The Workhouse – Past, Present, Future

Peeling ceiling in Firbeck Infirmary

The Workhouse aims to reinforce and re-establish the role that this property should play in society today.

What is this project about? 

The Workhouse is the most complete 19th-century workhouse in existence, built in 1824 as a refuge for the destitute. This rural workhouse was designed to house around 160 inmates, who lived and worked in a strictly segregated environment and the building was in use right up until the 1980s.

This conservation and visitor experience project will bring its themes and stories to a 21st-century audience, and asks how society currently manages poverty compared to the past. 

In Spring, visitors to The Workhouse will be able to see the results of this five-year project which has drawn on archival research to conserve the original 1871 Firbeck Infirmary building and has been largely untouched for decades. The completion of the restoration means that visitors will have access to previously unexplored areas of the site. 

Looking into the courtyard from one of The Workhouse windows
Vistors in the courtyard of The Workhouse
Looking into the courtyard from one of The Workhouse windows

What will be different for visitors?

  • Re-created historic spaces to include re-dressed, multi-sensory rooms and exhibition spaces which tell the story of The Workhouse. 

  • Firbeck Infirmary (alongside The Workhouse building) will be recreated with different spaces to chart how it might have looked at its start in the 1870s, to a later 1970s care ward, and including the room used by the last resident when the building finally closed its doors in the late 1980s. Both floors will be accessible with the installation of a lift.

  • A new visitor hub which describes the separation of families within The Workhouse and how they were categorised.

  • Visitors will experience The Workhouse building as the property was designed (where men, women and children were segregated.)

  • A library space, with a searchable database, will be available to explore Workhouse records including census returns, statistics and inspector’s reports along with workhouse reference books and genealogy books available to browse.

  • Multi-media hand held devices which allow the visitor to delve deeper into the stories within The Workhouse and interact with the space around them.

  • Events, activities and arts programmes are also planned to encourage discussion around poverty and social health care provision in the past, present and future.

Hard hat tours of Firbeck Infirmary will be available during the project.
A selection of hard hats on a table
Hard hat tours of Firbeck Infirmary will be available during the project.

When will it be open?

Join us in April 2019 at the new and improved Workhouse as we invite visitors to share their own experiences and to be involved in today’s debates around poverty and welfare.

There will be opportunities for visitors to book onto hard hat tours of the infirmary during the reconstruction work. Watch this space for when these tours are running.

A two storey portacabin on site at The Workhouse

The Workhouse Re-imagining Project

Keep up to date with the latest news and updates about this project.