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Schooling in the workhouse

A high proportion of the inmates of Herefordshire workhouses were children, especially after the admission of orphans became compulsory in 1838.

The Guardians of the workhouse were then made responsible for the education of the inmates, and most workhouses in the county contained a schoolroom.

Within the workhouse the responsibility of educating the children fell to the Chaplain who was to instruct children "in their moral and religious duties" two to three times a week. The Schoolmaster was to teach the boys a trade and the Schoolmistress was to teach the girls to knit and sew.

School hours in Hereford workhouse were 9-12 and 2-5 on Monday to Saturday. On each school day the children would be separated into boys and girls and be taken for an hour's walk. They were to avoid the town and not cause any mischief. They were also required to salute people that they passed.

Some of the children received individual training in a trade by the workhouse tailor, shoesmith or farm manager.

The education system of Hereford Workhouse was criticised by Inspectors in 1848, who found that only six of the 89 children could work out an account or add up a bill, but the industrial training was recorded as satisfactory.

As soon as the children were old enough, usually at the age of nine, they were apprenticed out or put into service with local businesses. In 1840, the Great Western Cotton Works of Bristol offered to take able-bodied girls of about 13 years of age from Hereford, offering to pay them 3s 6d per week and to give them board and lodging for the first six weeks, then upping their wages to 6s 8d a week.

(For further information, see Sylvia A. Morrill, "Poor Law in Hereford 1836-1851", Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, Vol. XLI Part II, 1974, pp. 239-252.)