Monday, 17 August 2015

Provincial workhouses

When working with the House of Lords parliamentary papers I keep coming across some wonderful gems and very thought-provoking facts, I think this one in particular is enthralling in a rather gruesome way.

 “Offensive and disagreeable – there are three classes of cases which should be treated under this head and placed in separate wards, viz., the cases of old people who involuntarily pass their urine when in bed, or when dressed ; those of comparatively recent sore legs, in which offensive discharges still occur ; and those, as cancer of the face, in which not only the discharges are offensive, but the appearance of the person is exceedingly repulsive to others.  The rule should be rigidly maintained that cases which are offensive to others should not be mixed with ordinary cases.
This is an extract taken from a report by Dr Edward Smith dated the 15th day of April 1867 after visiting certain workhouses.  He is reporting upon the sufficiency of the existing arrangements for the care and treatment of the sick poor in these workhouses.
The report covers and goes into great depth on
·         dealing with the sick with different illnesses, like the itch
·         the officers in charge of the sick
·         the nurses
·         the medical officers
·         the character and construction of sick wards
·         furniture and medical appliances.
This report is full of fascinating information on the state of the workhouse. The appendix is very detailed and all his observations of the individual workhouses he visited are recorded in minute detail. It can be found in vol. XVIII session 1867-68 paper number 48.
It is another example of the remarkable reports to be found in the House of Lords parliamentary papers.

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