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Each class of inmates — men, women, boys,and girls — occupied its respective division of the house, with an appropriate airing-ground behind.In one apartment, I found about thirty elderly men picking oakum, a very light employment; and is another place there were some men, of greater strength, working a pump which propelled water to a cistern, at the summit of the building.St John's Hill workhouse from the south-west, c.1913.© Peter Higginbotham In 1841, a visitor described his experience of the workhouse: One day, while in London, I took the opportunity of driving a few miles west from Vauxhall, on the Wandsworth road, to visit the large workhouse of the Battersea district, lately erected, and in full operation under the new system.Substantial changes and additions were made to the buildings, including a nurses' home in 1898 at the north-east corner of the site. © Peter Higginbotham St John's Hill children's ward, 1896.The later layout of the site is shown on the 1916 map below. © Peter Higginbotham After its enlargement, the St John's site provided 32 general wards of various sizes, and 10 special rooms or wards for isolation cases.The contents of the ale and porter barrels, I was informed, were not administered generally, but only to old or infirm paupers by order of the medical attendant, and to those who wrought in the garden, or at more than usually severe labour.
The first Wandsworth workhouse was built in 1730 on East Hill, on ground leased from the local lord of the manor, Earl Spencer.
The wards were similar to those of other modern infirmaries of the period, except for being longer and having their fireplaces at the centre rather than at the sides or ends of the wards — the large wards had four fireplaces, each of which warmed a quarter of the space.
One ward was set apart for children, varying in age from a few days old to eight or ten years.
In 1895, the total number of inmates was 3,559, of whom 2,921 were new cases; 2,501 patients recovered from their ailments, and 435 (12.2 per cent) died.
One celebrated inmate of the Wandsworth Union Infirmary was a Mrs.
One or two men were also working in the large garden of the establishment.