Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The Berwick Workhouse

Thanks to my Find My Past subscription, I've spent the past several days perusing yet again 19th and early 20th century back copies Berwick-upon-Tweed newspapers, and have found lots more information there about my ancestors. Berwick was home to my ancestors for a just a couple of hundred years.

What strikes me -- and with great sadness -- are the number of reported deaths in the local workhouse in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Berwick was, and is still today in the 21st century, a small town. There were many families with large families. Many of those families were inter-connected through marriage.

As I've done my reading, many questions came to mind. If someone had to go to the workhouse, why was this the last resort? Why couldn't that person's debts be repaid and that person taken into one of his or many relatives' homes to live out there remaining days? In some cases, those relatives were workhouse inhabitants' own children or siblings.

Turning to Google, I learned lots about the Berwick Workhouse here and also about why people ended up in workhouses here. Reviewing the censuses of inmates also found on those pages, I found that many "inmates" were elderly, some were "feeble minded", "imbecile", blind. Other younger people were classified as vagrants or paupers rather than inmates. Regardless of those classifications, each person had an occupation included with their information.

The never ending story continues.....

© Margaret Dougherty 2016-2017 All rights reserved


  1. Thank you for the links, very interesting reads, if difficult to imagine.

    1. Isn't it just difficult to imagine? We're so blessed today to have social services in place. Thanks for reading.

  2. hello,
    I live in Australia, my 3 children's fathers family stems back to that workhouse, two children Archibold and Jane Spowart. Archi being the family line, i see no parent/adult at the workhouse with the same name, and i cant seem to find the parents in other records. both listed as paupers i think. it is very sad. 1851 census.

  3. That's too bad. You know that early censuses weren't always complete, I'm sure. Best of luck un your research.