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These documents and building images have been compiled by Dr. Susannah Ottaway with assistance from Carleton College's Digital Humanities Associates, and have also been used to support a digital reconstruction project and course on "Bringing the English Past to Virtual Life," co-taught with Dr. Austin Mason at Carleton College.

The repository currently holds over 1,000 images drawn from manuscript account books and our personal photographs of surviving workhouse buildings.  These include documents and images from more than a dozen workhouses gathered from local county record offices and institutions across England.  Our source collections currently include documents from London and Norfolk.

St Andrew Undershaft - Workhouse Minute Book 1732-1748 p166-167 image 1


This website provides a platform for images and documents that help students of English history – whatever their positions or interests – develop a more direct relationship with the experience of daily life for deeply impoverished people who lived in the eighteenth century (often thought of as the time of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution).  The main institution that housed, protected, exploited, tended, disciplined, fed, clothed and buried these impoverished people was the workhouse.  We display key documents and tag workhouse records so that individuals’ experiences of life in the workhouse can be tracked and retold as pauper biographies, and themes of importance to institutional life (healthcare, punishment, clothing, work) can be traced. Paupers who are especially interesting to track, and examples of such stories can be found here.

The Virtual Workhouse project is also an ongoing experiment in undergraduate research collaborations and has benefited from the diligence and dedication of the following Carleton undergraduates: Florence Wong, Graham Earley, Jeremy Fisher, Alex Wachino, Elizabeth Budd, Brittany Johnson, Madison Chambers, Tumi Akin-Deko, Sam Neubauer, Claire Jensen and Tyler Chang.