The master or matron did a roll-call
20 sacks. One bushel would have provided about 42 pounds of flour or 60 to 73 loaves of bread depending on the size. Bread itself, once again seconds but best seconds, 500 4 lb loaves per week. Sugar, 800 lbs, and loaf sugar (the usual form in which refined sugar was produced until the late 19th century), amount 65 lbs. Salt butter, 800 lbs; cheese 700 lbs; fine mustard; tea, 60 lbs; linseed meal; vinegar; coffee berries, 30 lbs; pepper corns; soda; salt per cwt; and peas, blue, white or grey per bushel (30 bushels).
Further food items included 3 sacks of coarse oatmeal; 800 lbs of English and American bacon; beef described as rounds, crops and mouse pieces per lb, and mutton, fore quarters, quantity 500 lbs per week; and suet. Alcohol included porter per gallon; ale (East India Pale) per gallon; and port wine, sherry wine, gin and brandy (French) all per gallon.
Miscellaneous items included pale yellow and good mottled soap, 500 lbs and 550 lbs respectively; soft soap, 100 lbs; best starch; black lead; and candles, 260 lbs. There was also a request for tenders to supply clothing and materials including 100 men’s moleskin suits; 50 men’s grey suits; 50 boys’ jackets and trousers; 5 doz. men’s hats, 6 doz. pairs of men’s grey worsted stockings; 6 doz. pairs of women’s black worsted stockings; 3 doz. pairs of girls’ black worsted stockings; 600 yards of stout brown calico; 200 yards of white calico; 400 yards of double-width hurden sheeting; 300 yards of singlewidth hurden sheeting; 400 yards of flannel; 300 yards of hurden; 50 pairs of blankets; 3 doz. pairs of men’s clogs; 3 doz. pairs of women’s clogs; 3 doz. pairs of boys clogs; 3 doz. pairs of girls clogs; and 3 doz. pairs of children’s clogs. 1 dozen pairs of boys’ boots and 1 doz. pairs of girls’ boots.
That is quite a shopping list and must have had the various suppliers in and around Stourbridge chomping at the bit to tender their wares and services.
The public notice, by order of W. B. Collis, clerk of the Board of Guardians, stipulated that all tenders would have to be received no later that December 17 or they would not be accepted. All the articles were also to be delivered free of expense, at such times and in such quantities as the Guardians directed. Finally it stated that the Guardians reserved to themselves the power of rejecting the lowest or any other tender. The rules on tendering were strict and had to be adhered to.
In the era of the parish workhouse Christmas Day was the traditional occasion of a treat for most inmates. However after the new union workhouses were established no extra food was ordered and the inmates spent a miserable day. This was the case in some but not all workhouse unions, and judging by the amount of food and drink, etc., expected to be delivered to the Stream Road site, the severe rules seem to have been relaxed somewhat. Following the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1841, the Victorian celebration of Christmas took off in a big way, with the importing of German customs such as Christmas trees and giving presents, etc. Perhaps the main hall where the inmates were fed was decked with holly and at some stage a Christmas tree may have been introduced.
By the middle of the century, Christmas Day and more often Boxing Day had become a regular occasion for the Board of Guardians to visit the workhouse and dispense food and kindness. In 1877 George R. Sims, a campaigning journalist, published his famous monologue “In the Workhouse: Christmas Day” and the first verse is as follows:
“It is Christmas Day in the workhouse,
And the cold, bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
And the place is a pleasant sight.
For with clean-washed hands and faces,
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the table,
For this is the hour they dine.”
A little cheer at Christmas in the workhouse
Members of the Board of Guardians visit inmates of the workhouse at Christmas
Christmas in the workhouse
List of goods for tender 1857