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concensus on the poor law[edit]

The concensus on the poor law page seemed to be to split this article out so I have.--Moonlight Mile 00:51, 21 October 2006 (UTC)

I have greatly expanded this article. Hope people find it useful and will add more in time.

Seems to be somewhat POV. In particular, no context is given - what provision was made for the poor, old, sick and unemployed in other European countries or the USA at the same time? The workhouse system is so often viewed through 21st century spectacles. The system was subject to abuse, incompetent management, unnecessary meanness, individual cruelty and so on - but what else could have been put in its place - a modern welfare system? Would this have actually been possible? Exile 22:00, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

Not sure POV is the correct criticism - I have tried to balance out criticism of the system with a realistic view of the realities of the time. It could be expanded and I am working on it. A modern welfare system did not exist anywhere on earth at that time - it would have been too expensive given the limited tax raising powers and probably beyond the administrative abilities of the relatively limited state powers. The founders of the workhouse system were very conscious of the strain on the public purse. They were also aware that any payout to those who had failed for whatever reason tended to undermine the work ethic and create welfare dependancy. Precisely the same dilemma is being faced by those who are seeking to reform Britain's welfare state today.

This article is looking really good now. It just needs referencing. In particular, where did the typical workhouse day come from.--Moonlight Mile 20:13, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

I don't know it was there before I started to edit. However it is very similar to timetables in Rees' book and I am sure it is relatively authentic. The section on workhouse designers is looking a bit lonely - not something I know much about. Can anyone develop it?

Earliest record of workhouse[edit]

This statement:

"The earliest recorded example of a workhouse dates to 1652 in Exeter. There is however some written evidence that workhouses existed before this date. Records mention a workhouse in 1631"

is self-contradicting. If records mention a workhouse in 1631, then 1652 isn't the earliest recorded example.TheDarkOneLives (talk) 17:04, 23 November 2008 (UTC)

Well spotted. Edited to correctly reflect reference. RashersTierney (talk) 18:22, 23 November 2008 (UTC)


The section on diet is flatly contradicted by BMJ 2008:337:a:2722 which is a peer reviewed publication in the British Medical Journal looking through all the historical evidence and examining nutritional content of work house diets. Dickens was rather POV (he was in a workhouse as a child) and the reality discussed at length is that "the workhouse diet was certainly dreary but adequate".--BozMo talk 08:40, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

Verification needed[edit]

It's an interesting article and, with little doubt, reasonably accurate. However, far too much is uncited and a lot of work needs to be put in to correct that serious fault. The sources are surely available without difficulty. Without them, the charges of over-indulgence and POV will always have some basis. I'm also worried about copyright, as slabs may have been copied from websites such as this one. Cheers Bjenks (talk) 05:53, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

I agree completely, this article is long overdue a serious copyedit, pruning, however you want to put it. If you would like to make a start, I'll help where I can. Regards. RashersTierney (talk) 09:34, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

The in-article cite, 'City Streets to Sussex Lanes', needs an actual bibliographic reference. (talk) 14:03, 1 April 2010 (UTC)


If I find sources, I'll add here. Don't know if you've seen this, but it should be helpful:

Truthkeeper88 (talk) 02:23, 2 December 2010 (UTC)

  • Driver, Feli. Power And Pauperism: The Workhouse System, 1834-1884. Cambridge [England] : Cambridge University Press, 1993. Print.
  • Digby, Anne. British Welfare Policy: Workhouse To Workfare. London : Faber, 1989. Print.
  • Johnston, Valerie J.. Diet In Workhouses And Prisons, 1835-1895. New York : Garland, 1985. Print.
  • Green, David R.. Pauper Capital: London And The Poor Law, 1790-1870. Farnham, Surrey, England : Ashgate, 2010. Print.
  • Slack, Paul. From Reformation To Improvement: Public Welfare In Early Modern England. New York : Clarendon Press, 1999. Print.
  • Cunningham, Andrew,Grell, Ole Peter, eds. Health Care And Poor Relief In Protestant Europe, 1500-1700. London : Routledge, 1997. Print.
  • Crowther, M. A. The Workhouse System, 1834-1929: The History Of An English Social Institution. Athens, Ga. : University Of Georgia Press, 1982, c1981. Print. (I have this on my list to pick up from the library, hopefully today) Ealdgyth - Talk 15:07, 2 December 2010 (UTC)
L ! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:59, 14 February 2011 (UTC)


The article states that: In 1803 workhouse paupers nationally earned about £70,000 and cost about £40,000 to maintain, "nowhere near self-sufficiency". This confuses me. If the paupers "earn" (=produce?) more than the cost of their upkeep, then by definition the workhouse should be self-sufficient. Are the numbers simply inverted, or am I missing something? MCSmarties (talk) 19:33, 21 March 2011 (UTC)

It's exactly what the source says, but I agree that it's perhaps not immediately obvious how to interpret it. Bear in mind that as the century wore on fewer and fewer of those entering workhouses were able-bodied, and so couldn't work; those who were were able-bodied were unable to produce enough profit to support those who were not. In other words, to maintain the able-bodied cost £40,000 and they in turn were able to produce a profit of £30,000, but that was nowhere near what it cost to support all of the paupers. Malleus Fatuorum 20:35, 21 March 2011 (UTC)

First thoughts, long-winded (sorry!)[edit]

I've ignored the lead for now. I think the first paragraph is a bit impenetrable on the first pass. To begin with, let's assume I don't know what a parish is, and what a labourer is. Is a labourer a particular job, a class of person, or any able-bodied subject? Are "the resulting laws against vagrancy" derived from the 1388 Act? Is Henry's dissolution of the monasteries particularly relevant to the subject at hand, particularly bearing in mind the following sentence?

Second paragraph, here we're introduced to the concept of a workhouse, but we're not given any idea what a 17th-century workhouse was, or looked like. The reader might be forgiven for getting a little impatient here, as he came to find that out, so perhaps offer him a tidbit? Maybe a really old picture of a workhouse? The timeline then jumps from 1601 straight to 1723, with only a single sentence about the evolution of the workhouse. Are examples available to better illustrate this evolution? Also, I'm still not sure what a parish is or how it can care for people.

Gilbert seems to have been someone who cared about the poor, perhaps mention of that might be made?

We're told the amount spent had risen to £7 million, but risen from what? I appreciate this might not be available. Parrot of Doom 20:06, 23 September 2011 (UTC)

The lead is crap, I agree, but we can sort that out later. Isn't it obvious that those who labour are labourers? There was no standard 17th-century workhouse, they differed widely, but please feel free to make whatever improvements you think are necessary; I keep stalling with this article. Malleus Fatuorum 20:16, 23 September 2011 (UTC)
I always leave leads until last. I have a pretty good idea what a labourer is, but I can see how the term might confuse some. I imagine some people might think a labourer is someone who does a bit of plastering. Parrot of Doom 20:42, 23 September 2011 (UTC)
You can't get plasterers these days. Plastered, but not plasterers. Malleus Fatuorum 20:47, 23 September 2011 (UTC)

Poor Law, or Poor Laws? Under what title was Colquhoun speaking? I recall his name from Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies, was his quote taken perchance from his study on prostitution? Here's the document I used for that article.

"those responsible to the local taxpayers who were obliged to pay for the relief of the poor had a powerful economic incentive to use whatever loopholes they could" - I'm not entirely sure who is who here, it's a difficult sentence to get my head around.

"Excluding periods of extreme economic distress, it has been estimated that about 6.5 per cent of the British population may have been accommodated in workhouses at any given time" - a timeframe is needed here, as well as the name of the person making the estimate.

The last paragraph seems somewhat misplaced - might this be better up in the "legal" section, where the new workhouses are first mentioned? Parrot of Doom 21:48, 23 September 2011 (UTC)

I've (hopefully) fixed the rubbish punctuation in the "those responsible to the local taxpayers" bit, but I'm not at all sure about Colquhoun, so any insight you have into that would be most welcome. Malleus Fatuorum 22:14, 23 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't feel strongly about the last paragraph of the social section; obviously I think it's OK where it is, but if you think it would be better in the legal section that's fine by me. Malleus Fatuorum 22:19, 23 September 2011 (UTC)

"The principles of the 1834 Act were extended first to Ireland, with the passage of the Poor Relief (Ireland) Act, 1838 and then to Scotland by the 1845 Act for The Amendment and better Administration of the Laws Relating to the relief of the Poor in Scotland.[16]" - is this necessary? There doesn't seem to be any other discussion about Scotland or Ireland anywhere in the article. Should we make this an English article, a British article, a UK article (god my head)? Parrot of Doom 21:24, 29 September 2011 (UTC)

I think we'll have enough to do just to just to adequately cover the English workhouses. Obviously the history and regulations governing workhouses in Scotland in particular were quite different anyway. I think my original intention was probably to try and cover Irish and Scottish workhouses, but the article has developed in a different way. Malleus Fatuorum 23:42, 29 September 2011 (UTC)
So does this article need a new title, and workhouse articles in other geographical areas/jurisdictions develop entirely separately? RashersTierney (talk) 00:30, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
It doesn't need a new title until articles on workhouses in other countries are written. The social and legal background, and regulations governing workhouses even in Scotland are quite different than in England. Malleus Fatuorum 01:08, 30 September 2011 (UTC)

Article title[edit]

If this article is now to be exclusively about English workhouses, should it not be titled 'English workhouses'? RashersTierney (talk) 00:52, 30 September 2011 (UTC)

Not until someone writes an article on Irish workhouses or whatever. This article has never been about anything other than English workhouses. Malleus Fatuorum 00:57, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
Until you deleted the pertinent reference in the lead, and substantially rewrote the article recently, it was, apparently. RashersTierney (talk) 01:13, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
Apart from that throw-away comment in the lead it has always been just about English workhouses. Malleus Fatuorum 01:15, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
Fine. Then call it that. RashersTierney (talk) 01:19, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
There is no need to change the title until someone writes another workhouse article. WP:PRECISION applies. Malleus Fatuorum 01:33, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
Looks like a straightforward example of {{overcoverage}}. As the present title stands, the newly re-vamped article does not present a global perspective on the term. Will tag accordingly. RashersTierney (talk) 02:07, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
I've removed the tag. Maybe you know of workhouses in other countries, if so, get writing. Parrot of Doom 06:02, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
  • Weren't they called poorhouses in Scotland?This one seems to have become the Western General Hospital, though I admit I can't remember seeing that beautiful building in the place even though I used to work there, sort of. More research required. --John (talk) 06:54, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
    • The 19th century institutions in England, Scotland and Ireland were essentially of the same type and had the same purpose i.e. the application of a " test of destitution ". The term poorhouse was used informally to refer to the workhouse in all three jurisdictions, though more widely in Scotland, but to imply that the 'workhouse' was exclusive to the English Poor Law is just plain wrong. RashersTierney (talk) 08:43, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
      • Nobody's implying that, but they were generally called poorhouses in Scotland, not workhouses. Please feel free to write an article on Scottish poorhouses. Scotland's quite separate judicial system makes for a very different story. The 1834 English Poor Law never applied in Scotland, the setting up of poorhouses was voluntary, not compulsory, the 1843 split in the Church of Scotland had a galvanising effect on legislation for the relief of the poor, the able-bodied poor were denied access to poorhouses (probably why they were called poorhouses rather than workhouses) ... so as PoD says, get writing. This article is about workhouses in England and Wales; when you've written your article on poorhouses (or workhouses, whichever name you prefer) in Scotland is the time to think about what the best naming convention might be. But until then the name of this article won't be changing. Malleus Fatuorum 12:43, 30 September 2011 (UTC)
Nonsense. Under normal WP rules, an article called "Workhouse" covers things called "workhouses" wherever they are, at least potentially. If you want to restrict the scope, fine, but you have to change the title. Otherwise you have to accept whatever small mentions people may make of (say) Ireland without going all dog in the manger about it. Johnbod (talk) 20:43, 22 February 2014 (UTC)
Furthermore, even if the article were called something like Poorhouses in England and Wales, the inclusion of fewer than a dozen words on terms in the rest of the then UK would be entirely encyclopedic, and it would be wrong to remove it. But I see I am wasting my time here. Johnbod (talk) 14:55, 25 February 2014 (UTC)
Not at all, you're demonstrating very nicely that you are entirely ignorant of the history of what were commonly called Houses of Industry in Ireland, which is by no means a waste of time. But why not try your hand at improving that article instead of trying to cause a fight here? Eric Corbett 15:57, 27 February 2014 (UTC)


Ok, I made a few big changes. I've rearranged most of the architecture, diet, work sections into one new section, and tried to form the first draft of what I hope can become a more integrated read. There are some obvious holes, for instance, the "second wave of construction" isn't in the right place in "Later developments..." Also, I've added bits and pieces of prose to link things together, but where I'm not sure if I'm forming an incorrect opinion I've tagged each case (also check for the odd hidden comment).

If people don't think this is the right way to go please feel free to revert. Parrot of Doom 20:34, 2 October 2011 (UTC)

I think it's starting to shape up, so no objections from me. I think we probably need to split your new Architecture and conditions section though, into pre and post-New Poor Law sections for instance, as things changed very dramatically after 1834. Added to which the whole Management and staffing section applies only to post-1834 workhouses. But we're moving forward.Malleus Fatuorum 21:05, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
Ok, I'll leave the article alone until tomorrow to give people a chance to absorb these changes. It does highlight that there isn't much in the article about conditions inside the workhouse in the 18th century. I found an excerpt from a speech by William III about workhouses, have you seen that? Parrot of Doom 21:23, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't recall having seen that, no. But as I'm sure I've said before, the problem with pre-1834 workhouses was that there was very little in the way of regulation, and consequently they they differed widely in every respect. Malleus Fatuorum 22:09, 2 October 2011 (UTC)
Maybe that's something we could mention then, quoting a few examples (if they exist)? Here's the William III quote. Parrot of Doom 22:29, 2 October 2011 (UTC)


While children are mentioned regularly, I don't think there's anything in the article which suggests that they were forced into work. This document (here's the Google Books link) suggests that during the 18th century, parish children were employed in local workshops, the parish workhouse, or "school of industry". Parrot of Doom 18:53, 3 October 2011 (UTC)

The article does say that children "were often forcibly apprenticed without the permission or knowledge of their parents". Malleus Fatuorum 19:37, 3 October 2011 (UTC)
I've added a fair bit, although it covers a few aspects and may need to be merged/separated/integrated. Parrot of Doom 19:44, 3 October 2011 (UTC)
Looks like a nice addition. I didn't quite understand this though: "Some parishes advertised for apprenticeships, and were willing to pay anyone who was prepared to accept." Were the parishes advertising for employers to offer apprenticeships or for apprentices? And who was getting paid, the employer or the apprentice? Malleus Fatuorum 19:52, 3 October 2011 (UTC)
The parishes were trying to get the kids out the door and into someone else's house, learning a trade. They'd pay the employer to take them off their hands (the kids would stay at their employer's house/mill/etc) as it was cheaper than maintaining them in the workhouse. Parrot of Doom 19:57, 3 October 2011 (UTC)

The Architectural Magazine[edit]

If I add this as a bookmark in my browser it'll get forgotten, so I'll put it here. It's a review of Kempthorne's design, by The Architectural Magazine. I thought it worth including but it there's already enough praise I think. page 511-512. Parrot of Doom 22:21, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

Nattomy soup[edit]

I've found a reference to what I imagine was a quite terrifying scenario for some workhouse inmates - the threat of being anatomically dissected. Apparently, in 1829, around the time of the first Anatomy Bill, one chap who claimed that inmates in the workhouse were eating Soylent Green was hauled before the magistrates for kicking up a stink. This tale apparently persisted for some decades. Before I go any further, is this relevant here, or is it more relevant to the Anatomy Bill article (or whatever it is)? It appears as though the law allowed the bodies of dying or dead inmates to be sent for dissection. It may be relevant to the desire of the authorities to make the workhouse something to be feared. Parrot of Doom 23:06, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

It's another of these complicated stories. There was a case of an inmate jailed by magistrates after he claimed that the bodies of children in the workhouse were being rendered into pies. Malleus Fatuorum 23:42, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

Paupers Palaces[edit]

I'm satisfied now after having looked into this that Charles Dickens was referring to orphanages, not workhouses, when he coined the phrase "paupers palaces". Just putting this here as a memory jogger should it be required. Malleus Fatuorum 01:47, 18 October 2011 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Workhouse/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Jimfbleak (talk · contribs) 11:58, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

It may take a while, since I'm a bit busy in RL, but comments will eventually come

Ah, the good old days, we'll soon be back there! Nice article, just a few commentsJimfbleak - talk to me? 06:55, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

  • You consistently refer to England or England and Wales. If there were no workhouses in Scotland and Ireland, which were part of the UK for most of the relevant period. that's worth mentioning. If there were, but you're not dealing with them, perhaps move article to "Workhouses in England and Wales"
    • Malleus has other matters to attend to so as a minor contributor I'll try and answer some of these questions. Scotland had poorhouses, and an entirely separate legal system. Ireland had workhouses, but on a much smaller scale than England and Wales.
  • under a system known as the Speenhamland systemunder the Speenhamland system
    • Done.
  • sell their wives— well done, getting that in!
  • chiefly of flocks— can we have a footnote, I don't know what flocks means in this context?
    • Flock is a fairly common term in the UK, as anyone buying bedding can tell you. I don't think it needs explaining here.
  • dumpling, suet, rice pudding— do we need any links to help the yanks?
    • Done.
  • 3s ½d a week— I've changed the fraction symbol, change back if you don't like this
  • part 1— why is this bolded in ref 1
    • Part 1 of volume 29, that's how the template formats volumes. Parrot of Doom 11:47, 1 November 2011 (UTC)

  • Apologies for being one of the clique (:
  • The lead image has a strange description, sourcing from itself. I'm happy to take it on trust, but it will need a better description or replacing if this is intended for FAC (as it should be).
  • Maybe a brief mention of Ireland, for comprehensiveness Jimfbleak - talk to me? 12:24, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
GA review (see here for criteria)
  1. It is reasonably well written.
    a (prose): b (MoS):
  2. It is factually accurate and verifiable.
    a (references): b (citations to reliable sources): c (OR):
  3. It is broad in its coverage.
    a (major aspects): b (focused):
  4. It follows the neutral point of view policy.
    Fair representation without bias:
  5. It is stable.
    No edit wars etc.:
  6. It is illustrated by images, where possible and appropriate.
    a (images are tagged and non-free images have fair use rationales): b (appropriate use with suitable captions): — but see above
  7. Overall:


An interesting snippet I found which may, or may not, be relevant here.

"In the course of the first century of the Anatomy Act's application, almost 57,000 bodies were dissected in the London anatomy schools alone. Less than half a percent came from anywhere other than institutions which housed the poor". - Ruth Richardson, "Death, Dissection and the Destitute". In other words, if you died in the Workhouse, your body may very well have ended up under the knife. Parrot of Doom 20:39, 2 January 2013 (UTC)

Who owns this article?[edit]

Well, nobody does of course, but it looks like a few "bad apples" are resisting any changes (or possibly enforcing a bias against IPs?). I've attempted to make a few very simple and innocuous improvements to a few sentences. They are solid improvements clearly done in good faith. I've been met with only summary reversions. Little attempt was made by them to give reasons while I've gone out of my way to explain my changes in detail. In all cases (except maybe the first reversion that had some suggestions in its edit summary) there was no attempt to actually improve on the changes, just summary reverts.

I calling you on this guys. Nobody owns a WP article. Your tag-team series of reactive reverts with very weak justifications is way out of line. You do have the de-facto power to wear me out because you (all) are clearly closely watching and/or "defending" the article, and I'm "just" an IP passing through trying to help out a little (but I've been editing WP longer than any of you). If this kind of help isn't wanted by the article's "guardians", so be it, but it's poor form on your part and it's against Wikipedia policy as well. (talk) 21:05, 29 March 2013 (UTC)

You're looking at this the wrong way. It isn't that a series of editors are conspiring to ruin your day, it's that your edits make the article more difficult to understand. If that keeps happening then no, your help isn't wanted, but you're quite free to suggest other lines of research and missing information that as a group, we can use to improve this article. Parrot of Doom 21:16, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
It's also worth considering that any GA is going to draw some attention from folks who want to keep the article at that status. Since GAs are evaluated in part on style, changes to style will always draw attention. It's often best to try to work those things out on the talk page. Getting an article to GA is hard work and takes a lot of attention. Maybe you should try being sensitive to that, 7.2.66. Intothatdarkness 21:31, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
Hmmm, interesting point. :-) (talk) 22:24, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
I spent a long time working on this article, and it was hard work. I'm all for others improving where they can – Parrot of Doom has suggested a new section on the disposal of the workhouse dead to anatomists for instance – but I'm damned if I'll sit back and watch it descend into the general gloopiness that characterises so many WP articles. You may call that ownership if you like, but I prefer to consider it a form of guardianship. Malleus Fatuorum 21:39, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
You've been "editing WP longer than any of you"? Really? Under what usernames? Mattisse for instance? Malleus Fatuorum 21:50, 29 March 2013 (UTC)

Hi Parrot of Doom. I did take your initial edit comments to heart. I had put too much change in one edit. In response, I focused only on the shortening and clarity of sentences. I do this kind of thing frequently (and have for many years). I'm good at it. No article (group of editors) has ever responded like this one with such reactive reversion, zero attempt to make improvement (vs. reversions), and incivility. It truly does add up to "something going on here". Whatever that is specifically is hard to tell. Like I said "I'm calling you(all) on it". If I had to put a finger on it, I say there's a lot of WP:OWN going on here - Malleus_Fatuorum kind of clarifies that in his comments above given that he's "written" the article. If you check out WP:OWN you will see that this motivation is not unusual. People put a lot into an article and then set out to "protect it", but they do that in ways that are against WP policy. Incivility contributes to the trouble here too (see my comment on Malleus Fatuorum's talk page and the numerous other civility comments there).

It's no fun "wrestling pigs" (you both get dirty, but the pig likes it), so I will sign off. Carry on guys. Please be nicer to the next poor schlubb who wanders on your turf. (talk) 22:34, 29 March 2013 (UTC)

"I focused only on the shortening and clarity of sentences. I do this kind of thing frequently (and have for many years). I'm good at it." No, you only think you're good at it. Malleus Fatuorum 22:45, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
Again, "Case in point" about civility. (talk) 22:54, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
It's surely not incivil to tell someone they're wrong, especially when they are. After all you have characterized editors as "bad apples" and a Gang of 3 making tag-team knee-jerk reverts. You can't have it all ways. I see you are now baiting. J3Mrs (talk) 23:05, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
Okay then. (talk) 00:08, 30 March 2013 (UTC)
You're being hypocritical, complaining about incivility when you're chucking accusations around left, right and centre. Your edits made the article worse, end of story. Parrot of Doom 00:11, 30 March 2013 (UTC)
Okay then. (talk) 01:28, 30 March 2013 (UTC)
(e/c) I consider it quite bad form to say one is good at something, for the simple reason that one can never assess one's own worth with any certainty of validity or lack of bias. Doing so could also indicate a more general lack of skill at making judgments, because if one were really good at it, one would realise one shouldn't say such things openly, and leave it for others to state or work out for themselves by looking at one's behaviour and actions. (sorry for the use of "one", etc: I used it to avoid any interpretation that I was directing my comments solely and specifically at anyone in particular, which, given what has happened, seemed a necessary thing to do.)  DDStretch  (talk) 03:47, 30 March 2013 (UTC)

Though I agree that 108's edits make the text worse, and I think starting the sentence with "but" is, in principle, a good stylistic choice, I believe there are still two minor substantive issues in the first sentence of the paragraph that may have misled 108. The first issue could perhaps be addressed by substituting an em dash for the comma preceding "and ultimately". With this sentence, any choice will doubtless have advantages and disadvantages but this comma—presumably intended to reduce the cognitive load on the reader by indicating that what follows is not part of the phrase beginning with "by" but is a supplementary addition to the non-restictive relative clause. Unfortunately the comma may also signal the end of a relative clause, leading to problems in parsing the sentence—and increasing the cognitive load resulting from temporary ambiguity. I think an em dash would reduce this ambiguity, since it does not by default indicate the end of a relative clause. I also wonder if the writer really meant to use "and" (rather than "but") to join

  • "attempted to address the labour shortages following the Black Death in England by restricting the movement of labourers" and
  • "ultimately led to the state becoming responsible for the support of the poor".

I would surmise that there is an intended contrast between the intent of the legislation and its actual effect. Of course, changing ""and" to "but" would probably mean changing the "but" at the beinning of the following sentence. --Boson (talk) 03:41, 30 March 2013 (UTC)

Little thing that bugs me[edit]

Kempthorne produced two designs, which the article reproduces, but looking only at the image captions they're a bit confusing. The body makes clear what he did, but the captions seem to suggest he produced only a rectangular design and only a hexagonal design. This could be mistaken for an error. I tried to introduce wording in the captions to make it clearer, but I can't think of anything satisfactory. Parrot of Doom 23:35, 21 April 2013 (UTC)

Not sure I'm following that, but I've added the description "cruciform" to the first image. Malleus Fatuorum 00:32, 22 April 2013 (UTC)
Well if you read (past tense) the first image caption, you'd think Kempthorne created a rectangular design. But the second caption contradicts this, as there's no mention of two designs. But I think you've fixed it anyway. Parrot of Doom 08:34, 22 April 2013 (UTC)

Pauper funerals, dissection etc[edit]

Ok I think I've lifted the bulk of what's available in the Richardson book and typed it up here. I have another source to look through (Wise - see Resurrectionists in the United Kingdom but Richardson will almost certainly have much more. It's by no means an article but I think there's a solid basis for another section here. Perhaps we can use what I've written to find more in the existing sources. Parrot of Doom 13:05, 4 May 2013 (UTC)

Some good stuff there. I'm still not sure what the best way of integrating that kind of material is though. Malleus Fatuorum 19:14, 4 May 2013 (UTC)
There's a quote there about mortality rates. Perhaps mention something about general health in the workhouse and then lead onto the daunting prospect of a pauper funeral? Parrot of Doom 21:37, 4 May 2013 (UTC)
Perhaps not a bad idea. I added a little bit about workhouse infirmaries a couple of weeks ago, but maybe that could be expanded with at least some of this material. There's a fundamental paradox about workhouses, in that the residents were in some ways such as education and health care actually treated better than the poor outside. Apart from being dissected of course. Malleus Fatuorum 22:04, 4 May 2013 (UTC)
This book [1] might be useful. J3Mrs (talk) 10:23, 5 May 2013 (UTC)
Indeed it will, thanks. Malleus Fatuorum 12:37, 5 May 2013 (UTC)


I'm afraid I can't see clearly made the point I am interested in - the continuity between workhouse provision and the NHS.

That's not quite how it worked, as the article explains:

The Local Government Act of 1929 gave local authorities the power to take over workhouse infirmaries as municipal hospitals, although outside London few did so. The workhouse system was abolished in the UK by the same Act on 1 April 1930, but many workhouses, renamed Public Assistance Institutions, continued under the control of local county councils. Even as late as the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 there were still almost 100,000 people accommodated in the former workhouses, 5,629 of whom were children. It was not until the National Assistance Act of 1948 that the last vestiges of the Poor Law disappeared, and with them the workhouses. Many of the buildings were converted into old folks' homes run by local authorities; slightly more than 50 per cent of local authority accommodation for the elderly was provided in former workhouses in 1960. Southwell workhouse, now a museum, was used to provide temporary accommodation for mothers and children until the early 1990s.

Eric Corbett 19:18, 28 December 2013 (UTC)


Bleary eyed and deprived of coffee this morning, I could have sworn that what I was doing was making things consistent. Alas, I was wrong for which I apologise. Anyway, ref 50 is still not consistent with the rest (check closing period). I won't fix, just incase that's wrong too ;) Cassiantotalk 13:01, 21 August 2014 (UTC)

Lists etc[edit]

Prose is always preferable to lists. It is not necessary to include every tv reference in an encyclopedia article, then it does become a laundry list. These sections are always contentious and rarely add to the understanding of the subject. J3Mrs (talk) 08:56, 14 November 2015 (UTC)

Agree. I was also about to revert the list back to prose and remove the trivia. SagaciousPhil - Chat 09:06, 14 November 2015 (UTC)
  • Firstly, the television series Call the Midwife is based on Jennifer Worth's memoirs, i.e., the Midwife trilogy, comprising the books Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s (2002), Shadows of the Workhouse (2005), and Farewell to the East End (2009). The purpose of the scenarios I cited - which are neither trivial nor random (note the title of the second book in the trilogy) - is to convey the lifelong impact of the workhouse system on people who resided in those institutions. I'd have added this information to the section if you hadn't kept reverting it.
  • Secondly, the contents of the section should be organized in a logical fashion (e.g., chronologically or alphabetically by author, and if applicable, by medium). That's not the case now. When you reverted my changes, you also reverted those improvements.
  • Thirdly, errors in grammar/mechanics need to be corrected, and that would be a worthwhile focus, given your concern about maintaining the quality of this article. Those improvements of mine were also removed by the reversion.
  • Fourthly, as any professional editor or professional web writer knows, content like that in this section is more reader-friendly and lends itself to being better organized when organized in bullets.Froid (talk) 09:31, 14 November 2015 (UTC)
Froid: Please see WP:PROSE and WP:TRIVIA. Also kindly stop trying to impose your own preferences against consensus. Thank you. SagaciousPhil - Chat 10:01, 14 November 2015 (UTC)
You'll see I didn't readmit bullets, since the consensus here was to not do so. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Froid (talkcontribs)
I have removed material about a tv programme as it is WP:TRIVIA and WP:UNDUE. It is off-topic. J3Mrs (talk) 12:53, 14 November 2015 (UTC)
I concur with the reverts. The recent additions were of no help to this article at all. CassiantoTalk 15:31, 14 November 2015 (UTC)
Groupthink is clearly underfoot. FIRSTLY: The second installment of Jennifer Worth's bestselling Midwife trilogy of memoirs, Shadows of the Workhouse (2005, reissued 2008), is - as the title indicates, and as the publisher's description (pasted below) does, too - absolutely relevant to this article:

The sequel to Jennifer Worth's New York Times bestselling memoir and the basis for the PBS series Call the Midwife

When twenty-two-year-old Jennifer Worth, from a comfortable middle-class upbringing, went to work as a midwife in the direst section of postwar London, she not only delivered hundreds of babies and touched many lives, she also became the neighborhood's most vivid chronicler. Woven into the ongoing tales of her life in the East End are the true stories of the people Worth met who grew up in the dreaded workhouse, a Dickensian institution that limped on into the middle of the twentieth century.

Orphaned brother and sister Peggy and Frank lived in the workhouse until Frank got free and returned to rescue his sister. Bubbly Jane's spirit was broken by the cruelty of the workhouse master until she found kindness and romance years later at Nonnatus House. Mr. Collett, a Boer War veteran, lost his family in the two world wars and died in the workhouse.

Though these are stories of unimaginable hardship, what shines through each is the resilience of the human spirit and the strength, courage, and humor of people determined to build a future for themselves against the odds. This is an enduring work of literary nonfiction, at once a warmhearted coming-of-age story and a startling look at people's lives in the poorest section of postwar London.

SECONDLY, the TV show is BASED ON THE TRILOGY, and its episodes which adapt to the screen the "workhouse" stories described in the book, are not trivial, random, or inappropriate for this article. Moreover, as the show's one of the BBC's most successful ever, its depictions of the "workhouse" episodes have brought the stories of people whose lives were affected by the workhouse system to the attention of many viewers, worldwide (since the show's audience is worldwide), as some of the references indicate (to anyone who bothers to read them).Froid (talk) 08:36, 15 November 2015 (UTC)

  • Froid: you have again re-instated the text against consensus; please self revert or you will find yourself at WP:AN/3. SagaciousPhil - Chat 08:41, 15 November 2015 (UTC)
    • Thank you for alerting me. It's a great idea to call in objective outsiders to review what's going on with this situation (which smacks of groupthink), and I will review the options for achieving that goal, which are detailed at WP:AN/3. I'm clearly not a troll, vandal, or editor in bad faith, and it's not because I fear being reviewed, but because I don't want to be precluded from editing other articles, that I will self-revert for the designated "cooling off" period.Froid (talk) 09:06, 15 November 2015 (UTC)

You expect editors to assume good faith but accuse them of "groupthink". The editors who disagree with your addition are not trolls, vandals or editors in bad faith either, they have written and contributed to good and featured articles and understand what is and isn't relevant. What you have added is relevant to an article on the book or the tv series and should be linked to this article from there, but it doesn't belong here. If readers are interested in workhouses they can follow the link to this article. That's how it works. J3Mrs (talk) 09:19, 15 November 2015 (UTC)

"I will self-revert for the designated "cooling off" period" indicates you may still edit against consensus so perhaps you should be aware that "any appearance of gaming the system by reverting a fourth time just outside the 24-hour slot is likely to be treated as a 3RR violation".
  • FWIW I don't feel particularly strongly about this addition, but had I heard about it, I doubt I'd have added it. That section could do with an expansion, but I don't think a list is the way to do it. What would be needed is a more detailed discussion on Workhouses in our culture, but that's probably in the realm of "heading for FA" which is a lot of work that I'm not inclined to do. Parrot of Doom 17:21, 15 November 2015 (UTC)

Based mostly on a single work[edit]

It appears that this article is based (citations) around 50% on a single work. I have no idea how to tag it properly but clearly that's a problem. As much as I personally love specific academics, basing a a single encyclopedia entry on almost exclusively one of them (and almost exclusively just one of their works) is probably not so good yes? Reading a single book doesn't make an encyclopedia entry. As I'm just passing through and this is no where near my realm of expertise, someone should please fix. 2601:204:C002:7081:BE5F:F4FF:FE35:1B41 (talk) 06:07, 28 February 2016 (UTC)

Well, if you're passing, please don't let us stop you from continuing your journey. CassiantoTalk 07:13, 28 February 2016 (UTC)
50% of citations does not equal 50% of content. Parrot of Doom 11:50, 28 February 2016 (UTC)
  • Parrot of Doom makes a good point. But even by plain count, I wouldn't call 53 cites of Fowler out of 146 "mostly based on"; there are also 24 cites of May, 22 cites of Higginbotham, 9 of Crowther, and 7 of Fraser (to name the other most cited sources), and there are cites of 27 different sources altogether (my numbers are just from a quick count, but they're either perfect or very close). This article looks balanced in its content and sourcing to me. I don't think the suggested tagging or "fixing" is needed. INeverCry 20:07, 28 February 2016 (UTC)
I can't believe that I'm having to even say this, but, given a reasonable assumption that citations should be roughly uniform (fair to say particularly given the volume of assertions in this article yes?), even a third of 146 citations is absolutely ridiculous. It basically says, "I read a book, and this is all I have to say because of this book". Given the depth of the subject, that's pretty inappropriate if you ask me as there is undoubtedly quite a few secondary sources available on the matter. And yes... I'm just passing through... thought some people who actually worked on this article/had some expertise in the subject might have some red-flags flipped in their brains if I mentioned it. Evidently not. 2601:204:C002:7081:BE5F:F4FF:FE35:1B41 (talk) 03:10, 7 March 2016 (UTC)

21st Century Chinese Workhouses[edit]

I might be completely wrong, but from what I've read about, & seen on tv shows like 20/20 & 60 minutes, factories in China making smart phones & tablets & other computer items, they seem to run a lot like what this article describes as a workhouse. Poor villagers, usually female, work at factory & live in dormstories on the same grounds as the factory, sometimes with fencing, with little to no freedom or time outside the aformentioned factory grounds, for what westerners would call a measly stipend. It is of course called a work contract. But is this not a 21st version of a workhouse? Ignore & delete if no one agrees. Seem like no one agrees about anything about this article. --2601:145:600:3A29:CC02:9D2:59A2:8E51 (talk) 05:44, 22 November 2016 (UTC)

You are indeed completely wrong. Eric Corbett 11:32, 22 November 2016 (UTC)

Workhouse infirmary[edit]

I am trying to construct an article Workhouse infirmary to fit into the history of nursing and hospitals. I don't plan to lose any material, but I don't think it all needs to be duplicated.Rathfelder (talk) 08:24, 8 June 2017 (UTC)

This is a good article, broad in its coverage and should not be stripped of referenced information without attribution. Write the article but don't cut and paste from here. J3Mrs (talk) 08:37, 8 June 2017 (UTC)