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The parish of Holy Trinity, Clapham, opened a workhouse in around 1732.A parliamentary report of 1776 listed parish workhouses in operation in Battersea (accommodating up to 70 inmates), Putney (70), Streatham (30), and Wandsworth (120).From a bakehouse, adjoining the kitchen, there issued great baskets of wheaten loaves, steaming from the oven; and passing onwards to the cellar, I was introduced to the presence of a dozen barrels of ale and porter — Barclay and Perkins', if recollect rightly — and the contents of which seemed as excellent as any liquors of the kind I had ever tasted.Ale and porter in a workhouse was a new feature, for which I had not been prepared, seeing that the inmates of our Scotch pauper asylums are judiciously restrained from indulging in any thing stronger than buttermilk or small beer, and that only as a liquefaction to their poor morning and evening meal.The wards were similar to those of other modern infirmaries of the period, except for being longer and having their fireplaces at the centre rather than at the sides or ends of the wards — the large wards had four fireplaces, each of which warmed a quarter of the space.
The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £16,519 or 10s.0d. By the end of the ninenteenth century, Wandsworth and Clapham was London's largest union, with a population of more than 350,000 — a twelfth of the capital's total.
There were also four large day-rooms which, owing to overcrowding, were pressed into use as wards.
The nursing staff comprised 63 female and 4 male nurses, plus other officers and servants.
St John's Hill workhouse from the south-west, c.1913.
© Peter Higginbotham In 1841, a visitor described his experience of the workhouse: One day, while in London, I took the opportunity of driving a few miles west from Vauxhall, on the Wandsworth road, to visit the large workhouse of the Battersea district, lately erected, and in full operation under the new system.