Floor Plan of Epping Union Workhouse, 1837

This is the ground plan of Epping Union Workhouse in Essex. The workhouse could house 220 persons. Inmates were segregated into various groups and were separated from the opposite sex. The men's yard was apart from the women's yard, and boys had a separate yard to girls, despite the fact that many residents were from the same families. There were workrooms for the adults and a schoolroom for the children. The washing rooms were next to the receiving wards to make sure that new inmates, who may have been considered vagrants or tramps, were clean.

The new Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 set up a strict system of poor relief. Responsibility was transferred from the parishes to the new district Boards of Guardians. Parishes were grouped together into unions and new, more efficient workhouses were built. The system was supervised by a national Poor Law Commission. The aim was to reduce the growing cost of helping the poor.