HC Deb 23 March 1866 vol 182 cc846-7

said, he wished to ask the Secretary to the Poor Law Board. Whether his attention has been drawn to a statement in one of the public journals of the 6th of March, containing an account of the horrible state of the sleeping places for the Casual Poor, and also of the cellar for the extra Casuals, in the Clerkenwell Workhouse, in which, besides other horrors too shocking to mention, it is stated that on Sunday evening (March 4th), forty men and women were crammed together into wards with nominal accommodation for thirty, and, having been locked up in the dark, were left to scramble or fight for room, as they thought fit; whether it is true that the wards at this Workhouse have never been certified by the Poor Law Board, and that they are inconceivably close, foul, and unwholesome; whether he has seen an article in the same journal, dated the 22nd instant, that the guardians still allow this state of things to go on without attempting to provide a remedy; and whether, if the accounts alluded to are correct, it is his intention to take immediate measures to put a stop to this intolerable evil?


Sir, I have to inform the noble Lord that I have seen the statements to which he has adverted. I have to slate that the casual wards at the Clerkenwell Workhouse have never been certified by the Poor Law Board, because they are inadequate to meet the provisions of the Houseless Poor Act, both as regards their position, their ventilation, and their insufficiency generally. The guardians of the parish of Clerkenwell have attempted to provide a remedy for this state of things, and were, in fact, a few weeks since negotiating for property in St. John Street Road, Clerkenwell, which they purposed converting into casual wards; but eventtually, the owner of the property in question objected to the premises being used for the purposes adverted to. I have, however, to add, that men and women are not "crammed together" in these wards, as there are separate wards for each sex. A letter, however, has been received at the Poor Law Board from that parish, stating that they had in prospect a good freehold property in the neighbourhood of the workhouse, and hope to be able to obtain it and complete a building for the purpose in view. The parish of Clerkenwell is under a local Act, and the guardians are elected for life. When it is asked whether the Poor Law Board intend to take immediate measures to remedy the evil complained of, I must remind my noble Friend that the compulsory powers of the Poor Law Board are not sufficient to effect so complete a change as they desire to see in the existing state of things.