View Full Version : Grannies in the Workhouse

23-06-09, 09:46
I always believed that elderly parents went to live with their children and families once they were widowed or unable to work.
The truth seems to be far different in the case of my family and also my OH's family. I have found quite a few have lived out their last years in the workhouse.One even leaving his 73 year old Dad in the workhose in order to start a new life with his wife and children in New Zealand:rolleyes:
I know our families were very poor but was this normal or are these families particularly callous?

Janet in Yorkshire
23-06-09, 10:04
Granny/Grandad wouldn't have been able to go to NZ with them.
Most emigrants were offered assisted (or free) passages - but you had to be young, fit and able to work once you got there.


Lynn The Forest Fan
23-06-09, 10:15
One of my gg grandmas was in the workhouse in 1881, despite having surviving children who were able to afford servants. I have not been able to find her death & don't know why or when she entered the workhouse.

Just Barbara
23-06-09, 10:45
Most of the elderly in workhouses were there simply because those with families didn't have the wherewithal to look after them. It wasn't being callous, it was simply survival..

23-06-09, 10:53
My 5xg gran was in the workhouse for over 25 years from ages of roughly 60-85, i.e from the point she was too old to work unto the point she died. It was their equivilent of an old age home I think. She had adult children living in streets virtually adjacent to the workhouse, but they would have had enough trouble providing for their own families with young children and mouths to feed. I do know that my 4xg grandad had regular contact with her though and was also quite suprised to find she (and the other inmates) were allowed out on Sundays too, so it's not neccesarily a case of them shut up away from everyone out of sight and out of mind.

Uncle John
23-06-09, 11:22
Workhouses had the only hospital facilities in some areas, so they could have been ill. Many workhouses later became district hospitals.

Val and George
23-06-09, 11:30
I think that was the one thing that surprised us.
Even though the gggg grandparents had a large family, no one took them in and they ended up in the workhouse. The worst thing was that Granny went home to visit her daughter who had a young family, then went out and bought a bottle of acid and swallowed it, back at the daughter's house. I just can't begin to imagine the pain and suffering she must have gone through, and the trauma for the children watching their granny die. Grandfather stayed on at the workhouse for a good few years.
A very sad state of affairs.

23-06-09, 17:00
How ghastly Val.Many Thanks for these snippets of information. I wondered if the workhouse became some kind of old peoples home. I hope they were well treated.

Olde Crone Holden
23-06-09, 17:26
I suppose old people were much the same as they are today - some very nice, some as nasty as they have been from birth.

There fore, a few of them would have been dumped in the workhouse and serve them right. But for the vast majority, it would be a case that their family didn't have either the room or the money to cope with them.

If you had a frail elderly mother with Alzheimers, who wandered about setting the house on fire, and you were out all day at the mill, then you wouldn't be able to cope. If you lived in two squalid rooms with your ten children then there wouldn't be much room for granny or granddad, or maybe you already had your spouse's elderly relative living with you....

No, old people in the workhouse were not well treated. They were expected to do whatever work they were capable of doing, but for those beyond work the worst thing was the mind-numbing boredom.

I read a Workhouse Visitor's report, which said that "rows of old men and women lie in stinking and soiled beds placed foot to foot....nothing is done to them or for them other than what is necessary to sustain their miserable lives, which are usually and mercifully short in this ward".

One old woman approached this visitor and begged that she be allowed to see her husband - they had been married for over 50 years - but because he was in the male bed-ridden ward, she was not allowed to enter. What on earth did the Guardians imagine she was going to get up to in a ward crammed full of senile old men?


Little Nell
23-06-09, 19:15
I think we have a rosy view of "family life" based on goodness knows what. In reality many families didn't like eachother, didn't provide for eachother, and abuse and incest happened.

I have found lots of older folk with their children or grandchildren on censuses. But as time went on, people often travelled further afield to find work. Maybe their parents didn't want to be uprooted?

And not all institutions were bad. My gt x 3 grandfather Robert Chowns spent over 20 years in an almshouse where he received 1/- a week to buy meat and a new pair of shoes annually.