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A bequest of £4,000 was made on identical terms for the setting up of a workhouse in Newbury.
In January 1626, the town corporation paid William Kendrick (John's brother) the generous sum of £1,900 for his house and workshops on Minster Street, opposite St Mary's church, and with handy access to the Holy brook and Mill stream.
In 1628, the first intake of 24 weavers, 16 shearmen, and six burlers took up employment at the workhouse.
For its first two years, the operation ran at a profit but this soon began to change.
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.
The main entrance, at the north side was through an ornate dutch-gabled stone gateway. By 1633, a Widow Lampit had been given the free use of several rooms in the workhouse to teach and set the poor on work is spinning and carding.
[Up to 1834] [After 1834] [Staff] [Inmates] [Records] [Bibliography] [Links] In December 1624, Reading received a bequest of £8,400 in the will of wealthy London draper John Kendrick.
The money was designated for several causes but the bulk, £7,500, was to establish a workhouse.
Eden, in his 1797 survey of the poor in England, reported of the St Mary's workhouse that: The Poor are chiefly maintained in a workhouse, erected about 20 years ago, for £1,400, of which £650 has been paid off. The parish has a standing overseer, who, it is generally observed, keeps down the rates more than officers elected annually. Tea is generally used here, twice a day, by the Poor; the other part of their diet is, principally, the best wheaten bread, and occasionally a little bacon; it is seldom sufficiently boiled, and is thought to give them the sallow complexion which is much observable here.
It seems a comfortable and convenient lodging for the Poor, but not always sufficiently aired. Reading Poor Law Union was formed on 10th August 1835.The Oracle became a troop garrison during the English Civil War, and then 'an Habitation for an idle sort of Poor, who lived in it Rent free.' The building was demolished in 1850 and the site redeveloped. It rarely happens that a labourer supports himself, wife and children without applying for parochial aid; weavers who can earn 18s.