Through my family history research I have found a few members linked to the workhouse. As yet I haven't seen records as to why they were admitted, but my great x2 grandmother was born in St Luke's workhouse infirmary and my great x3 grandfather died in Shoreditch workhouse aged 80.
I have gone into more detail with tips on tracing your own relatives on my family history page.
Descriptions of the workhouses are generally dire, as well as the areas surrounding them where people lived in lodgings, however it may have appeared to those creating the workhouses that were offering a lot to the poor:
Workhouses varied enormously in size, with the smallest such as Belford in Northumberland housing fifty inmates, while the largest such as Liverpool could be home for several thousand. However, all workhouses were essentially a self-contained — and often largely self-supporting — community. Apart from the basic rooms such as a dining-hall for eating, day-rooms for the elderly, and dormitories for sleeping, workhouses often had their own bakery, laundry, tailor's and shoe-maker's, vegetable gardens and orchards, and even a piggery for rearing pigs. There would also be school-rooms, workshops, nurseries, infirmary and fever wards for the sick, a chapel, and a dead-room or mortuary. Workhouses were also highly compartmentalised to separate the various classes of inmates, with the yards between the various buildings being divided up by eight-foot-high walls.
Quoted from http://www.workhouses.org.uk/life/inside.shtml
|Layout of St Luke's c1873|