The Hull Workhouse

From 1698, Hull, Holy Trinity and St Mary were given powers to set up a workhouse to help the poor and needy.  Charity Hall was erected on Whitefriargate, but it wasn't used as a proper workhouse until 1726.  Until then it was used as a training school and home for poor children housing around 170 persons. In 1728, a new set of rules were drawn up for running the workhouse where nobody was allowed to come into the workhouse without the courts ordering it. There was a proper register showing the name and time of arrival or departure, in many cases by death. The newcomers were stripped and washed and given new clothing and any who still itched were put into wards and cared for.

 As a daily routine they had prayers read before breakfast and before supper in the evening. such Prayers as the Guardian Ministers shall direct, every Morning before Breakfast, and every Evening before Supper, and anyone who did not attend would not have a meal. They had to get up between 5 or 6 o'clock in summertime and in Winter 8 o'clock, and go to bed in Summer at nine, and in Winter at eight. Children under six went to school and those above six went to work, learning to read or write once a day.

If anyone left without permission or got drunk, stole, swore and quarreled, pretended to be ill and excused from work, they would be punished as the Committee shall direct, usually a spell in the stocks. They would be summoned to Breakfast, Dinner, and Supper, by the ringing of a bell except the sick and lame who were given a different diet by the doctor.

In 1800 the Hull Workhouse district consisted of a crowded area within the site of the town walls in Whitefriargate, where the Bank of England building is now. The four storey high building with strong shutters on the ground floor, was  in a quadrangle with an open central yard facing Whitefriargate. In front of the large central yard was a wall with large central gates, and a small doorway at the side. It had about forty-five rooms, wards, garrets, lobbies, school and dining-rooms, workrooms, etc. In the front court was the belfry, with its bell, used as occasion required, according to the rules of the house.

Two tin candlesticks lit the office, two iron ones in the cook's kitchen, and solitary lights in the various rooms, whilst the dining-room had a "brass candle stick" or "chandelier" with branches.

Meals varied a little bu in general a breakfast consisted of milk, oatmeal and bread, dinner, peas porridge and supper would be herrings or stew, some nights a pint of beer and bread. Friday was the exception being a "fast" day and all the days food consisted of bread and oatmeal. Tea and coffee were not the drinks of the day in those days and meals were generally washed down with ale.

The layout of the workhouse was two oakum rooms, wards set apart for spinning with 38 ordinary wheels, six line wheels, and 72 various reels. There was the bump-room, with 22 spinning wheels, and an equal number of reels. There was a chamber over the cells at the end of the workhouse yard, which was the home of the unfortunate women. All the rooms were sparsely furnished, the beds in general had flock mattresse. The quarters of the master, matron, and spinning master contained some amount of furniture in leather and mahogany, with bedsteads and hangings, the matron's room being described as containing "four-pole bedstead and blue and white hangings, corner cupboard, etc.

Every healthy inmate had to be constantly employed, with a half hour breakfast and dinner, the working day being 12 hours. Every Sunday the inmates had to parade for church, accompanied by the master and the spinning master, and no loitering in the streets was allowed.  If any of the children swore they were made to stand on a stool in the dining-hall during the times of dinner, with the crime written in large letters on a paper, pinned on their breasts and they were only given bread and water that day. Such as are convicted of lying shall stand in like manner, with the words "Infamous Liar" on their breasts.

A report by the Medical Society in 1847 severely criticised conditions in the workhouse and inmates complained about the poor quality of the bread and that tea was brewed in a large copper which was then ladled out like soup. There were scandals  involving pregnant women being refused admission to the workhouse and promptly giving birth on the workhouse steps. In 1851, work began on a new building for 600 inmates at the north side of Anlaby Road at its junction with Argyle Street and it opened on 30th June 1852 after about 280 paupers were transferred from the old building. To celebrate the move, the inmates were given a dinner of roast beef, mutton, plum pudding, tea and spice cake. The first Governor was Alderman Robert Nettleton, a merchant, who married the only sister of Andrew Marvel.

In 1892, a new hospital was erected which became known as the East Hospital and in 1912, a 240-bed hospital was built parallel to Argyle Street. The four-storey building, which was completed in 1914, was known as the Naval Hospital or West Hospital. From 1904, the birth certificates for those born in the workhouse had the address of 188 Anlaby Road, Hull. In 1931, the workhouse was taken over by Hull Council and by 1931, the casual wards were closed down. Only the two infirmary blocks still remain of the former workhouse buildings. The Hull Royal Infirmary now occupies the site.

By the early 1900s, Hull was accommodating many of papuper children in scattered homes around the city. The locations included 30 and 58 Cholmley Street, 121 Coltman Street, 37 Derringham Street, 34 Fountain Street, 92 and 113 Linnaeus Street, 64 Mayfield Street.