…..if you claimed poor relief, you lost your right to vote?
People entering the infirmary through the receiving system therefore lost the vote. A law was passed in 1885 to exclude people from this penalty if they were entering only and directly into the infirmary. The result was a dramatic increase in the number of patients entering the system. Guildford’s infirmary was enlarged and improved with new hospital wards built in 1896 following a very poor inspection report.
(Our researchers often come across unusual changes in the statistics held in the archive records and it is always interesting to find out some of the reasons why. )
During our research we came across this story, which is relevant to us and to those researching in deaf history.
In 1901 among the many inmates of Guildford Union Workhouse could be found the Standing family, Priscilla, aged 39 and her three sons, Harry, aged 5, Thomas, aged 4 and Edwin, aged 2.
Priscilla Cinderalla Cooper was born in Lurgashall, Sussex, the daughter of a farm labourer. The 1881 census tells us that she was deaf, although this is not mentioned when she was at the Workhouse. At the age of 22, she was working as a servant, probably a housemaid, for the Standing family. Thirty eight year old, James Standing and his wife Emma were living in Copse Green, Northchapel, Sussex with their four children. James was Under Bailey for the Petworth Estate. But three years later, his wife Emma died and in 1895 Priscilla married James Standing in Petworth. James moved on to greater responsibility as the Bailiff of a farm in Surrey. By 1899 their third child, Edwin, had been born but James died in the same year.
As a deaf widow with three very young children, Priscilla was probably no longer able to stay in the tied cottage provided by her husband’s work and inevitably ended up in a workhouse. Perhaps she had walked to Guildford to look for housekeeping work. Although the 3 brothers had each other, they were taken from their mother at a very young age and she must have missed them terribly. Priscilla’s stepson, William Standing, was 21 in 1901 when she and her young sons entered the workhouse, so he was able to earn a living as a carman lodging in Angel Gate, Guildford. Her other stepchildren were also old enough to make their own way in the world.
Priscilla was still living at Guildford Union Workhouse ten years later when the 1911 census was compiled, but her sons had all moved to other accommodation. Edwin, aged 12, now lived at the Scattered Home for Boys at 37 Recreation Road, Guildford, with eleven other boys 5-13 years old and a foster mother appointed by the Guildford Board of Guardians. Thomas, now 14, was still in Warren Road, but in the Children’s Receiving Home where John William Sowers, the Superintendent, was aided by a Matron and two foster mothers in looking after 12 children aged 3 to 15.
Henry (Harry) Standing was now 16, so he had been sent to the Training Ship Exmouth at Grays in Essex. He later married Gertrude Brown and they had eleven grandchildren before he died in Liverpool in 1972. Thomas served in the Army Service Corps in the First World War and in 1923 he married Agnes Smallbone in Hambledon. He died in south west Surrey in 1952.
Despite their earlier separation, Priscilla and her sons kept in close contact throughout their lives until her death in Surrey in 1953. She was described by one of her grandchildren as, “a lovely grandmother,” who was able to lip read and communicate well. She spent her last years living happily at the Sunset Home in Merrow House.
Freezing cold and hungry,
I’m tired and soaking wet.
Haven’t got a farthing,
I’ll take what I can get.
Heading into Guildford
I heard about the Spike.
Maybe I could stay there,
I think it’s quite a hike.
Breaking rocks to get a bite,
Even have a bath,
I could stay here overnight,
Even have a laugh.
The rules they say no swearing,
No fighting and no drink.
They wash the clothes you’re wearing,
Even if they stink.
I’ve seen the room I’ll sleep in,
It looks just like a cell.
Clarrie, will you marry me,
Now that I don’t smell?
– John Kelly 2013
Information about the Spike. The Guildford Spike was built in 1906 to provide shelter and food for casual workers and vagrants – the so called unworthy poor – for one night in thirty. In exchange, inmates completed tasks such as oakum production, stone breaking, and log chopping. It continued to run on the same site as the hospital until the 1960’s, when it was taken over to house hospital records, the maintenance workshop and administrative offices.
The Guildford Spike was saved from demolition by the local residents and turned into a heritage and community centre, with the aid of Heritage Lottery funding.
Today, the Spike is a thriving centre. The heritage centre is open Tuesdays and Saturdays for tours (10-4 pm) which gives a wonderful insights into lives of the unworthy poor during the early 20th century. Tours are also available on Wednesday by request. For more information, visit the Spike website.
With urgency a bell rings clear,
The labour ward – a baby’s near.
The pupil feels she needs a friend,
Her hair is standing upon end.
A scream comes through the open door,
Her feet are rooted to the floor.
Sister yells “Don’t stand and stare,
Hurray yourself she’s nearly there,
Where’s your mask you should have brought,
Kindly remember what you’re taught”.
Patient lays all of a shiver
Pupil stands all of a dither,
She thinks “Oh dear” and then “Now what?”
(Deliver the baby of course you clot).
There he is all pink and wet
Could have been caught with a fishing net,
Baby yells with all his might,
Pupil looks a terrible sight.
The third stage now is safely past,
A teapot hoves in sight at last.
The delivery’s gone without a hitch
What’s more – without a single stitch.
Pupil’s feeling rather heady
But her nerves are much more steady.
She feels that with a couple of gins
She now could deal with quads or twins.
MIDWIFERY DEPARTMENT – ST LUKE’S HOSPITAL AND SOCIAL MAGAZINE DECEMBER 1961