Nantwich Workhouse Webinar

William Mathias outside Nantwich Workhouse
William Mathias, Workhouse Master, outside the Nantwich Workhouse

The first of a series of Webinar Talks for Nantwich Museum got off to an excellent start, with Bill Pearson giving an illustrated talk about Nantwich Workhouse. The talk covered different workhouses in the area and the six buildings on The Barony (that are still there today) which were part of the Nantwich Union Workhouse.

The roles of the staff and the lives of the inmates were discussed. The inmates suffered poor food (including adulterated bread) and did tedious jobs like breaking up stones and oakum-picking.  Oakum-picking involves teasing out the fibres from old rope – hence the expression “money for old rope”. It was only worth doing if you did not have to pay high wages.

There were tragic stories of different diseases, which spread through the workhouse and some poisonings.

A remarkable story was told about a boatman, whose wife had died, arriving at the workhouse to choose a new wife!  He was told to come back the next day and he was introduced to about 50 likely candidates, one of whom he finally selected. Of these eligible women not one of them exhibited any diffidence when the objects of the captain’s errand were explained, which says much about how awful life in the workhouse would have been. As the captain and his bride left Acton Church, they were the recipients of a number of gifts, and they left the village amid a shower of rice and old slippers. There is more about this on the museum’s website here:

www.nantwichmuseum.org.uk/boatman-seeks-wife-from-nantwich-workhouse

We were delighted to learn that some of the participants had either worked in The Barony or have ancestors who once lived there.  Research is ongoing into the workhouse and the associated children’s home and hospitals for next year’s Healthcare Exhibition.

A post event survey showed that everyone thought they had learnt more and felt that it was good value for money. These webinars have provided support for the museum, which has lost donations from visitors whilst being closed. Most delegates responding rated the event as excellent, and many have signed up for the remaining talks:

www.nantwichmuseum.org.uk/webinars-2020