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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.Complaints also began that insufficient work was being created for the poor. Donations of about £100 a year are distributed among the Poor. Many of the labouring classes here possess very little foresight.In 1639, the workhouse was reorganised to provide training and employment for fatherless children. Twelve persons belonging to this parish are in different almshouses, and receive from 7d. It is not uncommon for a healthy young fellow, who has ample means of supporting himself and family, to request the parish to pay for the midwife for his first child.

The impressive building (for which William Brockman, brickmaker of Tilehurst, supplied 200,000 bricks and 20,000 tiles) became known as "The Oracle" — the name possibly deriving from "orchal", a violet dye obtained from lichen.

Only one night's stay was allowed, in return for which, a quarter pound of oakum had to be picked within four hours.

Finally, in 1865, a site was bought for a new workhouse on the north side of the Oxford Road near Battle Farm. The workhouse site was finally handed back to the Board of Guardians in 1920.

[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.

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