Greenwich as it used to be

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Life in Greenwich workhouse

The recently concluded Napoleonic Wars had almost bankrupted the country. Hundreds of soldiers and sailors had returned from the wars and were looking for work. Also the Industrial Revolution had begun, throwing thousands of agricultural workers out of work with its introduction of threshing machines. Whole families were flocking to London and other big Cities. It was the period Dickens wrote about in "Oliver Twist", "David Copperfield", and "Little Dorrit".

In the early 1820's many people became desitute and the workhouses were packed--there being no other alternative if you lost your job.
Henry William was christened at St. Alphege Church, Greenwich on 30th June 1822. The father's occupation was given as Mariner N.P. (standing for Naval Pensioner, even though he was only sixteen when he left the Navy!)
His poor wife Elizabeth, remained in the Workhouse with the baby, until April 1823, and then from September until December of that year. During this time she was given £2 per week.

The daily diet in Greenwich Workhouse at that time was:

SUNDAY: BREAKFAST. One Quart of Milk Pottage.
DINNER, Six oz. Beef when cooked and free from the bone, llb. Potatoes
MONDAY: BREAKFAST, One oz. of Butter or two oz. of Cheese.
DINNER, One Quart of good Soup made from Sunday's dinner.
TUESDAY: BREAKFAST, One Quart of Rice Milk.
DINNER: Six oz. Beef, one llb. of Potatoes.
WEDNESDAY: BREAKFAST, One oz. of Butter or Two oz. of Cheese.
DINNER: One Quart of good Soup made from Tuesday's dinner.
THURSDAY: BREAKFAST, One Quart of Milk Pottage.
DINNER, Six oz. Mutton, One lb. of Potatoes.
FRIDAY: BREAKFAST,' One oz. of Butter or two of Cheese.
DINNER, One Quart of good Soup made from Thursday's dinner.
SATURDAY: BREAKFAST, One Quart of Rice Milk.
DINNER, Twelve oz. of Suet Pudding.
SUPPER: Every Day, Two oz. of Cheese or one oz. of Butter.
CHRISTMAS DAY: Eight oz. of Cooked or Baked Beef and Vegetables.
Twelve oz. of Plum Pudding.
One Pint of Strong Beer.

On two days in the summer, Five oz. of Bacon and Green Peas.
On two other days, Five oz. Bacon and Green Peas.
On four other days. Good Mackerel and One lb. of Potatoes.
On four other days. Good Herring and One lb. of Potatoes.
On six other days. Good salt Fish instead of Meat.
Each adult and children over twelve years of age were to receive; Fourteen oz. of Bread and Two Pints of Beer per day.

They certainly fared much better in Greenwich, than poor Oliver Twist did!

In 1840, a new Workhouse with infirmary attached, was built in a field at the bottom of what was Love Lane and is now known as Vanbrugh Hill.
Up until the second world war. the Workhouse was still in use. There Were railings at the front, going along Woolwich Road, I remember as a boy seeing the old men sitting! behind them, wearing grey tweed suits and cap. The Infirmary was known as St. Alphage Hospital. After the war it was pulled down, to be replaced by Greenwich District Hospital.

© Albert W. Gearing

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