Up from slavery;: An autobiography (A Bantam pathfinder.

Up from slavery; an autobiography. (Book, 1967) [WorldCat.org]

Up From Slavery(a Bantam Classic)

In England and Wales a workhouse , colloquially known as a spike , was a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment. The earliest known use of the term dates from 1631, in an account by the mayor of Abingdon reporting that "wee haue erected wthn our borough a workehouse to sett poore people to worke". [1]

Life in a workhouse was intended to be harsh, to deter the able-bodied poor and to ensure that only the truly destitute would apply. But in areas such as the provision of free medical care and education for children, neither of which was available to the poor in England living outside workhouses until the early 20th century, workhouse inmates were advantaged over the general population, a dilemma that the Poor Law authorities never managed to reconcile.

As the 19th century wore on, workhouses increasingly became refuges for the elderly, infirm and sick rather than the able-bodied poor, and in 1929 legislation was passed to allow local authorities to take over workhouse infirmaries as municipal hospitals. Although workhouses were formally abolished by the same legislation in 1930, many continued under their new appellation of Public Assistance Institutions under the control of local authorities. It was not until the National Assistance Act of 1948 that the last vestiges of the Poor Law disappeared, and with them the workhouses.

By the 1830s most parishes had at least one workhouse, [11] but many were badly managed. In his 1797 work, The State of the Poor , Sir Frederick Eden , wrote:

The workhouse is an inconvenient building, with small windows, low rooms and dark staircases. It is surrounded by a high wall, that gives it the appearance of a prison, and prevents free circulation of air. There are 8 or 10 beds in each room, chiefly of flocks, and consequently retentive of all scents and very productive of vermin. The passages are in great want of whitewashing. No regular account is kept of births and deaths, but when smallpox, measles or malignant fevers make their appearance in the house, the mortality is very great. Of 131 inmates in the house, 60 are children. [12]

In lieu of a workhouse some sparsely populated parishes placed homeless paupers into rented accommodation, and provided others with relief in their own homes. Those entering a workhouse might have joined anything from a handful to several hundred other inmates; for instance, between 1782 and 1794 Liverpool 's workhouse accommodated 900–1200 indigent men, women and children. The larger workhouses such as the Gressenhall House of Industry generally served a number of communities, in Gressenhall 's case 50 parishes. [12] Writing in 1854, Poor Law commissioner George Nicholls viewed many of them as little more than factories: