08 February 2012
In the past people were often tremendously bossy and pompous when it came to the disadvantaged. The poor wouldn’t help themselves, it was often said. They needed more religion, or discipline, or to be put to work instead of wandering about begging and having children. The workhouse was devised to answer this need. So different from today, wouldn’t you say, what with our benefits system and the NHS?
Times get mixed up though, as the picture demonstates. Buildings can be several places at once. So are we looking at a former workhouse, a bit of NHS hodge-podge, or a splendid new PFI development? Alternatively, is Old Teasel’s camera swirling about Tardis-like in different eras in the vicinity of Southmead Hospital? All of these.
The Victorian buildings, which apparently house Occupational Health and until recently a training centre, were once Barton Regis Union Workhouse. Its foundation stone by the bay window was laid by “Her Grace The Dowager Duchess of Beaufort On the Eighteenth Day of September 1900.” This was in fact no Oliver Twist establishment but an infirmary for the poor, and in that sense it was an antecedent of the present NHS hospital. So amid the distaste and pomposity, there was compassion and progress.
All the same, attitudes linger on, get adapted, display their history if you look – just as buildings do. An exploration of the history of the workhouse via the Tardis of the web might inform some present views on poverty.
Post by our lovely guest blogger Old Teasel.
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