Joseph Rowntree at Glossop Workhouse, 1860

Between about 1859 and 1868, Joseph Rowntree, a Quaker from Leeds (not to be confused with his illustrious, chocolate-making namesake, Joseph Rowntree of York), conducted a vigorous one-man crusade to improve the running of workhouses and the conditions they provided for their inmates.

In March 1860, Rowntree visited Glossop Union workhouse. His inspection of the premises appears not to have resulted in the publication of a detailed account of the institution. However, his visit was discussed at a subsequent meeting of the Glossop Board of Guardians, as reported by the Glossop Record.

Mr. Wood, tho master the Workhouse, reported that on Saturday afternoon, the 3rd instant, the Workhouse had been visited during his absence by an eccentric Quaker, named Rowntree, from the neighbourhood of Leeds; and that the said gentleman had left his report of the state of the house, written in an old memorandum book, as the matron refused to let him write anything in the regular visitors' book. Mr. Wood also stated that whilst he was acting porter at the Salford Union Workhouse, Mr. Rowntree visited it and behaved himself in anything but a becoming manner. The report was read to the Guardians. It complained of the want of bread, blankets, lavatories, Bibles, training, cleanliness, &c., hut the greatest want appealed to to be a want of a “necessity” to send the bids to the coal-pits, — though what that meant nobody could tell. Some of the guardians remarked that the next time Mr. Rowntree presented himself the Workhouse door, the best plan the master could adopt would be to refuse him admission unless he had a Board order.

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