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Paupers, Bastards and Lunatics: The Story of Conwy Workhouse

  • £8.50
  • £0.00
  • Author: Christopher Draper
  • Publication Date June 2005
  • Format: Paperback, 210x148 mm, 262 pages

The history of Conway workhouse, 1859-1948, a source of both suffering and sanctuary, stories about some colourful inmates and about a number of tragic cases associated with the establishment including the transportation of paupers to Canada and Van Diemen's Land. Over 50 black-and-white illustrations.

Gwales Review

This historical title focuses on the union workhouse at Conwy, and the author has unearthed a great deal of fascinating and important material.

In the 1850s, a decade when many workhouses began operating throughout the country, there was a perverse obsession as far as poverty was concerned and it was seen as a disease. It was felt that this had to be isolated and controlled in order to protect the moral health of society.

In 1859 Conwy workhouse – or the Bastille as it became known – was ready to do its worst and, as the author puts it, ‘paupers awaited their imminent imprisonment with fear and trepidation’.

The inmates were confined in humiliating and wretched conditions, with family members strictly segregated and all contact with the outside world denied. They were forced to carry out pointless tasks such as stone-breaking, and refusal to do it would result in a gaol sentence.

The author has researched very widely and the result is a fascinating work of social history, which is very well illustrated with period photographs and other images. Mr Draper makes us feel grateful that we live in more enlightened times as far as attitudes to the poor are concerned.

Dewi Roberts