2020: Workhouse Voices: Creative Writing Competition

In the spring of 2020 The National Archives Education Service released a themed collection of historical documents entitled: ‘Workhouse Voices: What did Paupers say about the Poor Law

The collection represents a small sample of the letters that have been identified and transcribed as part of ‘In Their Own Write’, an Arts Humanities Research Council funded project, 2018 to 2021, which uses letters from paupers and other poor people, and other material such as petitions, sworn statements and advocate letters written on behalf of paupers to investigate the lives of the poor between 1834 and 1900.

To celebrate the release of the collection we challenged students to write a short story of no more than 450 words inspired by these documents. We asked for realistic characters, good background detail on the workhouse system, a sense of location, interesting language, description and dialogue which reflects the time.

We received over 350 entries across our three age categories, Key Stages Two, Three and Four, and enlisted the help of author Sharon Gosling to judge our finalists. Sharon is the author of many children’s books including The Diamond Thief, The Golden Butterfly and The House of Hidden Wonders, all set in the Victorian period making her the perfect guest judge for the competition.

Find the shortlisted stories here – twenty five finalists, five from each category. Sharon has kindly given feedback on each story which can be found at the beginning of each section before the winning three stories and the two runners up.

Each of the winners will receive a £25 book token, a copy of Sharon’s latest book and a goody bag from The National Archives shop.

Read the winning stories