STOURBRIDGE WORKHOUSE

Posted: May 25, 2008 in Dr. Alfred W. Pearson: Jack The Ripper
Here is what a correspondent had to say about the Stourbridge Workhouse in 1882:
 
STOURBRIDGE WORKHOUSE
 
A correspondent writes: "I recently had an opportunity of going over the Stourbridge Workhouse. The gentleman with whom I was staying, in urging my visit, evidently was of opinion that the arrangements were such as would meet with my approval, and was, therefore, somewhat astonished when, on my return, I stated that, as a house for the reception of sick, aged, infirm, imbecile, lying-in women, and children, it was, without doubt, the very worst establishment of the kind I had ever seen.
"The Stourbridge Workhouse is supposed to provide accommodation for the indigent poor of a population of about 74,000 inhabitants, distributed over about 16,200 acres. The house itself is licensed for 450 inmates. At the time of my visit, it had fallen below this number; but in the winter, or in seasonsof distress, I heard that it often exceeded the number. How they are housed, I will as far as I am able, seeing as I did not take notes and am writing from memory, proceed to point out. I first passed through the kitchen, fairly clean, but only adapted to meet the legitimate wants of a fifth of the ordinary inmates. I next proceeded to the female sick and infirm wards. Here I found the old and the young, the simply infirm and helplessly sick, lying alongside of each other, without the smallest effort at classification; indeed, such classification is wholly and completely impossible. The wards were in the utmost degree unfitted for the purpose, with their low ceilings, cheerless walls, and generally unkempt look; whilst the bedsteads were so crowded together as to render it all but impossible to provide decently for the ordinary necessities of the sick and infirm. On the male side, I noted the same absence of classification and decent consideration for the sick and aged. The lying-in ward, in which the parturient of the Stourbridge Workhouse are confined, is but some nineteen feet long by fifteen feet wide, and about nine feet eight inches high, and is clearly deplorably unfit for its purpose. The arrangements for housing the epileptic, imbecile, and semi-demented persons of both sexes are also deplorably sad.
"Reverting to the character of these cases, it is difficult to understand how it happens that the Commissioners in Lunacy sanction the detention of several of these cases in a workhouse at all; but, if they and the Poor-law inspectors do permit the guardians to do so, surely some regulation as to additional comfort should be insisted on in these unhappy classes of cases.
"I am glad to be able to testify that the house was clean, so far as its structural arrangements made it possible to keep it so; and it is much to the credit of the master and matron that, under such difficult conditions, they should keep it so.
"In the course of my visit, I occasionally made a remark as to the fitness, or rather the unfitness of things, when I learned that the Local Government Board had at various times made an effort to get the place pulled down and a fresh building erected, but that their recommendations had been disregarded. It is, indeed, difficult to comprehend how it has happened that such a place should be permitted to exist in these days. The Local Government Board ought long since to have ordered its demolition, and probably would if the true condition of the place had been fairly brought to its notice."
 
                               The British Medical Journal September 30, 1882
 
The date of this article is fascinating, since it is the exact same time that Dr. Alfred William Pearson claimed bankruptcy. If he only worked at the workhouse for a few months, maybe he was unsatisfied with the deplorable conditions of the workhouse and resigned. It may have taken him some time to find another job and with the birth of his first child in 1881, he probably had to liquidate some of his assets. He then was appointed as Medical Officer of the Kingswinford No. 3 Stourbridge Union in 1884.
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s