The Workhouse, Southwell

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The Workhouse Southwell

Follow in the footsteps of the Victorian poor as they sought refuge at The Workhouse. This austere building, the most complete workhouse in existence, was built in 1824 as a place of last resort for the poor and needy. Its architecture was influenced by prison design and its harsh regime became a blueprint for workhouses throughout the country. You can immerse yourself in the building’s unique atmosphere and learn about the daily routine of those who lived and worked here in the 1840s, while reflecting on how society has tackled poverty through the centuries.

Meet the Reverend Becher, the founder of the Workhouse, by watching the introductory film and immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere evoked by the audio guide. Based on real archive records, the audio guide helps bring the 19th-century inhabitants back to life.

Explore the segregated work yards, day rooms, dormitories, master’s quarters and cellars and then discover the recreated working 19th-century garden and find out what food the paupers would have eaten.

The Workhouse, also known as Greet House, in the town of Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England, is a museum operated by the National Trust. Built in 1824, it was the prototype of the 19th-century workhouse, and was cited by the Royal Commission on the poor law as the best example among the existing workhouses, before the resulting New Poor Law of 1834 led to the construction of workhouses across the country. It is described by the National Trust as the best-preserved workhouse in England.

The building remained in use until the early 1990s, when it was used to provide temporary accommodation for mothers and children. Its acquisition by the National Trust reflects that organisation’s wish to broaden its interests and to ensure the continued existence of a Grade II* listed building that was potentially to be turned into residential flats.

Restoration work began with roof repairs in 2000 and is ongoing. Many rooms have been redecorated as they would have looked in the 19th century and buildings, walls and privies, which had been demolished in the 20th century, have been reinstated.