3 Jul 2010

Time in a Workhouse

One of the things I found out from census returns is that numerous members of my family have spent time in the Workhouses. This word often brings images of Oliver! to the brain (well it does to me anyways), until I started reading more about what they were like. A great starter site to do this is workhouses.org. I decided to look at the Admissions and Discharge Registers for October 1867 to March 1872 as I knew that Ellen PARRY and her children were in the Holywell Workhouse in the 1871 Census.

The Family:

Ellen PARRY nee HAYES was born on the 29 December 1838 in Cilcain, Flintshire to David HAYES and Hannah JAMES. She married Thomas Rice Price PARRY, a Tailor, in St. Mary's Parish Church, Mold on the 29 June 1861.

Ellen and Thomas had four children;

Robert: who was born in 1862 and baptised on the 11th May 1862 at St. Mary's Church, Mold
Hannah, who was born in 1865 and baptised on the 31st May 1865 at St. Mary's Church, Mold
David, who was born on the 31st December 1867 and baptised on the 24th June 1867 at St. Mary's Church, Mold
Ann, who was born on the 4th May 1870 in the Workhouse. I could not find a baptism entry for her.

This is what I found from looking at the records:

Ellen PARRY was admitted to the Union Workhouse, for the first time, on Wednesday 13th December 1869 with her two children, Robert and David. The records show that they were admitted from Mold and that their first meal was Supper. On admission they were described as “Filthy. Deserted”.  Ellen’s year of birth was give as 1838 (38 years old), Robert’s year of birth was 1862 (7 years old) and David’s year of birth was 1867 (2 years old). No religion was listed.
This supports the family tale that Thomas Rice Price PARRY “ran off” and left the family, whether he “ran off to London to get cloth” is however another thing all together.

On Wednesday 4th May 1870 Ellen PARRY gave birth to Ann PARRY whilst in the Workhouse. The record shows that Ann’s first meal was breakfast; so she would have been born sometime during the night. Her religion is noted as being Church of England.

The date of birth would mean that Ellen entered the Workhouse four months pregnant.

On Saturday 10th June 1870, at their own request, Ellen and her children (Robert, David and Ann) were discharged from the Workhouse back to Mold. Their last meal was Dinner and their character was described as “Good”.

The family were admitted for the second time on Thursday 4th August 1870. Their first meal was Dinner and this time their religion was recorded as being Calvinistic Methodists. Again their condition was described as “Filthy. Deserted.”

On Monday 1st May 1871, at their own request, the family were discharged back to Mold. Their last meal was Dinner and their character was described as “Stubborn.” 


I like that she was described as "Stubborn" in the end. My Gt Gt Gt Gt Grandfather was a bit of a rogue if these accounts are to be believed. If he had died prior to their entrance into the Workhouse then I believe they'd have been described as "Widowed", "Destitute" or something similar. My Gt Gt Gt Grandfather (David) remember's being in the workhouse and talked about it to his family. Unfortunately I never got the change to speak with my Gt Gt Grandmother about her family but I was lucky enough to know her (even if I did sit there quietly scared!!)

My next task is to try to find out where Thomas Rice Price PARRY went. Did he come to London? Did he go to South Africa as family lore tells, or did he only refer to himself as Thomas PARRY and disappear into the records?