Joseph Rowntree at Haslingden 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.

Below is an extract from a much longer letter by Rowntree, published by the Bury Times in January 1860, describing the Haslingden Union workhouse.

To the Editor of the Bury Times.

The Haslingden Workhouse is very old building; it is kept clean, and some care exists in regard to ventilation; more, however, is requisite. No industrial training or mat making is carried on here. The infirm, &c., are kept in idleness, and few large-type Testaments and glasses are in use: more are needed. The plan of buying bread, I think, is objectionable; it should be made upon the premises. There are few boys here: they attend the village school, and this year the school inspector has reported them as being very ignorant. The women and girls are some distance from the town, in a building similar, as to age, to that at Haslingden. Each place is visited and inspected by both the guardians and the doctor. No baths exist.

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