A survey in 1776 recorded almost 2,000 parish workhouses operating in England, while the number in Wales was just nineteen. The New Poor Law of 1834 proved equally unattractive in much of Wales – some parts of the country resisted providing a workhouse until the 1870s, with Rhayader in Radnorshire being the last area in the whole of England and Wales to do so.
Our image of these institutions has often been coloured by the work of authors such as Charles Dickens, but what was the reality? Where exactly were these workhouses located – and what happened to them?
People are often surprised to discover that a familiar building was once a workhouse. Revealing locations steeped in social history, Workhouses of Wales and the Welsh Borders is a comprehensive and copiously illustrated guide to the workhouses that were set up across Wales and the border counties of Cheshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. It provides an insight into the contemporary attitudes towards such institutions as well as their construction and administration, what life was like for the inmates, and where to find their records today.