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Eden, in his 1797 survey of the poor in England, reported of the St Mary's workhouse that: The Poor are chiefly maintained in a workhouse, erected about 20 years ago, for £1,400, of which £650 has been paid off. The parish has a standing overseer, who, it is generally observed, keeps down the rates more than officers elected annually. Tea is generally used here, twice a day, by the Poor; the other part of their diet is, principally, the best wheaten bread, and occasionally a little bacon; it is seldom sufficiently boiled, and is thought to give them the sallow complexion which is much observable here.It seems a comfortable and convenient lodging for the Poor, but not always sufficiently aired. Reading Poor Law Union was formed on 10th August 1835.
The workhouse was run by several "undertakers" — local clothiers, appointed by the Corporation, who organised the cloth production for which they received loans from the common stock.
Complaints also began that insufficient work was being created for the poor. Donations of about £100 a year are distributed among the Poor. Many of the labouring classes here possess very little foresight.
In 1639, the workhouse was reorganised to provide training and employment for fatherless children. Twelve persons belonging to this parish are in different almshouses, and receive from 7d. It is not uncommon for a healthy young fellow, who has ample means of supporting himself and family, to request the parish to pay for the midwife for his first child.
The accommodation was required to house 106 males and 95 females, including 102 aged and infirm, 76 able-bodied, 13 infants, and 10 imbeciles and epileptics. Following a visit to Reading, the commission's report gave the establishment a glowing report. Reading Workhouse as War Hospital, c.1915 © Peter Higginbotham. Following the closure of casual wards at Windsor, Easthampstead, Maidenhead, Wokingham, and Henley, a brand new casual ward was opened to the east of Reading at Woodley, near the junction of the Reading and Bath Roads where Norwich Drive now stands.
The infirmary was to have male and female wards each with 13 beds, a three-bed and a four-bed itch ward (for scabies), two bedrooms for dirty cases, and a lying-in room for three women and three infants. The winning design was by a Mr Woodman, and building began in April 1866. A new infirmary was added at the west of the workhouse in 1892 and the old infirmary became a female residential block, with the old workhouse being used entirely for males. Unlike many other workhouses reviewed by the commission, Reading had a modern infirmary and a well-resourced nursing section which included a sister, four nurses, and two probationers. Reading Workhouse - 1911 Aged and infirm block, c.1915. Reading Workhouse - 1911 Aged and infirm block, c.1915. On March 1st 1915, the War Office requisitioned the Reading workhouse for use by the military authorities. The new Woodley Institution was officially opened ion 27th March, 1931.
common stock to be employed and bestowed in trade of clothing, either in making of coloured cloathes, or whites, as the time shall require; and also in working of Wooll, Hemp, Flax, Iron, grinding of Brasill woods and other stuffes for Dying, or otherwise, as...