Ancestry UK

Popular Myths about the Workhouse

Myth 2 - To get into a workhouse, you just went and knocked on the door.

Well, technically you could do that. In practice however, the more usual procedure was first to contact one of the union's Relieving Officers who were the front-line officials of the post-1834 workhouse system. Relieving Officers visited each parish in a union on a regular basis and interviewed any applicant seeking poor relief. You might be hoping for a hand-out to tide you over whatever your difficulties were, but if you were able bodied it was likely that all you would be offered would be entry into the workhouse. If you accepted this, you would be given an admission chitty for the workhouse and would then make your way there. If you had a dependent family, they would normally have to enter the workhouse with you.

Admission ticket to Downpatrick Workhouse, 1930s. © Peter Higginbotham

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