Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Day in the Forest Gate Workhouse 1896

Check out this fascinating post at E7 Now & Then which is a history site for Forest Gate (E7 is the local post code), Newham in East London where I have lived for the past 24 years.

It has reprinted articles from a local paper on life in the Forest Gate workhouse for children (or "industrial school") during Christmas 1896.

The report does appears to me to be more Disney's "Mary Poppins" rather than Dickens "Oliver Twist".  I cannot believe that 500 children, aged from 4-14 were at all "happy" to be split from their parents? No doubt better than staving or freezing to death in the slums but not as suggested by the reporter the result of some lifestyle choice by feckless parents.

A few years previous 26 children had burnt to death at the Workhouse during a fire amidst allegations that they had been locked in their dormitories and unable to escape. 

Right wing Tories are currently hinting that there needs to be even further savage cuts in welfare spending. It is bad enough already but if this happens many parents will not be able to feed and cloth their kids.  I think that it is a fair question to ask if we will see the rise again of such institutions?

I posted on the Workhouse and its subsequent history as a maternity hospital here in 2011.
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