In and out the workhouse: Victorian and Edwardian poverty issues

There is limited accommodation available at Madingley Hall for this course. If your preferred accommodation choice is not available, please contact our Registration Team on +44 (0)1223 746262.

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Who ran the workhouse, who lived in the workhouse and why were they there? What were the alternatives available to the labouring poor in the 19th and early 20th centuries? This course addresses these questions and considers how government legislation and public opinion changed attitudes towards poverty. The course covers the period 1834 to 1948.

Course Programme

Friday 21 September 2012

Please plan to arrive between 4:30 and 6:30. You can meet other course members in the bar which opens at 6:15. Tea and Coffee making facilities are available in the study bedrooms.

19:15 Dinner
20:30 The Union Workhouse – Why? We will discuss how and why the union workhouse came into being and look at architects and designs
22:00 Terrace bar open for informal discussion

Saturday 22 September 2012

08:00 Breakfast
09:00 The Management – who ran the workhouse and what were their roles? We study the records of the Poor Law Commission, the Boards of Guardians and the staff employed at the workhouse.
10:30 Coffee
11:00 The Inmates – where did they come from? We identify the long-term residents and observe how the role of the workhouse changed between 1834 and 1900
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Free
16:00 Tea
16:30 A Day in the Workhouse – what was it like inside the workhouse? Using contemporary records, we follow the workhouse inmates through a day in the workhouse.
19:15 Dinner (gruel and hard bread optional extras!)
20:30 Changing Attitudes – from Music Hall recitations to serious studies of London’s poor, there is plenty of contemporary evidence of public interest in the plight of the poor.
22:00 Terrace bar open for informal discussion

Sunday 23 September 2012

08:00 Breakfast
09:00 am – 10.30 am
Social Conscience Awakes. Government legislation should have changed the role of the workhouse and we observe the effects of new social ideas, the Great War and the Depression years.
10:30 Coffee
11:00 The Demise of the Workhouse – No More Poverty! The introduction of post-WW2 legislation removed the need for a workhouse, offering cradle to grave protection for all. In this final session we look at the final years of the old regime and consider whether the new order has lived up to expectations.
13:00 Lunch

The course will disperse after lunch


pdf Application form

pdf Course material


Unless otherwise stated, teaching and assessment for ICE courses are in English. Students whose first language is not English should refer to the Competence in the English Language Policy for further guidance.

Printable versions of our brochures are available to download from the Institute Publications page.

Pre-enrolment information

Information about studying with ICE

Register interest

To register your interest in this course please contact us:

Write to us

Admissions Team
Madingley Hall
United Kingdom
CB23 8AQ

Call us

01223 746262

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Course details

Start date

21 September 2012 (19:15)

End date

23 September 2012 (14:00)

Course code



1 weekend


Institute of Continuing Education
University of Cambridge
Madingley Hall, Madingley
United Kingdom
CB23 8AQ

Accommodation fees

Single room: £110
Double/Twin room (per person, 2 people sharing): £90

Qualifications / Credits