Mid Wales

Powys Victorian workhouse to welcome visitors

Llanfyllin Union Workhouse Image copyright Llanfyllin Dolydd Building Preservation Trust

One of the best examples of a Victorian workhouse will open to the public after it received lottery money to create a history centre.

The former Llanfyllin Union Workhouse in Powys, known locally as Y Dolydd, opened in 1839, and could house up to 250 men, women and children.

A grant of £39,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has helped create displays on poverty in Victorian times.

The building is the only one of its kind in Wales that people can visit.

The new centre, to be opened by author, historian and TV presenter Trevor Fishlock on Saturday, is in a wing of the workhouse which was restored after the lottery funding was awarded to the Llanfyllin Dolydd Building Preservation Trust.

Richard Bellamy, head of HLF Wales, said: "The history centre tells an important story and reflects on a key period in Welsh life and this project is essential to help people understand how people lived during the Victorian age and how attitudes have changed over time."

Image copyright Llanfyllin Dolydd Building Preservation Trust
Image caption A newspaper cutting from 1930 showing people who worked at the workhouse

The residents of Y Dolydd, or inmates, as they were then known, came from a vast catchment area, covering 24 parishes.

For those whose situation was such that they had no alternative but the workhouse, their entry into that life often began with a long arduous walk to get there.

And when they did, the conditions were very basic.

Their meals, eaten in silence in a vast dining room, were taken in silence, and mostly consisted of gruel or porridge, with meat only given once a week.

They were also put to work: the men looked after pigs, or broke stones for road building; the women cleaned, made clothes and picked oakham from old rope for ship building.

But for the many children at the workhouse, there was at least schooling.

Image copyright Llanfyllin Dolydd Building Preservation Trust

Martin Davies, an archivist for the preservation trust, said workhouses provided the first state education.

"On many occasions the number of children outnumbered the number of adults," he said.

"But, of course, the workhouse provided a school. There was a school master and the job of a school master was a lot different from today - if you were a school master, you looked after the children 24/7, day and night, that was your job... but it was free education."

The building, the only one of its kind which is preserved in Wales, was built in the classic workhouse style in the shape of a cross.

This meant women, men, boy and girls could all be segregated, each having their own accommodation and outdoor courtyards.

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