Brownlow Hill workhouse, courtesy Liverpool Records office

There children dwell who know no parents care,

Parents who know no childrens love dwell there,

Heart-broken matrons on their joyless bed,

Forsaken wives, and mothers never wed,

Dejected widows with unheeded tears,

And crippled age, with more than childhood fears.

The lame, the blind, and far the happiest they.

The moping idiot, and the madman gay.




December 8th, 1849

The workhouse at Everton.

West Derby Workhouse.

The paupers of the out-townships are all accommodated here.

There was I found: -

MEN, 9, able bodied, 75, sick, aged and infirm

BOYS, 68, from 2-9yrs, and 77, above 9yrs

WOMEN, 38, able bodied, 122, sick, aged and infirm.

GIRLS, 58, from 2-9yrs, 57, from 9-15yrs

11 Infants under 2yrs.

The house is entirely full, a new wing is being built that will accommodate, 300/400 more people. Mrs LYTHGOE is the matron, a truly matronly lady, spectacles on nose. She acted as my cicerone through the greatest part of the establishment. It was pleasing to hear her talk of, “the family” with, at least, some such solicitude as a mother feels.

The cooking is performed by steam, a small engine is attached to one of the boilers, and pumps the water from a well to the roof of the house. Pipes are made to transverse, so that there is hot and cold water in every room. Each apartment is lighted by gas. The dining hall accommodates 300 people and is used on Sunday as a chapel. The old chapel I am told, being, “too small, from the family having increased so much.” The sick and infirm have their meals in their own apartments and their convenience is further studied by their dormitories being on the same floor as the sitting room. I was ushered into the, “infirm house,” for women. It was pleasing to witness the cleanliness, comfort and apparent contentment, which everywhere reigned.

The inmates were chiefly engaged in knitting for the establishment, “The old women are very little trouble indeed,” said the matron, “it is the young folk that tease me.” The able bodied women are employed in washing, sewing and other female occupations. The wash house is very extensive, and clothes are dried by an immense and ingeniously arranged stove.

The juveniles rise at 6.30am in the winter and 6.15am in the summer. The old people are left in regard to hours to please themselves. Breakfast is between 7 and 8 am, dinner at 12 midday, and supper is at 6pm. The aged over 60 yrs are given tea at 4pm and also supper if they choose. They creep of to bed at 7pm, I was told, the boys go to bed at 8pm. Mr LYTHGOE, the governor inspects the rooms just before 9pm and everyone is expected to have retired.

Dietary for the week.

Breakfast and supper, porridge with churn milk.

12 oz of bread are served each morning for the day.


Sunday, boiled beef and potatoes

Monday, pea soup.

Tuesday, beef, “scouse”.

Wednesday, rice-milk.

Thursday, bacon and potatoes.

Friday, rice porridge.

Saturday beef scouse.

All children till the age of 15 go to school, an exception made on juveniles “black sheep” of bad character [as they cannot be drilled into learning] they go to work at 14 yrs.

All the adult females are occupied till 11am, making beds. The men at one time did their own but made such a bad job of it, it was transferred to feminine hands. The old men peel the potatoes and I am told more cleanly and carefully than any female. The able bodied men are employed chiefly in breaking stones. “Look,” said the matron, “there is one old man there in the yard will do three times that of any other person, he strikes as heartily as if he was working for pay.”

Oakum picking carried on and a variety of trades progress on the premises. In the joiners shop an old man was sawing a piece of wood, with feeble arm, to make a coffin. In the same room a shoemaker and two aged tailors were at work. Upstairs a number of boys were cobbling, instructed by a salaried son of CRISPIN. VULCAN, also had a forge lighted in the walls.

The girls day room was adorned with pictures and dolls, prints graced the walls of the old chapel now used as a work room. Each room had a fireplace, so far as magnitude is concerned, like those of a baronial hall.

Every apartment was locked, but the governor had a master key, a curious restriction, I thought, but it was explained necessary due to the jealous separation of the sexes, which is maintained.

There was no symptoms of unnecessary harshness or tyranny apparent, and on the whole the visitor sees much to please, interest and gratify.


The workhouse in the parish of Liverpool is contained in an extensive clump of buildings, ranging in the wall, which extends from Mount Pleasant to Brownlow Hill. These erections, with additions have grown with the growth of Liverpool, but being still inadequate a great portion are to be knocked down and more commodities and, “classified” premises are to be built.

I was surprised, the out gate entered and the office gained, I learned from Tim LINKINWATER, a clerk, that there were, 1,880 people in the workhouse at that time.

MEN, 143, able bodied, 198, temporary disabled, 264, old and infirm.

BOYS, 113, from 2-7 yrs, 129, from 7-15 yrs.

WOMEN, 248, able bodied, 188, temporary disabled, 264, old and infirm.

GIRLS, 69, from 2-7 yrs, 129, from 7-15 yrs

INFANTS, 52, under 2yrs of age.

Mr EVANS, the governor was ill and I was handed over for guidance to Mrs KENDALL, an elderly and deserving dame having charge of the, “receiving house.” It is her cottage that the trembling noviate paupers are first brought, and on her devolves the task of classifying them, according to sex, character and age.

She led me first to the baths, cold and warm, into which all newcomers had to take the necessary plunge, afterwards to a stove in which all, “crawlin’ ferlies” were destroyed. This room was unwholesomely warm and here three old men were supervising the stoveing of a pair of flannel drawers. Sulphur was once used but though it did destroy the parents, it didn’t effectively destroy the “nits”

The female medical and surgical wards next, invited a painful inspection.

The medical cases [chiefly suffering lung disease] are distributed into four rooms, classified as, convalescent, bad, very bad, and dying. Efficient nurses were in attendance. There were 42, surgical cases and in this department of the house, amputations of breasts and limbs occurred daily.

Summoned by the matron, a poor little boy named Alfred [we suppress the surname] hobbled up on a, “peg leg.” He had been troubled from infancy with a large white swelling on his knee, an amputation took place about a fortnight ago.

Alfred is a beautiful intelligent boy and there is romance connected to his history. His father was once a well known, Tallow Chandler in Dale St, and he has an uncle in a like line of business it is said worth, £50.000, carrying on business not far from the Adelphi Hotel. But the poor boy is afflicted, and a work house, it is thought, affords a fitting asylum!

Above these wards is the, “lock,” hospital, sad to say, there are 46 cases under treatment. “We are,” said the matron, “quite full.”

Poor daughters of misfortune and vice, let us not, with rude steps intrude, but delicately draw a gentle curtain here.

The infant nursery had 80 children, cries most unmusical had proclaimed we were nearing the vicinity. Babies when weaned come here, their mothers permitted to see them for 2 hrs a week.

Wet nurses are sent to this part of the asylum. That poor woman, I observed, appears to have twins, Oh dear, no, observed my conductor, neither of them is her own. She pointed to a sickly creature resting on her left arm. She was picked up on Sunday in Great George St, and we call it, “Mary GEORGE.”

It is on Saturday and Sunday poor new born infants are exposed. Asking for an explanation, Mrs KENDALL said, “Well I tell you sir how I think it is, mothers call on fathers at weeks end, and finding that they will not give anything, lay the child down to take its chance.”

The youngsters old enough to sit up are arranged in little chairs around the room, and appeared so happy, I asked did they not grieve for their mothers, “No,” replied a kindly nurse, “you would be surprised how much they forget them, they do not mourn half as much about their mothers, as their mothers grieve for them.”

The little ones are fed with sweet milk and bread, and it is suprising, I was told, how quietly the very young sleep, the presence of others of a likeable age appears to gladden and reconcile them to their melancholy lot.

Seeing so many beautiful children and knowing how proud the childless rich would be of such treasures, I asked if they had visitors anxious to adopt. Very rarely was the reply, but not long ago we had a lady who chose a very fine boy and they both went to Australia.

The young girls schoolroom and dormitories were entered next. The little ones were sleeping perfectly nude [sent to bed early at 5pm] On enquiring about their nakedness, after some hesitation I was told that, “the itch,” was amongst them, and these measures kept it down.

The school mistress directed me to one of the dormitories, the little ones had nearly all got up, and were crowded three file deep, around a huge fire blazing in the room. On seeing us they amusingly scampered off to bed, 3 or 4 sleep together. They appeared happy and perfectly devoid of all due restraint, shouting in chorus, “good night,” as we left.

The lunatic asylum, I also visited. Poor pauper lunatics are kept here till there is a vacancy at Lancaster

Four adult men [in a room above] and seven women are confined. I was shown into the men’s ward, a lobby, reminding me of the guard room of an ancient fortress. The bedrooms are recessed into the walls, four patients were seated around the blazing fire and three or four keepers scattered around the room.

One stout fellow an invalid sat with a blanket around him at the corner of the fire. He had seized the grate and burned his hand badly a short while ago. He was getting better from his mental derangement, and was suffering more now from his injuries.

I spoke to a decent looking fellow, an inmate, and asked what he was, “I was a porter in the town.” Was the humble reply. He sought me piteously to get him out of that place and as I was leaving, shouted out the name of a mercantile firm to whom he referred to for his character.

My attention was next directed to a quiet looking man, a cooper by trade. He has a wife and two children, and his wife, “a very nice young woman” had been to see him several times. He had it appeared tried to commit suicide several times by banging his head against the wall, and imagines he sees different immaterialities around him, I asked if it were, delerium tremens, “NO”, said the keeper, “I wish it were, he has nothing to do with the drink, we get many like that but they are better within 9 to 10 days.

I was shown one of the strait – jackets used for restraint. They are made of strong canvas and constructed so as the patient has to fold their arms, the sleeves are then tied behind their backs. On some inmates these jackets are forced every night and for further security their ankles are tied to the bed with leather straps. I was told of a young Irishman confined some time ago, he had come with a view to emigrating to America and on his passage showed he was quite mad. He was conveyed here in a strait – jacket and strapped.

One of the keepers rose at 2am on hearing a noise, and found the fellow had completely freed himself. He was standing in the middle of the room completely naked, leather straps in hand ready to lash out at anyone who entered. They had to keep their eyes open. I asked were they afraid, “no one man is as good as another,” was the reply. They had to rise at all hours of the night, I was surprised that the poor fellows who guard the lunatics, were paupers themselves and were given no extra remuneration. The Poor Law Commissioners have increased the numbers of salaried officers at the workhouse, surely the principle should be extended here.

Darkness set in on my walk, my privilege of inspection was extended to another day.

Day 2

The refractory ward – “The class” Known prostitutes and females who have illegitimate children are kept in this part of the house.

There are 110 inmates, they are employed in grinding corn, picking oakum and hair, and washing and, “getting up.” Linen

The worst characters are kept in a yard turning large fly wheels, connected with hand corn mills, each woman is made to grind, 47lbs of corn a day. It is a difficult task to repress their disorder occasionally. “They used to fight like men.” Said, Mrs WALTON, the matron in charge of this department, there violence is nearly always directed to breaking windows. Breaches of discipline are punished by a short term of imprisonment in the borough gaol, and putting the offender on a, “disorderly diet.”

A disorderly diet consists of porridge with no milk for breakfast, potatoes but no meat for dinner and bread without gruel for supper.

There was last Christmas no less than, 205, females in this class.

Some of those I saw had been many times in the borough gaol. They leave the workhouse occasionally, subsist for a while on prostitution, and if they escape committal for theft, come back when they are tired.

Working together as they do in the place, one naturally corrupts and hardens the others, such is the wretched routine of their lives.

The corn mills were boasted as a prime invention, for inmates never looked at oakum picking as any punishment. There are 31 of these mills in this part of the establishment. In the wash house the clothes are, “dollied,” by a noisy, clumsy machine, which requires, 6 women to work.

But the bell rings for dinner and we must hasten elsewhere

The dining room for so many is an immense size, and yet not sufficient, for the boys have to come in when the rest have gone.

“Lobscouse,” was the dinner for the day to which, “full justice,” was being done. It was served up in tin dishes, young and old had the sane quantity and all apparently sufficient. The smell was savoury, and the taste as we afterwards tested, superlatively good. A worthy Vestryman was partaking in an ante-room with evident gusto.

The cooking here is also done by steam and the arrangements at the West Derby workhouse apply here. There had been manufactured on the day of our visit 3,000 lbs weight of, ”scouse!”

Dietary routine


Sunday, cooked meat and potatoes

Monday, soup [pea or barley] with bread

Tuesday, scouse

Wednesday, rice pudding and sweet milk, [treacle, suet and such like are added and mixed in the manufacture]

Thursday, pork and potatoes

Friday, soup

Saturday, scouse

The pork is supplied by pigs reared in the establishment, some best description of American are occasionally purchased.

For breakfast, thick oatmeal porridge with buttermilk, men get a quart, women and boys, a pint and a half.

For supper a thinner porridge with either buttermilk or sweet milk

Sweet milk is given to the sick and young. The men get half a pound of bread with their gruel, women and boys seven ounces.

A salaried baker is employed in the house, and has 9 pauper assistants. The ovens bake daily 128 packs of flour, made up into 4 or 8lb loaves. If all were of the former size, it would amount to 1,500 loaves daily. Not one half is consumed in the house, the rest is sent to St Anne St, and administered to outdoor relief

There are some very aged women in the workhouse, 38 are bedridden, a few years ago there was a centenarian, and the parish register records one who died aged 105. The female epileptic ward contains 38 patients, cases of paralysis are sent here, 18 inmates are subject to fits. The matron said she did not know when one of these patients would fall on the floor. In the room is a poor little idiot, left by a heartless mother in a lodging house in the town.

Mr QUIRK next took me to the ward were the female lunatics are confined. There had been no vacancies at Lancaster for the past six weeks. Seven unfortunate inmates were seated around the fire, there was no symptoms to show that their minds were disordered.

The illusion was soon dispelled, for an old woman names, Mary PERCY, roared out, “Oh dear what shall I do without my tongue!” She fancied it seemed, her tongue had leaped out the Sunday before, and got burnt in the fire. She also thinks she will be born again in 1000 yrs. Her murmuring was incessant. Drink had brought her to this melancholy condition. So ruinously fond of it she had been that her husband, a joiner, had been compelled to become an inmate. A young girl with eyes, “widely bright,” was Mary MONAGHAN, who once stood she said, in St John’s market with fowls. Although maddest looking her converse was more rational than the others. She was subject she said to inflammation of the brain, this she said was having had to in a former life, carry burdens on her head!

One of the females was a lunatic only in that she had no memory, if asked a question immediately the answer was rational, but if two moments had elapsed, she had entirely forgotten what had been said.

On asking the name of a good looking girl, she drew herself up with dignity, “Miss HINTON” was the emphatic reply. She began by launching an invective of her relatives who had formerly paid a guinea a week for her maintenance in the, Ashton St, Asylum, but had, had her sent here, “The diet,” she said, “is not fit for me, and it is a wonder they have left me this lousy thing [holding up a small memorandum book] “I am not married.” she said, after a short silence, and thank God never will be.” – but I’ve had many offers, I might have chosen at school, out of any number of Noblemen’s sons in London,” one a surgeon, I was told had promised her marriage. She laughed heartily at this and it caused her exuberant joy.

She had, “landed inheritance,” she told me – becoming exited as she warmed with the subject, and it was a flagrant shame for, “the county of Liverpool” to allow her to be there.

The next female had lost a £50 bank note, and another religiously mad, prayed perpetually, but was the quietest creature.

The various workshops then received a visit, the joiners shop [coffins the chief manufacture], I was introduced into a room were 20/30 aged man were teazing hair for cushion stuffing, it comes from upholsterers in the town in the form of rope, and is here untwined. Pat MORAN, a veteran who had been in youth a soldier, was engaged in this work. He was, he told me, in the, “Marquis of Drogheda’s light horse,” and was present at Dunkirk. “We had to retreat,” he said, “but [he added in a consolatory mood] we killed as many French as they killed us.” Another inmate, James BIRD, whose father was a well known Captain in the Guinea trade, and who himself had been 15 yrs a tide waiter in the Customs, had been dismissed for being, “Off duty,” – drink in reality – the cause which had led to the majority here.

The paupers are shaved twice a week by two inmates and three lathering assistants.

The chief tonsor was lame, and the love for liquor had also been his ruin. Not long age he and his wife had a legacy for £200 to £300 left to them. They went out, but only a short time had elapsed till they were back in again. The respective workshops of the Blacksmiths, Cobblers and Tailors were also visited.

Inquiring for remarkable biographies, an old man, William BIRKETT, was called to speak to me. He had an extraordinary experience of the fickleness of fortune. In early life he kept a grocer’s shop in, Tangier St, Whitehaven. “I only had,” he said, £100 to begin with, but it was at the time of the war, when BONEPARTE was astir, and goods fluctuated very much in price, in seven years, my £100 grew to £12,000. He had done a little in the grain line and provision trade.

He became part owner in 24 ships, some were wrecked in a great storm, and other misfortunes accumulating, he was obliged to declare bankruptcy. “I had friends then.” Said the old man, “but 20 years makes a deal of difference, Sir, they would have backed me out if I had chose, but I would not and came to Liverpool.”

I acted first as a commission agent for Messers HASKAYNE and BROWNE, who had a ship timber yard in, Tabley St, and also a bakehouse in, Campbell St, which now goes by the name of Runcorn St.” He had also done business for, HENDERSON, SELLARS and Co, in the provision or ships biscuit line. “But,” continued the old man, “I had a wife and seven children, with nothing but my own finger ends to rely on, and I again got into difficulties, my wife and son were buried the same day, he was 20 years old and very talented and clever.” Poor BIRKETT showed me testimonials from Messers BADENACH and R. MAKIN and Sons, testifying to his probity and ability in business, these were got in his declining days.

He also brought out a bank book to show the transactions he had made, my eyes fell on one line “Brought forward, £50,000,

BIRKETT was not alone in distress for, Richard CURWEN of Whitehaven, the master with which he had served a portion of his time was here. Both were anxious to get out and there must be many tradesman to whom their experience would benefit. If testimonials are of value, CURWEN, must be the most praiseworthy of men, these procured when he was a candidate for an overseership, and one regretted that a man who had so exemplarily filled a high station, should be reduced to applying for such a place.

A man who but for, John BARLEYCORN, would yet be the head cashier for the great firm Messers POTTER of Manchester was also in the house.

A master eye is required to supervise and harmonise so mighty a concern, and the proof of centralised ability was found on every side. Mr EVANS the governor was spoke of as a lenient but just master, and his goodness of heart everywhere acknowledged.

The cost of a pauper, so far as provision goes, is in Brownlow Hill, 2s-2d, a week per head.

Christmas day in the workhouse

Select Vestry Gratuities paid to medical staff, Brownlow Hill etc, for extra services during the choleric epidemic, Jan 1855

Charges of neglect by workhouse officials 1970

Copyright 2002 / To date