The Workhouse – Past, Present, Future

A room in Firbeck Infirmary with peeling wallpaper

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

About the project? 

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 segregated environment and the building was in use right up until the 1980s.

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

In 2019, visitors to The Workhouse will be able to see the results of a 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 now have access to Firbeck beyond the café space.

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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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 (open 5 July 2019.)
  • A library space within Firbeck Infirmary, 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.
  • Seasonal events, activities and arts programmes to encourage discussion around poverty and social health care provision in the past, present and future.
Renovation due in Firbeck Infirmary
Peeling ceiling in Firbeck Infirmary
Renovation due in Firbeck Infirmary

When will it be open?

On 23 April 2019, the new and improved main Workhouse building (including the new Visitor hub) and café will be open to the public. Firbeck Infirmary is a major renovation project and is due to open to the public in July.

Join us to share your experiences and be involved in today’s debates around poverty and welfare.

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.