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[Up to 1834] [After 1834] [Staff] [Inmates] [Records] [Bibliography] [Links] Up to 1834 The parish of St Mary Newington opened its first workhouse in around 1734. A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a workhouse at Newington able to accommodate up to 200 inmates. In 1814, the parish obtained a local Act of parliament allowing it to establish a body known as the Governors and Guardians of the Poor for collecting and administering the poor rate and raise money for "rebuilding or repairing the workhouse" which was "insufficient for the accommodation and proper employment of the poor".
An 1830 map shows the layout of the workhouse which was located at the west side of Walworth Road. Newington workhouse site, 1830. After 1834 St Mary, Newington, including the hamlet of Walworth, was constituted as a Poor Law Parish on 9th May, 1836. Its operation was to be overseen by an elected Board of 18 Guardians. The population falling within the Parish at the 1831 census had been 44,526. The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £18,348 or 8s.
3d. per head of the population. Following a legal ruling in January 1837, however, the parish's Local Act was judged to place it outside the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act and it continued to operate as a Local Act Parish and using the old Walworth Road workhouse. In 1850, the parish erected an industrial school at the south side of Westmoreland Road in Walworth. After it was completed, the Guardians decided to instead place the children at the North Surrey District School and use the new building to house adult paupers.
Its location is shown on the map of 1875 below: Newington workhouse site, 1875. In 1868, the recently formed Metropolitan Asylums Board set up six new Sick Asylum Districts for the purposes of providing hospital care for the poor on separate sites from workhouses. One of the new Districts, named Newington, comprised the St Saviour Union and the parishes of St George-the-Martyr, Southwark, and St Mary, Newington.
However, the new hospital required by the new scheme was felt to be too expensive and, instead, the Newington Sick Asylum District was reconstituted as an enlarged St Saviour Poor Law Union of which St Mary, Newington, then became part. The enlarged union redeployed its existing sites to provide the separate workhouse and hospital accommodation that was required. The Westmoreland Road site was initially used as an infirmary.
Its layout is shown on the 1876 map below. Newington workhouse site, 1876. The main building, at the south of the site, was a T-shaped layout with male inmates housed at the west and females at the east. At the centre were the dining hall and kitchens, with a laudry to the rear on the female side. A bakehouse and work-rooms lay at the rear on the male side A smaller complex of buildings to the north-west contained futher sick wards and lock (venereal) wards, together with a mortuary and casual wards for the overnight accommodation of vagrants.
In 1896, future star of the silent screen Charles Chaplin (then aged seven) briefly became an inmate of the Newington workhouse, together with his mother, Hannah, and his older half-brother Sydney. They went through the usual admissions procedure of being separated from their mother, the children having their hair cut short, and the workhouse uniform replacing their own clothes which were steamed and put into store.
After three weeks, the two children were then transferred to the Central London District School at Hanwell. Two months later, the children were returned to the workhouse where they were met at the gate by Hannah, dressed in her own clothes. In desperation to see them, she had discharged herself from the workhouse, along with the children. After a day spent playing in Kennington park and visiting a coffee-shop, they returned to the workhouse and had to go through the whole admissions procedure once more, with the children again staying there for a probationary period before returning to Hanwell.
Some of neighbouring properties were gradually absorbed into the site as shown on the 1916 map below. Newington workhouse site, 1916. After 1930, the workhouse became Newington Lodge Public Assistance Institution under the control of the London County Council. The premises were later used as short-term accommodation for homeless families and appeared in the 1966 television play Cathy Come Home. The buildings no longer exist.
Staff Inmates Records Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. The Ancestry website has two collections of London workhouse records: The FindMyPast website has workhouse / poor law records for Westminster. London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R OHB. Holdings include: Guardians' minute books (1869-70); Births (1888-1930); Deaths (1888-1906); Creed register (1848-72, 1877-1930); Admissions and discharges (1851-1930); etc.
Bibliography Chaplin, Charles (1964) My Autobiography (Bodley Head: London) Links [Top of Page] [Unions List] [Unions Map] [Home Page] Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.
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Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in Walworth, London,on April 16, 1889, the son of two music hall performers, Charles and Hannah Chaplin. His parents separated before he was five years old. His mother struggled to make a living despite help from young Charlie who first appeared on stage at the age of five. In 1896, seven-year old Charlie briefly became an inmate of the Newington workhouse, together with his mother, Hannah, and his older half-brother Sydney.
They went through the usual admission procedure of being separated from their mother, the children having their hair cut short, and the workhouse uniform replacing their own clothes which were steamed and put into store. In June 1896, after three weeks at Newington, the two children were transferred to the Central London District School at Hanwell. They made the journey in a horse-drawn bakery van and spent time in the "approbation" ward and were then separated with Charlie going to the infants' section and Sydney to the main school.
In his autobiography, Chaplin recalls that on Saturday afternoon, the bath-house was reserved for the infants who were bathed by older girls — he suffered the ignominy of receiving an all-over wash with a face-cloth from a fourteen year-old. Hanwell school from the north-west, c.1910.© Peter Higginbotham. On reaching the age of seven, he moved to the older boys' department. He recounts the story of a boy of fourteen trying to escape from the school by climbing on to the school roof and defying staff by throwing missiles and horse-chestnuts at them as they climbed after him.
For such offences there were regular Friday morning punishment sessions in the gymnasium where all the boys lined up on three sides of a square. For minor offences, a boy was laid face down across a long desk, feet strapped, while his shirt was pulled out over his head. Captain Hindrum, a retired Navy man, then gave him from three to six hefty strokes with a four-foot cane. Recipients would cry appallingly or even faint and afterwards have to be carried away to recover.
For more serious offences, birch was used — after three strokes, a boy needed to be taken to the surgery for treatment. Chaplin himself once received three strokes with the cane, apparently for an offence he did not commit. Hanwell school from the south-east, 2002.© Peter Higginbotham. Two months later, the children were returned to the workhouse where they were met at the gate by Hannah, dressed in her own clothes.
In desperation to see them, she had discharged herself from the workhouse, along with the children. After a day spent playing in Kennington park and visiting a coffee-shop, they returned to the workhouse and had to go through the whole admissions procedure once more, with the children agaian staying there for a probationary period before returning to Hanwell. Sydney, on reaching the age of eleven, left Hanwell to join the training ship Exmouth.
Charlie remained at the school until January 1898. During his remaining time there, he caught ringworm — an infectious disease of the scalp which was common amongst pauper children. Its treatment required the head to be shaved and treated with iodine which made sufferers the subject of ridicule by other boys. After a brief period back with his mother, Chaplin was sent for a while to the Lambeth workhouse and then to Lambeth's children's schools at Norwood.
However, when Hannah was admitted to the Cane Hill Asylum, both brothers went to live with their father. Lambeth Norwood Schools.© Peter Higginbotham In 1906, Charlie became a music-hall clown in Fred Karno's Mumming Birds company. With Karno, he visited the USA in 1913 and his act was seen by film producer Mack Sennett who hired Chaplin for his film studio, Keystone. Charlie's tramp character, which no doubt drew on the experiences of his early life, eventually made him the highest paid actor in Hollywood.
Hanwell school Charlie Chaplin memorial plaque, 2002.© Peter Higginbotham. Bibliography Chaplin, Charles (1964) My Autobiography (Bodley Head: London) Stewart, Susan The Central London District Schools 1856-1933: A Short History by (c.1980, Hanwell Community Association) [Workhouse Memories] [Workhouse Home Page] Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.
Title: Stoke Newington Art Shop