‘The Spike’ by John Kelly

Inside the Guildford Spike casual word
Inside the Guildford Spike casual word

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.

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