A rare collection of 11 Crich Workhouse bills are expected to create local interest in Hansons Auctioneers forthcoming Fine Art & Antiques Auction. Commenting on the find, Charles Hanson, manager of Hansons Auctioneers and seen on BBC One’s Bargain Hunt said, ‘It’s remarkable that a series of workhouse bills dating from April 1826 to March 1827 were discovered in a box of old newspapers. The detail on the bills almost sends a shudder down one’s spine when you consider what life must have been like for the inmates of such an institution. Each bill refers to the governor’s wages and house rent at four shillings and tuppence for a week. Together with her maintenance at one shilling, going on to note the weekly order of coals, candles and paper.’
A Parish Workhouse in Crich existed from 1777 with accommodation for up to 70 inmates. Opened in 1734 on the edge of Nether Common, before the common enclosed. Those sent to Crich workhouse from further afield as well as the local area, included the parishes of Denby, Melbourne, Mercaston, Pentrich and Willington. In the Workhouse system, local parishes combined funds to support the destitute. Previously, each parish supported individuals themselves. It was a last resort for those using their service. The lack of amenities and harsh regimes ensured that only those truly in need of assistance would apply to enter.
‘The Workhouse was a hard place, with inmates often only eating gruel – beer and cheese only allowed at Christmas. A kind of gruel, called water pottage, consisted of a small portion of oatmeal cooked with boiled onion,’ Mr Hanson said.
Men lived separately from women and children. Families could not meet. Adults divided into two groups: those unable to work and cared for; and the unemployed, running the Workhouse together with doing other tasks. Boys learned a trade where possible, such as shoemaking. This system carried on in some form until the early 20th Century.
The bills will be offered in the Fine Art & Antiques Auction, which runs from 29th June to 1st July, with a guide price of £50 and £70. The sale will include other items of ephemera, as well as important maps, manuscripts, Georgian prints and antiquarian books. For further details about this auction, please contact Charles Hanson on 01283 733988 or 07725 514855 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.