Healthy Eating and the Workhouse
Receipt and Consumption Accounts
These ideas for activities use extracts from 'Receipt and Consumption Accounts' taken from the records of Ripon Workhouse held by the North Yorkshire County Record Office. The extracts record the food purchased for the workhouse and consumed by the pauper inmates and employed officers. There are four extracts recording food consumed for December 1885, September 1886, December 1886 and September 1887 which can be accessed by clicking on the images on this page. Four more extracts record summary information on total provisions for the same dates and can be accessed by clicking on the images on the following page.
- In pairs or small groups investigate the food consumed. Note the types and amounts of food, along with the total quantities. Compare to food today and to a balanced diet. Discuss which foods were not consumed at all.
- Compare the diet of the paupers and the officers and discuss any similarities or differences. Speculate for the reasons behind these.
- Classify the foods consumed into food groups. Do they represent a balanced diet?
- Using summary sheets note which foods are consumed every week, sometimes and never.
- Do the accounts represent a complete picture of the food consumed in the workhouse? Some sources of food, such as those vegetables grown in the workhouse garden, do not appear in the accounts. Where might more information be found?
- Find out about old measures, pounds and ounces. Use practical work to demonstrate there value.
- Compare sheets for 29th September with sheets for 25th December. Are there any differences? What does this tell us about Christmas in the workhouse?
- Write a diary account of Christmas day in the workhouse.
- Note the name of the workhouse master: how could we find out more information about him?
- Research the 1881 and/or 1891 census to identify inmates of the workhouse and find out more information about them (gender, age, birth place, etc.).
- Create a character sketch of the workhouse master or a workhouse inmate as a descriptive writing exercise.