With Christmas approaching and the cost-of-living crisis continuing to bite, charities are appealing for donations to help those in need this Christmas and beyond. Thankfully, attitudes towards those in need have come a long way since Dickens introduced us to Ebenezer Scrooge.

Built in 1824, the Workhouse at Southwell stands as an exceptionally well-preserved window into Victorian attitudes towards the poor.

Photograph of the Workhouse in Southwell

Above: The Workhouse, Southwell. By DeFacto - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia.

The English Poor Law of 1834 led to the establishment of around 1800 workhouses throughout England and Wales. Built to eliminate pauperism, they effectively became prisons for the most vulnerable in society. Victorian attitudes were harsh: unsympathetic, and morally judgmental. Conditions in the workhouses were intentionally austere and unpleasant to deter all but the truly destitute. Upon entry, families were split up into male and female wings, and children separated from their parents. They lived and worked segregated lives, with no contact. Workhouse inmates slept in communal dormitories on narrow beds, with very basic bedding. They wore institutional uniforms and were put to work on gruelling physical tasks like breaking rocks, picking oakum fibres from old ropes, laundry work or corn grinding. The food provided was of very poor nutritional quality and meagre portions.

Whilst life for the 160 inmates at Southwell was undoubtedly bleak and unpleasant, there is evidence that gradual improvements were made as attitudes changed and new poor laws were passed. One major advance was the distinction made between the non-disabled ‘undeserving’ poor (the idle) and the infirm and elderly ‘deserving’ (blameless) poor, who were to be housed in an infirmary and cared for by nurses. The number of school places was expanded, and inmates began to work in the community with a view to a future beyond the walls. Decorative elements such as flower beds were introduced to create a more humane environment.

In 1929, new legislation transferred control of the workhouses to local authorities, who were required to run them as hospitals for the elderly and infirm who were unable to leave. The name was changed to Greet House, and people with social needs continued to be provided for here, until the late 1970s.

The site was purchased by the National Trust in 1997, and after years of restoration, was opened to the public in 2002. Today, the building is brought to life through the stories and objects of those who once lived here. The workhouse building has been designated as a Grade II* listed building as the most complete example of a workhouse in Britain and for its historical and social significance, representing the poor, who are largely missing from history, and the impact of poverty across the generations.

Check out the HER record here 

Pubs have been an important part of life in Nottinghamshire for centuries, not only providing refreshments but as the focus of community life. The origin of pubs can be traced back to the Roman period when ‘Tabernae' selling wine were set up along roads and in towns. In the Medieval period, Alehouses emerged. These were private homes where the householder brewed ale. The brewing process meant ale was safer to drink than water. Taverns were built to accommodate more people and to offer food, and larger Inns were built to include lodgings and accommodation for travellers. Collectively, these establishments are known as public houses (pubs).

Many old pubs are listed by Historic England or Locally Listed by local planning authorities to conserve them as an important part of our cultural heritage. More than 200 public houses are recorded in the Nottinghamshire Historic Environment Record (HER). Use this link here and enter ‘public houses’ to see the complete list.

Nottingham has a claim to the oldest surviving pub in England - the famous ‘Trip to Jerusalem’ inn carved into the rock below the castle, is said to date to 1189 AD. It is reputed to have been used as a recruitment centre for knights signing up to join King Richard I on the Crusades. The earliest parts of the timber structure date that survive today, date to the early 17th century. The pub was Grade II listed in 1952.

Photograph of Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Pub

Above: The famous Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub

Many of our old pub buildings have historic value. They often retain original features such as timber frames, flagstone floors, and leaded windows. Their building style, construction type and materials vary. The name of the pub often reflects local history, referring to historical people, landscape features, animals, hobbies and occupations.

Pub names are often based on heraldic symbols. The most common pub name in Britain is The Red Lion, originally the heraldic symbol of King James I. Six are recorded in the Nottinghamshire Historic Environment Record (two are now domestic houses). Other heraldic symbols include Lions, Dragons, Unicorns, Griffin, and Crowns.

Examples include:

Photograph of the 18th-century Crown Inn at East Markham

Above: The 18th-century 'Crown Inn' at East Markham. Check out the HER record here

Other pub names refer directly to Kings and Queens, famous people and local aristocracy:

Photograph of the sixteenth century ‘The Queens Head’ at Newark

Above: The sixteenth century ‘The Queens Head’ at Newark. Check out the HER record here

Photograph of The Manvers Arms (Radcliffe on Trent)

Above: 'The Manvers Arms' at Radcliffe on Trent. Check out the HER record here

Other pub names can give us clues about the landscape, names such as The Willow Tree, and Bridge Tavern. Names may be based on local wildlife, such as The Black Swan or The Fox. Some tell us about the interactions between humans and animals, The Butcher and the Bull or The Jolly Angler or even domestic animals like The Greyhound. Other pub names mention local industry and pastimes: Miners, Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Gardeners, and Cricketers to name a few.

Photograph of The Old Greyhound Public House at Aslockton

Above: The Old Greyhound Public House at Aslockton. An early nineteenth-century stable and coach house. Check out the HER record here

Like the rest of the UK, Nottinghamshire has seen a decline in the number of pubs over the last couple of decades. Increased costs, changing drinking habits and the smoking ban have made running traditional pubs more difficult and resulted in the closure of many pubs. Often the buildings are converted into homes or businesses. Statutory Listing, Local Listing and Listing as Assets of Community Value (ACV) are all designed to conserve these historic buildings.