Londina Illustrata. Graphic and Historical Memorials of Monasteries, Churches, Chapels, Schools, Charitable Foundations, Palaces, Halls, Courts, Processions, Places of Early Amusement, and Modern Present Theatres, in the Cities and Suburbs of London and Westminster, Volume 2Wilkinson, Robert
The London Workhouse, Bishopsgate Street.
The London Workhouse (of which a slight mention has been made in the account of Sir Paul Pindar's House) is a large brick building, situated near the south-east corner of , in Without; and is supposed to have been built on what formerly constituted part of the premises of the liberal and wealthy owner of that mansion.[*]
By its constitution this establishment was partly an hospital, and partly a house of correction, portion thereof having been appropriated to the relief and encouragement of the deserving poor, and the other, to the punishment of vagrants and disorderly persons. Its foundation has been ascribed to an Act of Parliament passed in ; but the more remote cause of its erection is to be traced to an Act of the , in , which established a corporation for this purpose, by the name of the President and Governors for the Poor of the City of London and Liberties thereof. The preamble of that Act states "the increase of poor to be very great within the City and Liberties, for want of due provision for their relief and employment, &c.; for remedy whereof, and for better execution of the laws formerly made," it enacts, "that there be from thenceforth, a corporation consisting of a President, Deputy-president, Treasurer, and Assistants; whereof the Lord Mayor, for the time being, always to be President, and of the Assistants to be Aldermen; and the other to be Freemen chosen out of the wards, out of each ward respectively." The members are named, with Sir John Wollaston, Lord Mayor, at their head. They were invested with authority, at any time or times, upon reasonable cause, to remove their Deputy-president, and Treasurer, and to make fresh appointments, as also to regulate in certain particulars their own body, were constituted in all respects a corporation, empowered to hold courts, have a common seal, &c. In the administration of their trust, they were, at discretion, to apprehend all rogues, vagrants, sturdy beggars, and idle and disorderly persons, within the City or Liberties, and to set them to work or punish them, as the circumstances of the case might require; as also to take up and employ other poor persons and children. And the Common Council of London were enjoined upon their application, properly made, to assess their several wards in such sums as might be found necessary for the support of the Charity (the inhabitants of such wards having a right of appeal in case of injustice), and were empowered to distrain on nonpayment, &c.
This Institution, at the Restoration, was thought to have been so serviceable, that upon further application of the City to Parliament, it received full legislative sanction by the passing of the Acts and Car. II., which, repeating, as before, the necessity of relief and employment, &c., for such particular classes of poor,—enact, "that from thenceforth there should be or more corporation or corporations, workhouse or workhouses, within the City of London, &c.;" the former to consist of the like members, and to be invested with similar powers and privileges, as the persons appointed by the preceding Act of . Money was to be raised, in cases of necessity, by the Common Council, in like manner as before, and the same powers were given of enforcing payment. The Corporation were allowed to make byelaws (to be approved by the magistrates), for the better performance of their trusts, and to purchase lands or tenements to the annual value of , &c.
In pursuance of the power thus granted, we find in an Act of Common Council (), Sir Thomas Rawlinson, Mayor, that by a former Act of that Court (), and by other prior Acts of the said Court of Common Council, there had been several sums of money raised on the inhabitants of the City, for "purchasing the building, and of divers houses and tenements in , to make them convenient for the , maintaining, and employing of great numbers of vagrants, idle and disorderly persons, and distressed children, found in the public streets and passages of this City;" and that there was still wanting the further sum of to support the same. It was then enacted, that should be raised by entire assessment upon the citizens, in the proportions to each parish as there specified.
The several parishes formerly paid a week for each child they had in the Workhouse, beside their assessments; but Michaelmas, , the Governors came to a resolution, that no more children, paid for by the parishes to which they belong, should be admitted into the house; and it was afterwards further resolved, that only such children should be taken in as were committed by the Magistrates of the City, found begging in the streets, pilfering on the quays, or lying about in glass-houses and uninhabited places.
The building for the reception of these poor, called the London Workhouse, appears to have been finished about the year , during the mayoralty of Sir Robert Clayton, whose portrait, as its President and Governor, still remains an ornament of the Court-room. It was originally divided into parts; the , next , and called "," was chiefly for the accommodation of poor children; the west end or side, called "," was for vagabonds and dissolute poor. In this latter place the females taken up in the streets, were employed in beating hemp, washing of linen, &c., similarly to , and the men in other hard labour. This part has
|been long abandoned by such characters, and is the same now remaining in ruins, where the prisoners from Ludgate were confined, and called Ludgate Prison, as mentioned in the account of Sir Paul Pindar's house.|
The "Steward's side" of the Workhouse, which is still in use, is a long high range of brick building, with stone dressings, &c., the general appearance of which will be best understood from the vignette view at the bottom of the accompanying Print, which represents the front, or principal entrance. Though formerly a handsome structure, it is now in a sad state of dilapidation, and evidently, like the Charity itself, hastening fast to ruin. relic of its former importance is the Court-room, in which the President and Governors formerly met on the business of the Charity. This apartment, now forlorn and deserted, has a look of decayed grandeur which reminds , that the Chief Magistrate of London, and his brethren, once assembled here. It is spacious and lofty: at the upper end is the seat for the President, adorned with Corinthian columns, entablature, &c., and before it a massy table, round which the other members of the Corporation sat. The walls above are ornamented with lists of benefactors, painted in gold letters on tables of black. The following is the aggregate amount of the sums given in different years, with the names of some of the principal donors: Anno , ; , ; , ; , ; , ; , ; , , of which sum Samuel Wright, Esq., contributed ; , ; , ; , ; , , whereof from a "Person Unknown" ; , ; , Samuel Pennant, Esq., Alderman and Sheriff, (this gentleman was related to Mr. Pennant, the eminent topographical writer); , ; , ; , ; , Jeunix Dry, Esq., (this gentleman is said to have been the proprietor and donor of the ground on which the Workhouse stands); , ; , ; , ; , . Over the mantelpiece is the portrait of Sir Robert Clayton, just mentioned, an undoubted original, and finely painted. It is a half-length, in the dress, and with the insignia, of Lord Mayor. Above it, are richly carved, the state sword, mace, cap of maintenance, &c., and below, and on each side, are shields of arms and other ornaments. Both this picture and the carvings (the latter of which are exquisite) deserve a better situation. At the end of the room, opposite the President's chair, is a handsome clock, enriched with civic ornaments, the gift of Lady Anne Clayton, .
The number of children formerly on this Foundation amounted to , exclusively of vagrants and disorderly. The yearly charge of maintaining these children is stated by Maitland, , to have amounted to per annum, besides the profits of their earnings; and the private gifts had, according to the same writer, exceeded ; yet these means are admitted by him to have been insufficient, the real estate of the Corporation, exclusively of the ground on which the Workhouse stood, amounting then to little more than a year; and he earnestly invokes the assistance of the humane and charitable. Since that time the affairs of the Corporation have still further declined, and a few years more will probably see the whole dissolved, and the site converted to other purposes.
The benefits of this establishment formerly, will be seen from the following statements (Hist. Lond. v. ii. B. ii. p. , et seq.). Beggars and vagrants discharged from Easter, , to Easter, , . Number of children put out apprentices during the same time, . From Lady Day, , to Lady Day, , the number of children apprenticed was ; and during the same interval the number of beggars, vagrants, &c., discharged, was . Of the children educated here altogether, during half a century, viz., from to , there had been discharged or provided with employments and situations, besides those mentioned above, ; and within that time dissolute poor disposed of: among whom, he adds, several notorious impostors, pretending to be lame, dumb, and blind, had been committed and punished with confinement and hard labour.
The boys on the Foundation were formerly employed principally in weaving nets for the British fisheries: boy is stated to have usually knitted yards of this netting per week, at eighteenpence the yards; and every boy knitting above yards in that space, had a penny per week allowed him by way of encouragement. In weeks was knit in this way, yards, , at the rate of yards per week. The girls were employed in slighter works, fitted to their sex, age, &c. Their food was plain, but wholesome and sufficient.
"It is to be wondered at," says Maitland, "how all things are contrived here to the best advantage, for thrift and good husbandry, to maintain in clothes and food, such a vast number as live and are harboured here. Some are tailors, some shoemakers, some knit stockings. They brew their own drink, having in the new building (a large range of workshops, &c., before mentioned by him as then just finished) erected a large and convenient brewhouse, and over that a malthouse. They killed their own beef and mutton, and have for that purpose a slaughter-house; but since they find it better husbandry to buy their meat of the butcher. And in case of sickness, broken limbs, or sores, or wounds, they have advice, physic, and surgery gratis."
The dress of the children, the costume of whom will be seen in the figures of them over the front entrance, was all the same, being made of russet cloth, with a round badge worn upon the breast, representing a poor boy and a sheep; the motto (which is also that of the arms of the Charity), "God's Providence is our Inheritance." of these boys, John Trusty, aged years, delivered a speech to Queen Anne, on her visiting , in , which Maitland has given at length in his account.
[*] See statement in the Acts of Common Council, quoted below, as to "altering of divers houses and tenements in Bishopsgate Street, of which Sir Paul's house was very probably one.
Title page of Vol. 2 reads: Theatrum illustrata. Graphic and historic memorials of ancient playhouses, modern theatres and other places of public amusement in the cities and suburbs of London & Westminster with scenic and incidental illustrations from the time of Shakspear to the present period.