The Poor Houses

As you work your way through the cemetery records, you’ll notice many have been resident in a poorhouse at some time.

In the 1800s poorhouses were established throughout North Lanarkshire. The poorhouse was one of the few institutions that provided free medical provision and care for the very poor. The elderly, unemployed, widows, orphans and sick all entered them if they couldn’t support themselves.

Those who entered the poorhouse were known an inmates. Conditions were very harsh; on entering you were stripped, bathed and issued with a uniform. Husbands, wives and children were separated and could be punished for talking to one another. Inmates followed a prescribed daily routine while the able bodied were set to work, although it was not compulsory. Women did domestic jobs such as cleaning, working in the kitchen or laundry. Men were allocated jobs in the workshops.

The majority of them were unmarried mums, who had been disowned, the mentally and physically ill, the widowed and elderly. Interestingly, quite a number were former miners, weavers and labourers from Ireland. Entering the poorhouse also ensured that your right to vote was taken away and rules were rigorously enforced with inmates being severely punished for disobedience:

Extract from New Monklands Poor House

Inmate: Mrs Ferguson aged 40 Offence : Telling her 12 yr old son to go over and wall and beg for tea and tobacco
Punishment : Diet of dry porridge for 3 days and the boy to be put in girls clothes as he gone over the wall before.

Inmate : Edward Clark aged 9 Offence : Caught absconding over the wall Punishment Whipped and put to bed for the day