We’ve been to Axbridge, a very small town in Somerset with a very big history, so many times before; however, there is always something new to see, and even if there isn’t, there is always a nice cup of tea or coffee to be had in the old alms house – The Almshouse Tea Shop.
We had our cameras and as it was such a pleasant day, very warm for October, we went wandering about to see what we could find. We knew there was a workhouse in Axbridge, and we managed to find it, now converted into what looks like very luxurious apartments!
The workhouse was a place of dread but I suppose it was a way of trying to help destitute people – the regime may have been cruel, but at least people were fed and clothed and given an occupation. However the shame and stigma of being an inmate lasted for generations. In Cambridge, where I was born, the maternity hospital had been the workhouse in days gone by. A friend of my mum’s went into a private nursing home rather than have her child ‘in the workhouse’, even though it had been closed over twenty years before.
The Axbridge Workhouse was built in 1837; it was built to accommodate 250 people which just shows the scale of poverty in those days. The area has always relied on agriculture and from Tudor times was an important centre for cloth manufacture; however in the nineteenth century iron ore was discovered in nearby hills, and no doubt the Victorian railway aided its development as an industry. There is not much left to show that now, and the railway itself was closed in 1963.