Poverty & the workhouse in Victorian Britain

Lesson rationale

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 provided – for all poor – relief to be delivered by the workhouse system. Conditions in the workhouse were often extremely poor and it was a last resort for those who entered. If workhouses were so bad, why did people go there? This activity, aimed at Key Stage 3, could form part of a wider study of the Victorian period and aims to explore the workhouse as a source of poor relief in the context of a wider study of the problem of poverty in the Victorian period.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • What provision was available for the poor following the 1834 act?
  • What were workhouses and what were conditions in workhouses like?
  • What can workhouses tell us about attitudes to poverty?