Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne, taken from original sources, Volume II

Ashton, John


CHAPTER XLII: Workhouses, Hospitals, Etc.

The London Workhouse-Life therein-Bedlam-Its building- Regulations-Description of interior-Governors-Bartholomew Hospital- St. Thomas's-Almshouses.

CHAPTER XLII: Workhouses, Hospitals, Etc.

The London Workhouse-Life therein-Bedlam-Its building- Regulations-Description of interior-Governors-Bartholomew Hospital- St. Thomas's-Almshouses.



THE London Workhouse, in Bishopsgate Street, was, perhaps, one of the first of these municipal institutions, and there the rogues, vagrants, and sturdy beggars were really set to work, and the women were employed in sewing or washing linen, beating hemp, and picking oakum. The children, who were either vagrants or parish children, were taught spinning wool and flax, sewing, knitting, winding silk, and making their clothes and shoes; but they also received some elementary instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Hatton thus gives the daily life of these little ones: 'The Bell rings at 6 a Clock in the Morning to call up the Children, and half an Hour after, the Bell is rung for Prayers, and Breakfast; at 7 the Children are set to work; 20 under a Mistress to spin Wool and Flax, to Knit Stockings, to wind Silk, to make and Sew their Linen, Cloaths, Shooes, Mark &c. All the Children are called down for an Hour every Day to Read, and an Hour every day to Write (.) 20 at a time.

'At 12 a Clock they go to Dinner, and have a little time to play till One, then they are set to work again till 6 a clock: They are rung to Prayers, to their Supper, and allowed to play till Bed time.

'Every Nurse combs her Children with a small tooth comb 3 times a Week; mends the Children's Cloaths; makes their beds, washes their Wards; and sees that the children go neat and clean, and that they wash and comb themselves every day.

'Some Children earn a 1/2d., some 1d. and some 4d. per day.

'The Children are taught their Catechism, and often Catechised by the Minister, especially every Sunday.

'When Children are grown up to 12, 13 or 14 years of Age they are put forth Apprentices to Masters of Ships, and other Sea faring Men, and to Handycraft Trades and others, and the Governors give with them a good ordinary Suit of Cloaths or 20s. in Money at the Election of the Master or Mistress.

' . .. The Seal or Badge of this Corporation is an Orphan, his Left Hand resting on the Head of a Sheep, with this Motto, .'

The hospitals, in the modern acceptation of the word, were Bethlehem, or Bedlam, St. Bartholomew's, and St. Thomas's--Guy's not having yet been founded.

Of Bethlehem Hatton says: 'It was formerly a mean House situate between the E. side of Moor-fields, and Bishopsgate Street. . . . This Hospital for poor distracted Persons, growing Old and Ruinous, and too small to accommodate so great numbers, for whom Applications were made; the City of London granted to the Governours of the said Hospital, Ground on the S. Side of Moor-fields (a Situation much more Commodious as to Air &c.) for the benefit of Lunatick Persons, and in the year , the present spacious Structure was begun to be erected, which was finished Anno , being well built of Brick and Stone, the Wings at both ends and the Portico, being all adorned with each 4 pilasters,' etc. -'and on a Pediment over the Gate are the Figures of 2 Lunaticks curiously Carved.' These figures, which are now in the hall of Bethlehem Hospital, represent Raving and Melancholy Madness, and were the work of Caius Gabriel Cibber (father of the celebrated Colley Cibber). They are carved in Portland stone, and one of them was the portrait of Oliver Cromwell's porter, then in Bedlam.

In Anne's time it was not overcrowded. 'Distracted persons who went out cured in the Year ending at -59; buried in that time 24. Brought into the Hospital


in -82-and remaining at aforesaid in this Hospital under Cure, 142.'

'The Method of receiving, continuing and curing Lunaticks in this Hospital is. When any Person is minded to get a Friend or Relation into the Hospital, it must be by Petition to the Committee who sit at 7 at a time weekly; this must be signed by the Church Wardens or other reputable Persons who know the Lunatick, and also recommended to the said Committee by one of the Governours; and this being approved by the President and Governours, and enter'd in a Book, upon a vacancy (in their turn) an Order is granted for their being received into the House, where the said Lunatick is accommodated with a Room in a good Air, proper Physick, and Diet Gratis. The Diet is very good and wholesome, being commonly boyled Beef, Mutton or Veal and Broth with Bread for Dinners on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, the other Days, Bread, Cheese and Butter, or on Saturdays Peas, Pottage, Rice Milk, Fermity or other Pottage; and for Suppers they have usually Broth or Milk Pottage, always with Bread; and there is this farther care taken, that some of the Committee go weekly to the said Hospital to see the Provisions weighed, and that the same be good and rightly expended.

'There is also care taken, That no distracted Person be abused by the Servants of the House &c.; the Men Servants of the House attend the Lunatick Men, and the Women Servants the Women, and no loose Person or Apprentice is suffered to loyter away the time in this Hospital, nor any Person to be admitted to come or stay in (as a Spectator) after Sun Setting; and the Servants are particularly enjoyned to keep good Hours.'

This looks admirable, -but, practically, it was the reverse. It ranked, as we know, with the Lions and Westminster Abbey, as one of the principal sights of London. Ward describes a visit: 'Accordingly we were admitted in thro' an Iron gate, within which sat a Brawny of an Indico Colour, leaning upon a Money box; we turned in thro' another Iron Barricado, where we heard such a rattling of , drumming of


and that I could think of nothing but Don 's Vision, where the Damn'd broke loose, and put Hell in an Uproar.' He describes the lunatics as being filthy in their persons, their habits, and their conversation, and the visitors as no better than they ought to be: ''tis a new Whetstone's Park[12]  -now the old one's Plough'd up, where a Sportsman at any Hour in the Day may meet with Game for his Purpose.' So he and his friend 'redeemed their Liberties from this Prison, at the Expence of Two Pence'-and went away.

There were the names of good men on the List of Governors-take that for , for instance. All the aldermen were so, , and there were the Earls of Abingdon, Anglesea, Ailesford, Lords Craven, Gower, Harcourt, and St. John of Bletsoe; the Earl of Scarsdale, Doctor , Dean of St. Patrick. The Earl of Thanet and Sir Philip York, the Attorney-General.

Of St. Bartholomew's Hospital Hatton says:-

This Hospital of St. Bartholomew's, the last Year 1706 cur'd and discharg'd of wounded, sick and maimed Souldiers, Seamen, and other diseased Persons from several Parts of the Queen's Dominions (and from Foreign Parts) who have been relieved with Money and other Necessaries, notwithstanding the greatest part of the Revenue of this Hospital was consumed by the lamentable Flames in 1666 to the Number of2293
Buried in the year 1706, after much Charge on them141
And at the beginning of the Year 1707, there remained Persons at the Charge of the Hospital under Cure371

St. Thomas's Hospital escaped the fire of , and also a very bad one that happened in Southwark May 26, , when 500 houses were burnt. It performed its share of merciful work, for in it discharged (cured) 2,820 persons, buried 174, and had 362 in hospital.

Of almshouses there were plenty in existence, such as the Trinity, those of the different City companies, and of private benefactors; but the stream of charity seems to have flowed, in this reign, in a different channel, that of founding charity schools, and I can find no new almshouses recorded.


[12] A narrow alley leading from Lincoln's Inn Fields to Holborn.