Workhouse conditions

Brighton General Hospital, once Brighton Workhouse
Image of Brighton General Hospital originally taken for the Hanovernet website

The Lancet Commission
The Lancet commission was set up in 1865 to enquire into the state of workhouse infirmaries both in London and the provinces. Their findings were of appalling conditions almost everywhere.  In May 1868 The Lancet published a letter from Dr. E. Russell, medical Officer to the workhouse, in which he praises the conditions of the Brighton workhouse. He reported that: “…the lying in wards held a large preponderance of single women, mostly servant girls. Some of the town, a few with syphilis and many married women who had been deserted by their husbands”.

A model workhouse
He also records that the death rate among infants was unaccountably high, but after ‘close questioning’ of the midwife in whose cupboard he had found an ounce of laudanum, he was satisfied that she had not contributed to these deaths.  He concludes with an invitation to the Lancet Commissioners to inspect the workhouse at any time, “we consider it in all respects a model one, one pleasing feature of which is that arrangements are made for the co-habitation of old married couples”.

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