Victorian Powys for primary  schools
Powys Digital History Project
The workhouse  
  Why were inmates so unhealthy ?

Inmates were generally in a poor state of health because of the poor diet they ate. As a result of the lack of nutrition in their food they were prone to sickness and disease. With only very basic medical care many died in the workhouse.Drawing of inmates

Food in the workhouse was kept as boring and tasteless as possible. It was rationed which meant the poor were always hungry. The diet consisted mainly of gruel and bread and cheese.

All food had to be eaten with the hands as there was no cutlery. There was only water to drink. Inmates were sometimes so desperate for food that they ate animal bones they had been given to crush to make fertilizer.

The poor diet, contaminated water supplies, and unclean and overcrowded conditions led to illness and disease. The most common of these being measles, opthalmia, small pox, dysentery, scarlet and typhus fever, and cholera.

There is more about conditions in the workhouse on the next page.....

Nutrition - the health value of food.
Gruel - a liquid meal of oatmeal boiled in water or milk.
Fertilizer - spread on the ground to make crops grow.
Opthalmia - an inflammation of the eye.


pauper iconMore about health in workhouses ...

Back to top
Back to workhouse menu