Workhouse Labour, 1852

It was Dickens's intention in Oliver Twist to expose to the public the horrors of life for much of London's poor population. This included vivid descriptions of conditions in the workhouses.

Many workhouses were established following the Poor law amendments of 1834, which stated that "no able bodied person was to receive money or other help from Poor Law Authorities except in a workhouse". This chart shows the kind of work that inmates were forced to carry out in workhouses around the country, including stone-breaking or oakum-picking - unravelling lengths of tarred rope, for use in calking the seams of battleships. For all this, the pauper received only an allowance of coarse bread; 4 pounds a week if he was married, plus 2 pounds for each child.