church, but first came across the former workhouse.

It is an attractive building, today housing professional offices, but its history is not so lovely. The Brixworth History Society records:

The first Master of the Brixworth Union Workhouse in 1837 was a Mr Baillie with his wife appointed as the Matron, and the first meeting of the Board of Guardians took place in the Workhouse on May 4th of the same year. Within five years of the Workhouse opening the cost of "out relief" in Brixworth had been reduced to £0-9s-0d a week for those entitled to it. By 1902 the figure had dropped to £0-5s-0d for a single person and £0-7s-0d for a couple, with cases of as little as £0-2s-5d not uncommon.

Soon after the Workhouse had opened the Secretary of State had to send a Bow Street Runner to Brixworth to investigate the strict policy being adopted by the Guardians regarding the payment of "out relief" to the poor and needy of the parish. Brixworth became known as the "dark portion of rural England" due to its almost complete withdrawal of "out relief".

Conditions inside the building were often criticised too as being prison like and spartan and Mrs Briddon, one of the cooks, described the food as meagre and tasteless. It was an institution feared by the old and needy, a place where families were split up and accommodated in single sex dormitories.

And as this photograph on the Brixworth History Society site shows, what remains today is only part of what was originally a larger complex of buildings.


Peter Harvey said...

Back in the 1960s my grandmother had to go into hospital -- and she raised Cain about it. Why? Because Walton Hospital in Liverpool was the former workhouse, and she thought that the family were trying to put her away.

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