Southwell Workhouse correspondence now online at National Archives

By Nick Owen | 16 August 2011
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The Workhouse, Southwell
© Courtesy of the National Trust

The poignant personal histories of the many unfortunates housed in JT Becher’s Southwell Workhouse are available online thanks to years of painstaking research.

All correspondence between the Southwell Workhouse and the Poor Law bodies up to 1901 can be found on The National Archive’s website.

These amazing stories of resilience and fortitude have been made accessible thanks to a joint venture between the National Archives and the National Trust.

Dr Paul Carter, part-time research fellow at the National Archives, said: “This kind of project opens the lid on Victorian England and looks into the dark corners of poverty, illness and unemployment commonplace for many in the 19th century.”

Volunteers at The Workhouse hope the new research will transform visitors’ experiences as it enters its second decade under National Trust custodianship.

“We hope people will be able to reflect, feel and make connections with the building, but most importantly its people”, says property manager Rachel Harrison.

“At times this may be challenging, emotive and thought provoking, at others amusing, uplifting and surprising”. 

During the first half of the 19th century the way in which assistance was given to the poor changed dramatically as poor relief funding was cut by Westminster.

Nottinghamshire was at the forefront of the new developments and Reverend JT Becher’s Workhouse, built in 1824, became the blueprint for hundreds of other institutions.

  • Search for the correspondence by entering "Southwell" into the main search box and "MH12" into the series box at
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