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The Andover Workhouse scandal, 1845-6

The Andover scandal of 1845-6 highlighted the hardship of the workhouse regime. McDougal, the Master of the Andover workhouse, had a reputation for inhumanity; rumours of excess cruelty eventually led to a public enquiry. Bone crushing was a normal occupation for paupers. The bones of horses, dogs and other animals (and there were hints that some from local graveyards) were crushed for fertiliser for local farms. The paupers were so hungry that they scrambled for the rotting bones. Bone-crushing became the focus of a case which was reported extensively by The Times and was followed avidly by the public. Edwin Chadwick emerged particularly well and reached the height of his prestige and power at this time. Andover was only the most notorious example of workhouse cruelty. There were several other major scandals and incidents, all recorded by the press in minute detail.

Report from the Select Committee on the Andover Union: Evidence of Charles Lewis, a labourer

9828

(Mr Wakley) What work were you employed about when you were in the workhouse?
I was employed breaking bones.

9829

Were other men engaged in the same work?
Yes

9830

Was that the only employment you had?
That was the only employment I had at the time I was there

9831

Was the smell very bad?
Very bad

9832

Did it appear to affect your health?
It did a great deal mine, and appeared to affect the others

9833

How many men were so employed?
Whether it was nine or ten boxes round the room, I don't recollect.

9834

Was it a close room or shed?
It was a very close room

9835

How did you break them?
We had a large iron bar to break them with

9836

Something like a rammer?
Yes

9837

Had you no other employment at all?
No, not while I was there, but breaking the bones

9838

What sort of bones did they appear to be?
All sorts

9839

During the time you were so employed, did you ever see any of the men gnaw anything or eat anything from those bones?
I have seen them eat marrow out of the bones

9840

You were not examined before Mr Parker, the Assistant Commissioner?
No

9841

Have you often seen them eat the marrow?
I have

9842

Did they state why they did it?
I really believe they were very hungry

9843

Did you yourself feel extremely hungry at that time?
I did, but my stomach would not take it.

9844

You could not swallow the marrow?
No

9845

Did you see any of the men gnaw the meat from the bones?
Yes

9846

Did they use to steal the bones and hid them away?
Yes

9847

Have you seen them have a scramble and quarrel amongst the bones?
I do not know that I have seen them scramble, but I have seen them hide them.

9848

And when a fresh set of bones came in, did they keep a sharp look-out for the best?
Yes

9849

Was that a regular thing?
While I was there.


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Last modified 26 October, 2013

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