Link back to main ROSSBRET websiteCasual Wards


Link back to main ROSSBRET websiteCasual Wards


Casual wards and a few mens experience

J.C. knows casual wards pretty well, he as been in St. Giles, White -chapel, St. George's, Paddington, Maryebone, Mile End. They vary a little in detail, but as a rule the doors open at 6 you walk in they tell you what the work is, and that if you fail to do it you will be liable to imprisonment. Then you bathe. Some places the water is dirty. Three persons as a rule wash in one water. At whitechapel ( been there three times) it has always been dirty; also at St George's. I had no bath at Mile End; they were short of water. If you complain they take no notice. You then tie your clothes in a bundle and they give you a night-shirt. At most places they serve supper to the men, who have to go to bed and eat it there. some beds are in cells, some in large rooms. They get you up at 6 am, and do the task. The amount of stone breaking is to much; and the oakum - picking is also heavy.

The food differs. At St. Giles the gruel left overnight is boiled up for breakfast, and is consequently sour; the bread is puffy, full of holes, and don't weigh the regulation amount. Dinner is only 8 ounces of bread and 1 and a half ounce of cheese, and if that's short, how can anybody do their work? They will give you water to drink if you ring the cell bell for it , that is they will tell you to wait, and bring it in about half an hour. There are a good lot of moochers'' go to the casual wards, but there are large numbers of men who only want work.

J. D. age 25 ; Londoner; can't get work, tried hard; been refused work several times on account of having no settled residence; looks suspicious, they think to have no home. Seems a decent , willing man. Had two penny-worth of soup this morning, which has lasted all day. Earned 1s.6d yesterday bill distributing, nothing the day before.
Been in a good many London casual wards, thinks they are no good, because they keep him all day, when he might be seeking work. Say's he does not want shelter in day time, he wants work. If he goes in twice in a month to the same casual ward, they detain him four days.
He considers the food decidedly insufficient to do the required amount of work. If the work is not done on time , you are liable to 21 days imprisonment. You get badly treated some places, especially where there is a bullying superintendent He as done 21 days for absolutely refusing to do the work on such low diet, when unfit. Can't get justice, doctor always sides with superintendent.

J.S.; odd jobber, is working at board carrying, when he can get it . There's quite a rush for it at 1s 2d a day. carried a couple of parcels yesterday, got 5d for them; also had a bit of bread and meat given him by a working man, so altogether had a good day. Sometimes he goes all day without food and plenty more do the same. Sleeps on embankment, and now and then in casual ward, latter is clean and comfortable enough, but they keep you in all day that means no chance of getting work. Was a clerk once, but got out of a job and couldn't get another; there are so many clerks.

A tramp says" I've been in most casual wards in London; was in the one in Macklin Street, Drury Lane, last week. They keep you in two nights and a day, and more if they recognise you. You have to break 10 cwt of stone, or pick four pounds of oakum, both are hard.
About thirty a night go to Macklin street, the food is 1 pint gruel and 6 oz of bread for breakfast, 8oz bread 1 and a half ounce of cheese for dinner, tea the same as breakfast. No supper, it's not enough to work on. Then you are obliged to bathe, of course, sometimes three will bathe in one water, and if you complain they turn nasty and ask if you think you have come to a palace.

F. K. W. , baker, been board caring today, earned one shilling, hours 9 till 5. I've been on this kind of life for six years. Used to work in a bakery, but had congestion of the brain, and couldn't stand the heat. I have been in about every casual ward in England, they treat men to harshly, i have had to work really hard too. Work when I have really been unfit. At peckham ( known as Camberwell) Union, I was unable to do the work through weakness, and appealed to the doctor, who taking the part of the other officials, as usual refused to allow me to forgo the work. Checked the doctor, telling him he did not understand the work; result got three days imprisonment.

Taken from In darkest England and the way out.
Salvation Army Publishing. 1890.
Submitted by Joan Law

Page updated March 12, 2008 by Rossbret