‘do away with unions’

Detailed angry pauper complaint about general workhouse conditions, January 1868 (Catalogue ref: MH12/2107)

Poor Law Union: Axminster

Union counties Devon & Dorset


Union Axminster, Devon


… open your eyes and look into the affairs of this Union and others to see how the poor are served, [and] how much tobacco are they allowed. Sometimes they have half an ounce when the master chooses to give them any and lunch the same, is this allowed? The food is not weight [weighed] and measured, [and] sometimes like pigs wash, a drop of water to drink from the furnace along with bread and cheese and adulterated with American potash or something else for it binds any person up for days [causes constipation], and then hand was to free it from the body like corks. The doctor is not much good, die or live, [it is] better to have a butcher. Why should not the officers of the house change as well as the guardians, no person can apply to go on the board unless the master or officer chooses to let them too. Why not do away with the Unions and let every parish maintain its own poor and send the children to a charity school, it would be a great deal better than the present time, open your eyes and judge for yourselves. It is cold, day and night [within] those unsightly holes [workhouses] in the winter time, not allowed to light a fire in the day ward until 4 o’ clock (unless altered) in the afternoon and not allowed to go on leave or seek for work unless they choose to let them too by the Master or Officer. What is the law respecting this? It is shameful how the poor are ill-treated, the rich will have to turn out their pockets for they can’t carry anything with them when they die. If any person speaks about anything he or she is marked and kept down like a dog, all this is true so help my god. X

I am yours truly gentlemen
A Pauper

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