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see poor lawpoor law,
in English history, legislation relating to public assistance for the poor. Early measures to relieve pauperism were usually designed to suppress vagrancy and begging.
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a special shelter for the poor in England during the 17th through 19th centuries.

Living conditions in the workhouses differed little from those in prisons. Initially workhouses were under the jurisdiction of the local parishes; however, with the growth of pauperism during the industrial revolution, the workhouse system was centralized (by an act passed in 1834). All those who appealed for public assistance were forced to enter workhouses. The threat of being placed in a workhouse compelled many poor people to agree to any sort of working condition in factories, and this enabled entrepreneurs to lower wages. The common people, who called workhouses “bastilles for the poor,” often hindered the establishment of new workhouses and destroyed those already in existence. The Chartists included a demand for the elimination of workhouses in their 1842 petition. In connection with the development of social insurance and pensions in the 20th century, the workhouse system became outdated, and the workhouses were converted into homes for invalids and the aged.


Engels, F. Polozhenie rabochego klassa ν Anglii. K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2.
Morton, A. L., and G. Tate. Istoriia angliiskogo rabochego dvizheniia (1770–1920). Moscow, 1959. (Translated from English.)


1. An institution for confining individuals sentenced to terms usually less than one year.
2. (Brit.) A poorhouse.


1. (formerly in England) an institution maintained at public expense where able-bodied paupers did unpaid work in return for food and accommodation
2. (in the US) a prison for petty offenders serving short sentences at manual labour
References in periodicals archive ?
The English New Poor Law of 1834 was harsh enough, mandating that paupers receive meager relief only in the workhouse so that they would take any jobs they could.
The workhouse became Hallam Hospital, which is now Sandwell District General Hospital.
On September 30, an inquest was held at Whiston workhouse and three women all said they had nursed Alice while her mother worked as a laundress in Cressington.
The workhouse population peaked during the miners' strike of 1912 at 965, but declined dramatically after the outbreak of the First World War.
The St Asaph Union workhouse was once home to the area's poorest residents before later becoming HM Stanley Hospital, named after explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who had lived in the workhouse.
BIS chairman Iain Wright said: "The evidence points to a business whose working practices are closer to a Victorian workhouse than a modern, reputable High Street retailer.
She's not afraid of offering sexual favours to the trustees of the workhouse group to try and get them to promote her hu anyDbeh "55-A po stas as bu"me wo rewEsce fes as hares
But locals say its image - as a grim Dickensian-style workhouse where poor and homeless people went to live - has been off-putting to many prospective buyers.
Norfolk Museums Services (NMS) wishes to enter into a contract for the provision of fit out including bespoke display cases for the Voices from the Workhouse project at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, Gressenhall, Dereham, NR20 4DR.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the workhouse functioned as a site of medical activity; a space where residents fell ill, aged, contracted diseases, received treatment from resident and visiting physicians, and often died.
The workhouse may have been the dreaded last resort, but people went into workhouses voluntarily.
The actor, who is also Rector of Dundee University, along with celebrities including presenter Fern Britton, actress Kiera Chaplin, actress Felicity Kendal and author Barbara Taylor Bradford, uncover the facts about how their families went from a life of poverty to end up in the workhouse, which in Victorian society, represented the underbelly of society.