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Care of the poor
  Earning their keep  

The inmates of Rhayader workhouse were fed, clothed and sheltered but had to work to earn the cost of their care. Only those too old or ill were let off this.

Different workhouses set their inmates to carry out different kinds of work. At Rhayader the inmates were set to work breaking rocks into smaller stones for use in roadmending or construction. This was a common task in many workhouses.

The work was done in special sheds across the yard at the workhouse. The broken stones had to be small enough to push through the grilles at the windows into wheelbarrows.

stone breaking at the workhouse

This is the outside of the sheds at Rhayader workhouse where the inmates broke rocks to earn their keep.

You can still see the grilles they had to push the stones through. The work was meant to be unpleasant so that local people really would not want to claim help from the local Union.


As well as local inmates staying at the workhouse there was also a casual ward where tramps could get food and shelter before moving on. In return for this they too had to spend the day breaking stones. With a lot of unemployment in the countryside there were thousands of men "tramping" the roads. The Rhayader workhouse often dealt with more than a thousand per year.

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