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Monday, September 14, 2009

Poor Henry Henwood b: 1827 in Workhouse

Our relative, Henry Henwood, at the age of 74 found himself widowed and in the workhouse on the 1901 census in Basingstoke, Hampshire County, England. This man who was a carpenter all his life was found there with lots of other people of all ages. It was listed as the Basingstoke union Workhouse. It was built in 1836. It was regarded with trepidation by many in the locality once. This large building was one of many erected in Britain at that time to provide employment and shelter for poor people. I'm surprised that this man who had seven children was not taken in the home of one of them to live out his remaining years.

His grandson, Charles Ernest, died at the age of 87 years 7 months and 4 days in California, USA. He produced a doctor, who produced a nurse who produced a future veterinarian. To think that the youngest, a graduate student's 3rd great grandfather was in the poorhouse or workhouse shows that intelligence and genes had nothing to do with Henry's fate. The history of the era shaped his final days. According to census information, he worked constantly as a carpenter. Perhaps he found work building onto this workhouse, also.

An 1834 Poor Law Amendment Acts said that anyone seeking assistance would enter a workhouse. Those that did found themselves being treated in an inhumane way. At one time it held 450 people who were inmates. It was run by a master and matron who kept record books that any incidents were recorded. In June 1877 an inmate started a fire that damaged part of the building.

From a report in 1867 of the Commissioners in Lunacy, Workhouses were visited. They listed the names and numbers of insane, idiotic and imbecile inmates. Poor Henry must have not enjoyed his fellow neighbors here. His wife Sarah had died around 1901 so he was just newly widowed when he was found there. He could have been emotionally depressed from her death.

They added another building in 1898 to the grounds of the workhouse which was a hospital for elderly people built to ease the pressure on the Cottage Hospital built in 1879 on Hackwood Road. When anyone was told that they were going to Basing Road where the workhouse was situated, they automatically thought that they were headed for the dreaded building.

Henry died in December of 1914 at the age of 87, the same age as his grandson Charles Ernest.

In 1929 the Local Government Act abolished the Workhouse Board of Guardians and its functions, but the building remained until the end of the 1960's when it was demolished.


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