Saturday, 7 September 2013

A refuge of sorts


In the 1970s, the old Southwell Workhouse building was used as a temporary refuge for women and children, until they could be found more permanent homes. One of the rooms, used then as a 'bed-sit', has been left much as it was found when the National Trust took over the building in 1997. It has been furnished in line with what past residents and staff have recollected of this period of its history. When I visited, there was an exhibition telling some of the very moving stories of women who lived here in those days - battling through tough personal times but helped along by the friendship and support they experienced here.

My visit to The Workhouse really gave me food for thought. I've also been watching the TV series 'The Mill', a dramatisation of life in a Cheshire cotton mill in Victorian times. (It had poor reviews by the critics but I've found it watchable and interesting. It's based on the historical archive of a real mill.) It shows how closely the lives of some of the mill workers were linked to the old workhouses. When extra labour was needed, the mill-owners sent to the nearest workhouse to 'buy' people out. If you received an injury or proved otherwise unfit for work, you were likely to be sent back to the workhouse. Reasonably enlightened employers like Sir Titus Salt were not in the majority, and it made me realise afresh the importance of his vision for Saltaire, in the context of the times.

6 comments:

  1. Sir Titus surely was someone special, with great ideas.
    The stories you speak about are not so far from what we read in Dickens books..

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  2. We've come a long way, but there's some distance yet to go. Nice post, jennyfreckles.

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  3. It's hard to believe that workers were treated like that ! Fortunately it has changed !!

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  4. Ah perfect. The old mill's here are fascinating. A man I know is turning an old pickle factory across from the row houses at the mill into his home! Interesting sites. I liked this.

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  5. This would have been a demoralizingly depressing place to live.

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  6. Another great write-up. Though I must say that the pictures were a spooky reminder of some of the places I lived in when I was a student...

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