Heritage varieties abound in The Workhouse garden

View of workhouse garden from building through a window

The Workhouse vegetable garden has always played an important role in the lives of inmates, be it labouring in the garden, spreading night soil or harvesting produce. Today, visitors can sample the plentiful supply of vegetables and admire the heritage varieties grown while reflecting on their visit to The Workhouse.

Gardeners’ delight

The team of volunteer gardeners at The Workhouse labour long and hard to re-create the vegetable garden that would have served the needs of the staff and inmates in Victorian times. Most of the vegetables and fruit grown are heritage varieties in a range of colours and always bursting with flavour.

Seasonal offerings 

The vegetable garden has something to offer each season from Victoria and Albert rhubarb in early spring to marrows and squashes which add a splash of colour in the autumn.

This year, our hardworking gardeners have sown British Queen potatoes, beetroot varieties in traditional red but also yellow and white. Have a look out for Barabietola di Choggia which has red and white rings. You can eat it raw when it is cut into thin slices or why not try our popular tried and tested chocolate beetroot brownie recipe? If the rabbits don’t get there first, we should be cropping the full range of coloured carrots this year. Originally grown as a medicinal plant, they were even used as an aphrodisiac. 

" We have begun to harvest the potatoes, beans and onions. Look out for the Turk’s Turban variety of squash with its colourful markings in the autumn. We’ll also have pumpkins for carving at Halloween. "

Dreary diet

The garden you can see today was recreated in 2004 on the site of the original vegetable garden which provided food for the inmates, with any surplus being sold off to generate income. The vegetables would have added some interest to the monotonous diet of bread and watery gruel which was the mainstay of the pauper diet. Although fruit trees were planted there is no evidence of the produce being included in the pauper diet and it was probably solely for consumption by the Master and his household.

The Bramley apple trees are over 100 years old and have a special connection with the local area, as Southwell is the home of the Bramley apple. The original seedling was planted by a local girl over 200 years ago and the town still hosts an annual celebratory festival in October.

Bramley apples, which originated in Southwell, growing in the Workhouse garden
Bramley apples on tree in Workhouse garden
Bramley apples, which originated in Southwell, growing in the Workhouse garden

Pauper pickings

Every Saturday during August, the volunteer gardeners don pauper costumes to tend the gardens (not that easy in heavy skirts and clogs) and help visitors pick vegetables to take home. Tasty salads made with 'fat lazy blond' lettuce or 'tall telegraph' beans make a great supper dish and recipes can be found on the vegetable barrow.

Pauper pickings available for a donation
Fruit and vegetable picked by a volunteer
Pauper pickings available for a donation