An imposing building that must have conjured feelings of dread into the many that passed through its gates, The Workhouse Museum is housed in the gatehouse building of the original Ripon Workhouse site. With a daunting atmosphere, the museum offers its visitors an insight into what day to day life would have been like for its unfortunate inmates, and the Workhouse Kitchen Garden to its rear has been restored to look just as it would have when it was kept by the inmates.
It’s easy to imagine the feelings of hopelessness that would have settled on those entering for the first time, and it wasn’t only those who had always found themselves in dire straits who ended up in the workhouse – it was common for widows, the elderly and those who fell on hard times to be consigned to its cells too.
There’s been a workhouse on the same site in Ripon since 1776, and those well enough to do the work spent eight hours every day crushing stones to build the area’s roads. The building visitors see today was finished in 1855, and with its own teacher, chaplain and doctor it was like a world of its own.