My thanks to the staff of Rotherham Archives for their unceasing patience and for supplying the black and white images of Rotherham's workhouse. Copyright remains with Rotherham Archives, of course. Yong Mun Hin of the National University of Singapore edited and adapted the monochrome images.

The photograph of the old poor house, Rotherham, is Source: this web site. My thanks to the webmaster for giving permission for its use. Copyright, of course, remains with the webmaster.

The original poor house in Rotherham was a small cottage, built in the mid-17th century in accordance with the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601. This was a time when the poor were treated in a more-or-less humane way because it was an acknowledged fact that most people would fall into poverty at some time in their lives. Furthermore, only those who were unable to care for themselves, the sick, infirm and elderly would go into the poor house. Others who were in need of poor relief were given outdoor relief. All this changed in 1834 with the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act.

The legislation was implemented rapidly in the rural south of England but workhouses were longer in appearing in the north, where outdoor relief was still preferred on the grounds of its cheapness and efficiency. However, in 1838 the Poor Law Guardians bought five acres of land off Moorgate on which to build the new workhouse in compliance with the new law. The Union was made up from a number of local parishes. It took two years to build the workhouse, which was open by the end of July 1840. The workhouse was able to accommodate 314 inmates and occupied one of the most healthy areas on the outskirts of the town. It continued to be used as a hospital into the 1980s. Some small parts of the workhouse still exist but the majority of it has been demolished.

Click on the image for a larger view.

The entire hospital/workhouse site in Rotherham. The original workhouse was a small area in the middle of this complex — marked out in red. The cruciform shape with a central hub is clearly visible. Rotherham workhouse conformed to the regulations for the separation of groups.

Related Materials


Victorian Website Overview Victorian Economics Victorian Poor Law

Last modified 16 November 2002