Solihull Workhouse

The Resignation of George Taylor, Master of the Workhouse, 1869

Minutes of Solihull Workhouse, 1869.
Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR51/1228

The accusations

George Taylor’s violations included books being kept by a pauper for the previous two years, and of these, many had been in arrears for several weeks, while the charge of tramps had devolved on one of the paupers instead of Taylor taking responsibility. He had allowed drinking parties in the Workhouse and persons to stay overnight when they should have returned to their lodgings; he was frequently drunk and took ale from the Workhouse. There were frequent periods of absence from the Workhouse lasting many hours without leave, and on one occasion, he went missing for two days.

Masters of the workhouse

The conduct of George Taylor was not exceptional: the abuse of authority among masters of the workhouse was widespread.

One factor for the incidence of this abuse may have been the nature of the job itself. As key figures in the daily administration of the workhouse, both the master and the matron had substantial responsibility. Their duties centred upon the classification of the paupers, the ordering of the diet and the organisation of tasks and other workhouse activities. The imposition of industry, order, punctuality and cleanliness by the workhouse master through a multitude of regulations meant that his role was essentially a disciplinary one. However, both posts were residential and the very long hours of work meant that they were as confined to the workhouse just as much, if not more than the inmates. Certainly they were subjected to the same regulations and unrelenting routine.

The records

These are invaluable sources for the daily life in the workhouse, both for inmates and staff.  They not only show the problems faced by administrators at different levels, but they also provide insights to the attitudes held by Victorian society towards the poor, to the unemployed and to women and to children.

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