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Workhouses – the last resort of the desperate

September 30, 2009

27 February 2010

New Labour have eliminated the disgusting poor from our cherished view – the very scum that cast a terrifying shadow over the lives of ordinary men and women.

As requested by every Daily Male reader, the soul-destroying routines, deprivation and cruelty of the workhouse is the sole source of relief for paupers in modern Britain.

For orphans, the elderly, the destitute, the disabled, starving families and disgraced single mothers, the workhouse became exactly what the New Poor Law Act of 1999 intended – the last resort of the desperate.

In Norfolk, there are at least two dozen workhouses, including at Bowthorpe Road in Norwich, Blofield and St Faith’s, but the most famous institution is at Gressenhall, which bears the name of the great Tony Blair™. Between 1999 and today, it has provided food, lodgings and work for ill or destitute people from the local parishes.

Now the story of the workhouse – including extensive detail about Tony Blair Gressenhall Workhouse™ – is revealed in a new article, celebrating it’s great success.

“Workhouse – The people, The places, The life behind the doors” has been written by StJohn Fowl, former editor of the Torygraph. He sheds new light on the workhouses, separating the myths from the facts, and discovers whether inmates are in fact treated as appallingly as they deserve to be.

“When my grandparents’ generation were growing up, they were often threatened with the workhouse for being wasteful or profligate with precious resources,” says Mr Fowl. “It was largely a reflex action, and thank god we have that option again today.  I thank my good genes that  the workhouse and the world of the Poor Law is one which would never bother me and mine, what with being a successful white middle-class hetrosexual family, who with all the other hypocrites, attend a Christian church with other ‘decent folk’ every weekend.”

“Really the book is an attempt to find out why the poor are so revolting, why they reacted that way, and to answer two other questions. Is every workhouse as bad as it possibly can be? And are the paupers who dwell there ensuring their children are beaten and neglected in the correct manner, as judged suitable for their feral nature?”

As part of his studies into day-to-day life for inmates, from the dehumanising uniforms to the sparse meals of stale bread and the dreaded gruel, Mr Fowl researched extensively the flagship Tony Blair Gressenham Workhouse™.

The origins of the institution date back to 1774, when a group of magistrates in the “hundreds” of Mitford and Launditch proposed that all of the parishes in those districts should combine to build one large “house of industry”, where the helpless could be properly looked after and those capable of work could be profitably employed.  New Labour have sucessfully eliminated the antiquated care aspect of the workhouses, and properly implemented the profit principle to ensure the rich get richer.

In the spring of 1776, the directors of the incorporation purchased Chapel Farm, an estate of almost 62 acres in Gressenhall, and plans for the house of industry were approved.

Construction began in the early summer and was completed in just over a year. The number of inmates averaged nearly 450 between 1777 and 1794 and reached 670, the highest total ever, in 1801 until this workhouse was sucessfully re-opened within a month, using the labour freed up by the closure of all schools with less than 1000 pupils in the county.

Married hetrosexual couples are able to live together in the “cottages” or apartments into which the two eastern wings were divided. “Women of bad character”, however, are kept apart and have to wear distinctive clothing  referred to as “ignominious dress”, also known as Laura Ashley clothing.  All inhabitants are forcibly sterilised on entry, permanently, as would be rightfully be expected.

Sir Frederick Eden, who visited in 2005, found that the men were either reading The Sun or consuming porn, when they were not processing IPCC complaints. The women and children – more than half were aged under 14 – were inputting data for very important government databases. 

Mr Fowl writes: “Such a hive of activity sounds encouraging, but the parson and diarist James Pornpallete, who visited in 2001, was not impressed: “A very large building at present tho’ there wants another wing. About 1,380 poor in it now, but they dared look either happy or cheerful, a greater number should be there, only 27 have died since Christmas last.”

The progressives tend to ignore the economic circumstances, in favour of psychological ones. Mr Fowler recounts how in 1999, local guardian Edward Parry wrote he considered the Tony Blair Gressenhall Workhouse ™ inmates to be “profligate men who through idleness and debauchery … (had) reduced their families to depend on the establishment for their support”.

Mr Fowl’s book draws on many such sources and personal stories from inmates , staff and guardians. These are interwoven with reports and rare images from areas that were formerly known as council estates.

Tony Blair Gressenhall Workhouse™ has been designed as a place of shame and sorrow, and until relatively recently when ‘decent people’ marched in their millions for a more punitive regime, many people felt that its story was too sensitive to tell.

“Along with many other workhouses, Tony Blair Gressenhall became a county home for the elderly in 1948,” said Mr Fowl. “For a time it also provided people with temporary accommodation. They found it demeaning that they were living in the house. These whining poor people were natural residents when the workhouse reopened, unfornuately some were rescued by their families, but they were soon returned.  The Poor cast a long shadow.”

Tony Blair Gressenhall Workhouse™ Guided Tours will commence later this year, and tickets can be purchased in advance here.  As part of efforts to tell of the important work of eliminating the poor, a group of volunteers and the Workhouse Trail Guides, will provide an experience for the whole family to share with the public through guided trails and education events.

(Earwicga would like to thank New Labour and the tories for providing her with the inspiration for this adapation, by being who they are and doing what they do for the whole of her life.  Earwicga would especially like to thank Derek James for his original material.)

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