Light bulb moments at The Workhouse

Old light bulb on dusty windowsill in Firbeck

Have your own ‘light bulb moment’ as you discover some of the inventions which we all take for granted but which often came late to The Workhouse. Many improved life for all inmates but some were for the master and matron only.

Spending a penny

Master had a flushing toilet, although its exact date of installation is unknown, while paupers continued to use ‘gazunders’ which were emptied in the privies. The public embraced the concept of ‘spending a penny’ after the Great Exhibition in 1851 when over 800,000 people paid one penny to use a toilet. For this they got a towel, a comb, a shoe-shine and a clean seat.

Fire fighting

Recently a fire extinguisher vial, dating from around 1900 was discovered, with its contents of sulphuric acid still intact. It would have been placed inside a fire extinguisher, suspended above another solution. When broken by a plunger, the liquids would combine to produce foam which was forced through a hose.

Let there be light

In 1928 the clerk arranged for The Workhouse to be surveyed in preparation for the installation of electrical wiring and fittings. Prior to that date it is likely that paraffin was the main fuel used to provide lighting.

Find out more about important discoveries and their impact on The Workhouse from 1 March to 24 April 2016 (Wednesdays-Sundays).