The staff of a workhouse was supposed to comprise

This was the minimum number of staff although smaller workhouses did not employ so many people. It was not necessary for the Master and Matron to be a married couple. For the most part, the staff in a workhouse were untrained amateurs who were expected to implement the directives of the Poor Law Commissioners. Inspectors from the Poor Law Commission were expected to visit each workhouse twice annually, to ensure that the directives were being met. Unfortunately, many of the Assistant Commissioners were untrained also and learned by experience. This made the smooth running of workhouses a difficult task and also allowed scandals such as those at Andover and Huddersfield to occur.

The Poor Law Commissioners at Somerset House appear to have assumed that Poor Law Guardians would appoint an Anglican Chaplain; the Commissioners did not expect strong resistance in Unions wher most of the Guardians were dissenters. However, in 1844, thirteen West Riding Unions and ten Lancashire Unions had no Chaplain: interestingly, these were areas where Dissent was strong. It is notable that the Anglicans and Dissenters managed to unite in order to keep out Roman Catholic priests, even in strongly Catholic areas such as Liverpool. In the absence of an appointed Chaplain, the workhouse inmates went out of the institution to attend church or chapel on Sundays.


Victorian History Poor Law

Last modified 5 November 2002