Monday, 15 August 2011

News - Archives aim to bring past to life (Southwell Workshouse)

The stories of those who lived and worked in Southwell Workhouse are being brought to life by new research.

The National Trust, which owns the workhouse, is working with Nottingham University to find out more about the building’s occupants.

Dr Paul Carter, currently based at the National Archives in London, who has been appointed to the new post of part-time research fellow at the university, is working on the project.

Volunteers at the workhouse have spent ten years scouring records and have unearthed stories of its occupants.

With Dr Carter’s help, it is hoped to develop a portfolio of historical studies of inmates and staff, giving a snapshot of the daily routine for individuals, from cradle to grave.

“This kind of project opens the lid on Victorian England and looks into the dark corners of poverty, illness and unemployment commonplace for many in the 19th Century,” Dr Carter said.

“I am delighted to be working alongside volunteers at the workhouse who have already contributed so much to our understanding of the institution and its broader social context.”

The workhouse’s property manager, Rachel Harris, said she hoped the research would be instrumental in transforming visitor experience as the Workhouse entered its second decade under National Trust custodianship.

She said: “We hope people will be able to reflect, feel and make connections with the building, its records and artefacts, but most importantly its people.

“At times this may be challenging, emotive and thought-provoking, at others amusing, uplifting and surprising.”

All the correspondence between the workhouse and the Poor Law bodies up to 1901 has been archived online and can be viewed on The National Archive’s website

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