…..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.
Throughout the 18th and early 19th century, Florence Nightingale was a dominant figure in nursing. She revolutionised the way in which military hospitals were administered and used statistics to reinforce her ideas – quite unheard of for a female of Victorian society!
One of her biggest achievements was the introduction of professional nursing in workhouse infirmaries. Before these reforms, workhouse inmates cared for their fellow sick – what a job!
Nightingale was also interested in hospital design. The ‘Nightingale Ward’ system featured heavily in new Victorian hospitals – including new workhouse infirmaries such as the Guildford Union Workhouse. These long wards allowed for the circulation of fresh air and to admit sunshine in.
We found the new exhibition an interesting perspective of life within the workhouse and we were curious to see how a project of similar theme can be displayed for the public. We were most excited to see our workhouse coin, protective goggles and oakum – from the Spike Heritage Centre – on prominent display for the first time. The Spike goggles even featured in an article in The Guardian, which was very exciting! It’s certainly given us food for thought and we can’t wait to put together our own exhibition showcasing our research of St Luke’s Hospital – from a workhouse infirmary to a NHS hospital.
The ‘Workhouse – Segregated Lives’ exhibition is on at the Florence Nightingale Museum until the 5th July.
“I have something a bit special for your collection” he said, keeping his hand in his left coat pocket. “Can you guess what it is?”
This is a bunch of old keys with a story. The two smaller keys had been saved by a carpenter at the hospital who worked in what is now the education room, in the 1970’s. He kept them because they were just lying around and would doubtless have ended up in the skip.
The large key was saved from being thrown away in the late fifties. The gentleman who saved it is now 90 years old and passed the key on after a chance conversation in the pub about the St Luke’s Hospital Heritage project.
He noticed the key because it is a lovely thing. (He also reportedly said that he would have taken the lock it was in as well, if he’d had the right screwdriver with him!) The key and lock were in one of the doors in the cell block of the Spike.
The keys have now been returned to the Spike Heritage Centre and have since been dated to pre-1840s! Could they be the original workhouse keys?