How Gressenhall was Made an Uninviting Place

How Gressenhall was Made an Uninviting Place

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How Gressenhall was Made an Uninviting Place
Source Based
In this essay my objective is to explain how Gressenhall Workhouse,
situated in Norfolk, was made an uninviting place subsequent to 1834,
and also how it was successful in doing this.

The Gressenhall workhouse was severely affected by the 1834 poor law
amendment act, as previously the workhouse was relatively relaxed but
then it had to adapt to the new government requirements, saying that
the workhouses were to be as grim as possible. So in order to do
these, new changes had to occur. The workhouse had to be expanded to
cater for the large amount of people because with no outdoor relief
and no jobs available the poor had no choice but to go to a workhouse.

Firstly in source B, a report of the Royal Commission into the Poor
Laws, it shows in what ways it was made uninviting. Source B states
that after 1834 inmates were stopped from receiving visitors and in
addition going out, without written authorization. Also in source B it
explains that the families were separated once they entered the
workhouse. The workhouse had before accommodated families together but
now the workhouse was being divided up to create new segregated
accommodation. The inmates once entered did not like this, and would
only see their husbands or wives on a Sunday afternoon but only

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momentarily. On my visit to Gressenhall I saw evidence of this. Source
B also tell us that beer and tobacco was disallowed. This makes us
think that socialising was not permitted at Gressenhall. Another
uninviting aspect of Gressenhall is that once entering the workhouse
the inmates where put in classes of paupers, which were: The aged and
really impotent, the children, the able-bodied females and the
able-bodied males. These classes were to be kept in separate buildings
where possible. This would of also made the inmates upset and annoyed
as they would not be living with their loved ones.

Source C shows us the segregation walls keeping the men and women
separately, and they were not allowed to mix at all. The Gressenhall
workhouse had nice surroundings it even had an arcade and a wind mill,
but the windmill was removed and sold in 1837 just three years after
the act was passed. There were generally proportioned windows at the
original workhouse but they were bricked up. In the Exercise yard one
was bricked up, and a refractory cell was created, to impose the new
strict discipline at the workhouse under the new poor law. I saw many
bricked up windows on my visit and also evidence of segregation walls
which once standing. There was now a wall surrounding the workhouse
making the place look like a prison, which is shown in source C. These
perimeter walls were also to stop people from walking in and out of
the workhouse. Another method of preventing people from going in and
out of Gressenhall when they pleased was the porter's lodge. A person
would have been in there at all times, keeping an eye on people at the
gate. The gate is also extra evidence that Gressenhall was made more
secure. On my visit I stood outside the porter's lodge and I noticed
that the brickwork of the porter's lodge was different. As the
original building was in English Bond and the porter's lodge was
Flemish Bond. Flemish bond was only in buildings after 1834, so this
is verification that the porter's lodge was built after 1834, which
shows that Gressenhall was made harsher. At location 2, which was the
East Wing, The Infirmary yard, I noticed that archways were bricked
up, which furthermore is evidence that Gressenhall was made harsher;
also the family rooms were taken away.

Next in source D, diet instructions for able-bodied paupers of both
sexes, shows that the paupers had a very poor diet. With the poor diet
it would make the inmates weak and unhealthy. I also found evidence of
this in the museum. The inmates' diet after 1836 was meagre and
monotonous. Meals were eaten in silence in the dining hall. The
ingredients were now purchased from contractors (the windmill having
been sold and removed in 1837), apart from the vegetables obtained
from the workhouse garden and the industrial farm. In 1856 the
children's diet was improved, and towards the end of the 19th century
that of the adults was as well, though without becoming anything other
than minimal. The one culinary indulgence was on Christmas Day, when
the inmates sat down to a special dinner of roast beef and plum
pudding. Initially, the able-bodied men and the unmarried mothers were
excluded, but later in the 19th century this particularly vindictive
prohibition seems to have been dropped. Also in source D it tells us
that only people who were counted as the deserving poor, were allowed
to have more food than the rest of the paupers. The deserving poor
were; old people, children and the sick.

Source E is about the regulations and men's punishments in Gressenhall
workhouse. This source shows us that the inmates had an extremely
strict routine. They would be working for very long hours. Their day
would start at 5:45am and it would finish at 8:00pm, this also shows
how harsh Gressenhall got. Source E also shows about the punishments
with took place after 1834. After 1834 the discipline was so strict
and minor offences could earn you a 12-hour confinement in a separate
room and a diet of bread and water, and the refractory cell for heavy
offences. All inmates got no pay for their work except for some few
rewards for particular responsibility with small gratitude's. At
location 5, the museum, I found out that the inmates also had to wear
uniform. Like their predecessors in the house of industry, they had to
wear workhouse dress, which was drab and unflattering. Unmarried
mothers were still distinguished, if more subtly than before, by being
made to wear a 'jacket' made of the same material as the other
workhouse clothes. This practice, which earned them the nickname of
'jacket women', continued until 1866. This is more evidence that
Gresshall was made harsher.

In conlusion I think that Gressenhall workhouse was made extremly
harsh after 1834. On the whole, Gressenhall workhouse was well served
by its masters in the 19th century and was spared the excesses of
punitive zeal and corruption which sometimes occurred elsewhere.
Nevertheless, life for the inmates was hard and monotonous. In 1897
the Dereham and Fakenham Times carried a story about a disabled man in
Dereham who had committed suicide rather than go to Gressenhall. This
is furthermore evidence that Gressenhall was harsh and the inmates
didn't want to go into the workhouse. This also shows that the idea of
less eligibility did work.
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