Talk: The Workhouse 1601-1948: welfare before the welfare state

23 Sep 2015, 18:45 - 20:30

Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament, SW1A

This illustrated talk will chart the story of the workhouse, the dreaded institution that played a pivotal part in Britain’s poor relief system from its inception in the 17th century until the creation of the welfare state in the 1940s. It will look at how the system evolved, outlining the key parliamentary legislation that guided that development, and how it was administered locally.

The talk will also give a vivid insight into what daily life was like for the inmates and dispel some enduring myths – gruel was not the only food provided!

Speaker Peter Higginbotham is a well-known author and researcher of the workhouse, perhaps best known for his acclaimed website, and has also written many books on the subject. His many TV credits include programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are?, Heir Hunters, Timeshift, 24 Hours in the Past and Servants: The True Story of Life Below Stairs.

This Festival of Freedoms event aligns with the Poor Law banner from ‘The Beginnings of that Freedome’ exhibition in Westminster Hall.


This event is free of charge, but please book your place.
If you have any questions, please contact

Find out about the Festival of Freedoms programme


Share this page

2015: Parliament in the Making