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Ripon Workhouse-Exterior

Hard Times

Blue Badge Guide, Rosemary Barnes tells us about hard labour in her favourite Yorkshire museum – Ripon Workhouse.  

Ripon Workhouse museum is a must-see on any visit to Yorkshire if you are interested in how people lived in the past.  The Victorian workhouse has been turned into a fascinating museum where you can find out more about the lives of the inmates. The workhouse provided shelter for men, women and children who had no other place to live and was an important pillar of social care in the 19th century.

Ripon Workhouse-Children

Ripon Workhouse-Children

Having to go into the workhouse because you had no other means to support yourself was the ultimate stigma. All aspects of the “inmates” lives were regimented – from the identikit clothes they had to wear to the daily schedule of events.

Much of the day was spent in hard labour – breaking stones if you were male, or toiling in the laundry for women. Men and women were strictly segregated, even families were split up.

Ripon Workhouse-Winter

Ripon Workhouse-Winter

5 reasons to visit:

  1. It’s the most complete former workhouse in Yorkshire. The living accommodation of the inmates is recreated in the museum together with the more comfortable rooms of the Master and Matron – often a married couple.
  2. Volunteers are now restoring the gardens and there are plans to open up some of the other buildings for community use. Ripon can boast an almost complete complex of buildings including outhouses and a “piggery” – minus the pig!
  3. You will meet costumed volunteers playing the role of the Guardians who were responsible for the overall management of the site.
  4. Children will enjoy dressing up in the clothes provided and can endure a lesson in the old-fashioned classroom on school visits. Refreshments are available for groups if pre-arranged.
  5. There are other attractions in Ripon to visit including the Prison Museum, Old Courthouse,  market square, traditional shops and the wonderful Cathedral dating from Norman times.