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Crickhowell and district
The workhouse
  The Crickhowell Union Workhouse  

Help for the very poorest people in the community (called paupers) had been provided by parishes from medieval times, and since the early 18th century many had their own small workhouses.
The Poor Law Amendment Act was passed by Parliament in 1834, just three years before Victoria became Queen. This new law was meant to lower the cost of poor relief by making parishes group together into Poor Law Unions and build large prison-like workhouses to take the paupers from several parishes in the district.

The Poor Law Union for Crickhowell covered ten parishes surrounding the town, and was much smaller than most other unions (Brecon included 41 parishes).

The 'New Poor Law' was meant to reduce the cost of the Poor Rate, the local tax to provide help for paupers in the parishes. By making the new workhouses such terrible places the authorities hoped that people would do anything to avoid going there, and would look after themselves.
on a map of
around 1902
The Crickhowell Union Workhouse was alongside the Brecon canal, near Llangattock.
It is shown on this section from a Second Edition Ordnance Survey map from the end of the Victorian years. The building next to the Infirmary at bottom right was a separate fever ward for paupers with infectious diseases.
The ground floor layout of the new style large workhouse always included a
'Dead House'. This was the only place where men and women could be in the
same room !
The Union workhouse system was strictly regulated with nationwide rules covering the design of the buildings, the food to be provided, the clothing to be worn, and, worst of all, the complete separation of families as long as they were living in the workhouse.
One of the officially approved designs for the large combined workhouse is shown on the right. It has separate exercise yards for men, women, boys and girls and looks just like a prison ! The sleeping areas, with iron bedsteads in long rows, were on the upper floors.
Workhouse plan

There was strong opposition to the cruel new methods in many areas, and in some cases the new style workhouses were delayed for years after the 1834 law was passed.
There is more about life in the Crickhowell Union workhouse on the next page...

Old bread only, except at Christmas...


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