The Rotherham Workhouse
Rotherham’s workhouse was opened in one of the most healthiest and picturesque areas of the town on the 31st July 1840, at a cost of £232 3s 3d.
After the Poor Law Commissioners visited the workhouse on the15th March 1848 they recommend some accommodation for the sick. The board of guardians (the workhouse committee) called a special meeting the following day, all agreeing that an infirmary would be essential for the health of the paupers. So a room was set aside within the workhouse to become the workhouse hospital. Paupers (inmates) within the workhouse took on the responsibility of nursing the sick under the medical supervision of the occasional visiting Medical Officer of Health. The hospital mainly treated patients will smallpox.
Little is known about how this early hospital was run or the health of the people of Rotherham. Other workhouse reports around the same time described workhouse infirmaries as basic, dirty, dismal places where disease was likely to spread. In March 1853, the workhouse and the hospital were under investigation after the Poor Law Inspector visited the workhouse and complained about poor patient treatment and the quality nursing care. After this investigation, the first paid nurse was employed at the workhouse.
It wouldn’t be until April 1871 before the workhouse had its first purpose built hospital at a total cost of £4,098.
The hospital was opened just in time as, like various other parts of the country, Rotherham suffered an outbreak of smallpox. 11 people had died of the disease within the past week. A letter of complaint was sent to the Rotherham Advertiser on the 6th July 1872 listing a number of complaints. The author said he had been placed in a bed that had been occupied by another smallpox patient and the linen had not been changed and the bed was full of “scale” which had fallen off the previous occupant.
After a public meeting was held to look in to this complaint, a Smallpox Committee was set up to look into the welfare of the patients in the fever hospital. The hospital went on the treat other conditions like whooping cough, measles, scarlatina, influenza and typhoid fever.
Over the years the Workhouse has had a number of names including Alma Road Institution, The Mount, The General & Municipal Hospital and Moorgate Hospital.
Henry Charles Turner
Master of the Workhouse 1885