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Facilities and accommodation
in casual wards

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Bathrooms in casual wards

The scene in the casual ward bathroom was extraordinarily repulsive. Fifty dirty, stark-naked men elbowing each other in a room twenty feet square, with only two bath-tubs and two slimy roller towels between them all. I shall never forget the reek of dirty feet. They all washed their faces and feet and the horrid greasy little clouts known as toe-rags which they blind round their toes because their boots are worn through so much walking and probably never fitted properly anyway.

When we had finished bathing, the official tied our clothes in bundles and gave us workhouse shirts - grey cotton things of doubtful cleanliness, like abbreviated nightgowns.

edited extracts from George Orwell's
'Down and out in London and Paris'

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Bedroom cells

The following photos were taken in the Guildford Spike - see www.guildfordspike.co.uk, which has been restored on the original workhouse site. The model shown in one of the photos was life-size and appeared to be made of white unpainted plaster which very effectively harmonised with what was being portrayed.

The main corridor of a casual ward, also known as a dosshouse, showing the doors of the cells.

The main corridor showing the doors of the cells.

Inside a cell of a casual ward, also known as a dosshouse,
 showing the narrow bed and the individual work area leading off.

Inside a cell, showing the narrow bed and the individual work area leading off.

The heavy door to the cell of a casual ward, also known as a dosshouse,
 showing the huge bold at the top and the peep hole to let the 'tramp major' keep an eye on the vagrants.

The heavy door to a cell. Note the huge bold at the top and the peep hole to let the tramp major keep an eye on the vagrants. This was covered in mesh to present a vagrant poking a finger into the tramp major's eye.

The barred window of the cell of a casual ward (also known as a dosshouse
), which doubled as a sieve or measure for the rocks broken up by the vagrants.

The barred cell window. The square bars also served as a sieve for sizing rock-breaking work.

As the tramps/vagrants had to be regarded as criminals or potential criminals, they spent the night in cells which were locked up, rather like in a prison. Each cell had its own small work area with a barred window and a bucket to serve as a lavatory.

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