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It consisted of rows of workshops around a central courtyard, with Kendrick's remodelled house forming the north and east sides. The premises included a large dye-house containing three furnaces, two woad vats and a float vat), a stockarding house, a medling loft with beating hurdles, several weavers' shops containing six broad looms and a kersey loom, and various clothworkers' shops.
The main entrance, at the north side was through an ornate dutch-gabled stone gateway. By 1633, a Widow Lampit had been given the free use of several rooms in the workhouse to teach and set the poor on work is spinning and carding.
[Up to 1834] [After 1834] [Staff] [Inmates] [Records] [Bibliography] [Links] In December 1624, Reading received a bequest of £8,400 in the will of wealthy London draper John Kendrick.
Finally, in 1865, a site was bought for a new workhouse on the north side of the Oxford Road near Battle Farm. The workhouse site was finally handed back to the Board of Guardians in 1920.
By 1628, the site had been redeveloped to provide a workhouse for poor clothiers.
The impressive building (for which William Brockman, brickmaker of Tilehurst, supplied 200,000 bricks and 20,000 tiles) became known as "The Oracle" — the name possibly deriving from "orchal", a violet dye obtained from lichen.
The first inmates were admitted in August 1867 and by the end of the year the paid medical staff consisted of a nurse at a salary £20 per annum, an assistant nurse, and a nurse for the idiots and imbeciles. Reading then adopted the 'scattered homes' system for its pauper children, setting up a number of homes around the town, including: 82-84 Crescent Road; 'Camarra' and 'Rosemont', King's Road; 109 London Road; 11-13 Milman Road; 59 Queen's Road; 23-25 and 40 Russell Street; 'Wilson' and 'Clifford', South Street; and 'Ashberry' and 'Sutton', Southampton Street.
A receiving home for new admissions was based at The Beeches, 109 London Road, Reading.
They are chiefly employed in spinning hemp, but 2 looms for weaving sail cloth were lately erected. Dinner—Sunday, Thursday—Meat, pudding, vegetables and bread; Monday, Saturday Bread and cheese; Tuesday—Bread and broth; Wednesday, Friday—Cold meat. Old people are allowed tea, bread and butter for breakfast. The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1832-35 had been £8,179 or 10s.2d. For the first 30 years of its life, Reading Union made use of two of the pre-1834 parish workhouses which were adapted and enlarged: St Mary's (160 inmates) was for the aged, the infirm, the sick, mothers with children, and children without parents; St Laurence's (190 inmates) was used for able-bodied paupers and vagrants. In 1846, the Poor Law Commissioners expressed concern about sanitary conditions at St Laurence's. This suggestion dismissed by the guardians, although in April of the following year an additional workhouse was opened specifically to accommodate the 'wayfaring and vagrant poor'.