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The mayor and burgesses were to purchase: a faire plot of ground within the said towne...and thereupon shall erect and build a strong house of Bricke fit and commodious for setting of the poore on worke therein; or else shall buy and purchase such an house, being already built, if they can finde one alreadie fitting, or that may with a reasonable summe be made fir for the said use; the same house to have a faire garden adjoyning, and to be from time to time kept in good and sufficient reparations by the said mayor and burgesses for the time being for ever.The accommodation was required to house 106 males and 95 females, including 102 aged and infirm, 76 able-bodied, 13 infants, and 10 imbeciles and epileptics. Following a visit to Reading, the commission's report gave the establishment a glowing report. Reading Workhouse as War Hospital, c.1915 © Peter Higginbotham. Following the closure of casual wards at Windsor, Easthampstead, Maidenhead, Wokingham, and Henley, a brand new casual ward was opened to the east of Reading at Woodley, near the junction of the Reading and Bath Roads where Norwich Drive now stands.The infirmary was to have male and female wards each with 13 beds, a three-bed and a four-bed itch ward (for scabies), two bedrooms for dirty cases, and a lying-in room for three women and three infants. The winning design was by a Mr Woodman, and building began in April 1866. A new infirmary was added at the west of the workhouse in 1892 and the old infirmary became a female residential block, with the old workhouse being used entirely for males. Unlike many other workhouses reviewed by the commission, Reading had a modern infirmary and a well-resourced nursing section which included a sister, four nurses, and two probationers. Reading Workhouse - 1911 Aged and infirm block, c.1915. Reading Workhouse - 1911 Aged and infirm block, c.1915. On March 1st 1915, the War Office requisitioned the Reading workhouse for use by the military authorities. The new Woodley Institution was officially opened ion 27th March, 1931.
The total cost, including furniture and fittings, was in the region of £14,000. In addition, a new board room, administrative block and master's house were added. Within six weeks, the workhouse was transformed into the Reading Number One War Hospital which, linked together with more than twenty other auxiliary hospitals in Berkshire, constituted one of the country's biggest war hospitals. In 1849, the Reading Union joined with the neighbouring Wokingham Union to form the Reading & Wokingham School District and operated a residential school for pauper children at Gargrave until the early 1900s.Only one night's stay was allowed, in return for which, a quarter pound of oakum had to be picked within four hours.Finally, in 1865, a site was bought for a new workhouse on the north side of the Oxford Road near Battle Farm. The workhouse site was finally handed back to the Board of Guardians in 1920.They are chiefly employed in spinning hemp, but 2 looms for weaving sail cloth were lately erected. Dinner—Sunday, Thursday—Meat, pudding, vegetables and bread; Monday, Saturday Bread and cheese; Tuesday—Bread and broth; Wednesday, Friday—Cold meat. Old people are allowed tea, bread and butter for breakfast. The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1832-35 had been £8,179 or 10s.2d. For the first 30 years of its life, Reading Union made use of two of the pre-1834 parish workhouses which were adapted and enlarged: St Mary's (160 inmates) was for the aged, the infirm, the sick, mothers with children, and children without parents; St Laurence's (190 inmates) was used for able-bodied paupers and vagrants. In 1846, the Poor Law Commissioners expressed concern about sanitary conditions at St Laurence's. This suggestion dismissed by the guardians, although in April of the following year an additional workhouse was opened specifically to accommodate the 'wayfaring and vagrant poor'.Some of the Poor are sent out to work for the farmers. This was in an old granary at the entrance to King's Meadows in the Forbury.