Functionality, Commemoration and Civic Competition: A Study of Early Seventeenth-Century Workhouse Design and Building in Reading and Newbury
|Published in:||Architectural History, 2004, v. 47|
In December 1624, the London draper and merchant adventurer, John Kendrick (Fig. 1), died leaving a large proportion of his considerable fortune to charitable causes. Like other early seventeenth-century metropolitan benefactors, he sought to attack the causes of poverty as well as to relieve its impact, and his legacies included the sums of £7,500 and £4,000, bequeathed respectively to the Berkshire towns of Reading and Newbury, to establish workhouses for the employment of the poor. Workhouses were a relatively new public institution at this date. In the wake of the dissolution of both monasteries and religious guilds in the 1530s and 1540s, and consequent decline in charitable support to the poor, urban authorities experimented with a range of measures to relieve poverty. A small number of towns and cities, including York (1567) and Chester (1577), used charitable funds and locally raised poor rates to establish workhouses to provide work and training to the poor. The workhouses were not residential and in some cases merely acted as distribution points for raw materials to be processed at home. In a parallel development, other towns and cities, including London (1555) and Ipswich (1569) established houses of correction to punish vagrants and to force them to work. Some also provided training schools for the young. The state moved quickly to endorse such measures. Legislation was introduced in 1576 requiring justices of the peace to supply stocks of wool, hemp, flax, iron or other materials to provide work for the poor and to establish houses of correction in each county for incorrigible rogues and those who refused to work. Penalties for non-compliance with the legislation were introduced in 1610.
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