Re-Imagining The Workhouse, Southwell

Peeling wallpaper in the old workhouse infirmary

We want visitors to engage with The Workhouse in new ways relevant to the 21st century.

What is the project?

Using the history of The Workhouse and soon to be refurbished Firbeck House, we want to stimulate debate around poverty and social care both then and now, and encourage you to contribute to the site’s evolving story.

We want to explore the site’s darker history, debate its strengths as well as weaknesses, and invite comparisons to the present day support for vulnerable people. 

Looking through the window of The Workhouse
Looking through the window of The Workhouse

What does this mean?

Together, staff and volunteers are taking a new approach into how we interpret the stories of the site. We want to address the real human experiences of The Workhouse’s Victorian use, and how this connects to our society today - both in the UK and beyond.

Through this work, we will be generating new events and interpretation addressing how society has approached housing, employment, child care, health, education, provision in old age and political representation over the last 200 years.

The stories emanating from The Workhouse are arguably of particular relevance to the society and world we live in today; it is our duty to represent them and give them a contemporary voice.

A Workhouse volunteer working with a student from Nottingham Trent University
A Workhouse volunteer working with a student from Nottingham Trent University

A 21st Century Workhouse

We want to create a role for The Workhouse in the 21st century, to be an accessible and supportive heritage resource for local communities. This includes working in partnership with Newark Emmaus Trust, who we will be working with to deliver training and work experience to individuals to support their future.

'What is home?’

Our Creative Fellows for 2017 are Sheffield based theatre and interactive arts company the Bare Project. They have been working closely with staff, volunteers and creative and academic partners, to inform our new exhibitions which visitors will be able to see over the course of this year.

As part of this new interpretation, we will be looking into the theme of ‘home’, addressing what the concept of what ‘home’ is and means to people. 

At our recent creative retreat, Julie Kirk Manager of Minster View, a learning disability home and care provider neighbouring The Workhouse site, talked about what home means to the children they care for. The aim for children in care is to provide a 'home' and not an institution. This inspired a debate on how The Workhouse could have been perceived by its inhabitants, and what it means to have a ‘home’ – for example contemporary links to the current refugee and homeless crisis experienced across Europe. 

Creative Retreat
Creative Retreat