The Workhouse, Southwell – National Trust

133 Reviews

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Things to do


Date of travel

August, 2018

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It was a television programme, where Alan Titchmarsh was visiting unusual National Trust properties, that got us interested in seeing this one which may be the best preserved of its kind. Owing to various changes of ownership over the years, and no investment in refurbishing or updating it, the National Trust took it on in almost its original state, which means visitors get a genuine representation of what it was like 180 years ago.

The village of Southwell in Nottinghamshire, with its wonderful Minster, is in itself worth a visit, but we’d never seen anything quite like this workhouse. What really made the visit was the introductory talk, which took place outside the building. The guide gave a clear explanation of the purpose of the workhouse, its construction in 1840 and development by the Reverend JT Becher. We were given a comprehensive picture of what life was like for those unfortunate enough to be housed there, which brought to life our tour of the interior.

Conditions for the ‘inmates’ (although they were free to leave at any time) were appalling, but better than the alternative for people who literally had nothing in life. They were obviously worked hard, but at least were fed and had a roof over their heads. The picture was very different to what you may imagine from the depictions given by Dickens, for example, and rather than being a cruel imprisonment, was more the origins of social care for the poor as it exists today.

To complete the whole picture, volunteers work in the garden allotments in front of the house in costume, and (as far as they can) in role as an inhabitant of the workhouse. For the benefit of visitors, their produce is for sale and we were delighted to take home with us lettuce, marrows, potatoes and carrots!

An excellent visit!

“Workhouse website”:


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