When the people hear the phrase “work house” in the memory of the most part of them flashes the image of Oliver Twist who asks for another serving of watery oatmeal porridge.
The work house in the Victorian England could contain several hundreds or even thousands of dwellers. Except the healthy people there also lived the mentally ill, dangerously ill poor who contaminated their neighbors. These people were kept there for free but the circumstances were awful.
The poor who were the inhabitants of the work houses weren’t allowed to play games of hazard, use harsh language, come back late in the evening and carry any alcoholic beverages with them. Those who were caught had to be subjected to a cruel punishment which combined the abstinence from eating any food except dry or moldy bread with being locked up in a dungeon. The more severe misdemeanors such as fight or refusal to work might be the reason for temporal imprisonment.
Ever Sunday the religious service was held right in the work house. Once a week everyone ought to wash himself. The bath day was considered to be the day of shame for the most women, especially young girls. It may sound surprising but in the puritan Victorian epoch every dweller of a work house had to get naked and wash him- or herself in front of the inspector. Probably in that way the attitude towards the poor was demonstrated in England. The poor people were not supposed to be the personalities and actually human beings with their sorrows and emotions that’s why no one had paid any attention to the feelings of a young girls who had to take her dress off in public in order to avoid punishment.
The poor were to cut the cord wood, crashed stones for road building, made the bone powder for cattle feeding every day except Sunday from 6 a. m. to 7 p. m. The London local authorities were proud of the fact that they were able to cut the working hours for the poor to 13 per day. The women and their children were meant to do the feminine job which in fact was no easier than wood chucking. That was endless laundry, cooking and looking for the ill and injured in the numerous fermeries. According to the documents the food should be rather good but actually all that the poor could have was raw bread and a bowl of porridge.