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A Victorian Christmas: Christmas Day In The Workhouse

Updated Wednesday 23rd December 2015

For its December 25th, 1840 edition, the Morning Chronicle polled workhouse managers to discover what the poor of London could expect for their Christmas Day. The following is an extract of their report.

Celebration of Christmas Day amongst the poor inmates of the metropolitan and suburban workhouses

Caricature of poor people at a workhouse having dinner; by Phiz Creative commons image Icon Wellcome Images under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license A view of a typical 1840 workhouse meal

In the following will be found succinctly detailed the treatment of the poor, both old and young, the nature and quantity of the food they will receive on this day of universal festivity and any extra luxuries they may be indulged with. The number of paupers in each workhouse is specified, and compared with those of the previous year.

St Marylebone Workhouse - Paupers therein this day 1,661 (last Christmas Day there were but 1,558, making an increase this year of 103), of whom there are = adult males, 394; adult females, 735; boys, 224; girls, 146; infants, 162. Christmas day fare, adults, six ounces of roast beef, one pound of potatoes, one pound of plum pudding, one pint of porter, one ounce of ten, a quarter of a pound of sugar, with tobacco, snuff &c. at the adoption of the adults, each; children, similar food, without limitation, and in the evening oranges, apples and sweetmeats. To the out-door poor, amounting to 3,279, an additional allowance of bread.

Kingston Union - No reply to application made, but ascertained that the board of guardians have altered Christmas Day from a soup to a meat day, and have raised a subscription for plum-pudding, porter & c.

East London Union - Answer to application: We intend carrying out the order of the poor-law commissioners to the very letter, but I think that some little extras may be allowed in the evening. There are inmates of both houses, Aldsgate and Bishopsgate, about 500 adults and 250 children farmed out at Aubin's Asylum, Norwood.

 

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