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The workhouse  
  Why were workhouses built ?

In 1834, just 3 years before Victoria became Queen, an Act of Parliament was passed called the Poor Law Amendment Act.
As a result of this many workhouses were built to accommodate poor people. They were intended to be so harsh and hostile that only the truly destitute would seek refuge in them.

Drawing of beggar womanIt was hoped that the workhouses would solve the problem of poverty as many rich people believed people were poor because they were lazy. They called them the "undeserving poor".

Many families, and the old and sick were so poor they were classed as paupers. Pauperism was a term used to describe people who had no means to support themselves. Poverty was not caused by laziness as wealthier people thought but by unemployment, population increase and high food prices.

Act of Parliament - the written law of a country.
Destitute - a state of extreme poverty.
Pauper - a very poor person.
Decade - ten years.
Orphan - a child without parents.


By the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901 workhouses had changed a great deal. In the last decades of the nineteenth century people began to realise how terrible the workhouses were and finally conditions within them began to change.

Orphaned children were fostered out to local families and the old and sick were given proper medical treatment. Many workhouses later became hospitals.


Drawing of poor children


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