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The contents of the ale and porter barrels, I was informed, were not administered generally, but only to old or infirm paupers by order of the medical attendant, and to those who wrought in the garden, or at more than usually severe labour.
As every kind of stimulating liquor is proved to be valueless, except where nature would unavoidably sink without such artificial aid, the beer served out here and elsewhere to all except the positively infirm, may be pronounced so much money of the parishioners' thrown away.
Occupying a somewhat elevated piece of ground, overlooking the rich and populous valley of the Thames, with Chelsea and the towers of Westminster in the distance, and closely environed with an extensive garden and shrubbery, the house enjoys a remarkably pleasant, and, I should think, salubrious situation; while the exterior, with its neat porter's lodge and railings, suggests much more the idea of is gentleman's residence than a receptacle for parish paupers.
Conducted over the whole establishment by the house governor, I was surprised at the extent and variety of the details, all apparently on a well-digested scheme for preserving order and discipline, combined with as great comfort as any one could reasonably expect.
St John's Hill workhouse from the south-west, c.1913.
The workhouse location and layout is shown on the 1866 map below: Wandsworth and Clapham St John's workhouse site, 1866.One or two men were also working in the large garden of the establishment.Proceeding up stairs to the women's division, I entered a species of parlour or sitting-room, cheerfully lighted by windows overlooking the country around, and here were sitting, quietly reading or knitting, a dozen old women; while one of extreme age, a good specimen of the old English dame in humble life, being incapable of locomotion, was wheeled in an easy chair by a companion along the floor and lobby, and with as much enjoyment as a child in its chaise.At all events, the expenditure on those commodities argues any thing but niggardliness in the guardians of the poor.At my departure from the establishment, I could not help testifying my approbation of the general appearance and management of the house.