Ancestry UK


In the early 1900s, collectors of English folk songs such Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams, used workhouse inmates and casuals as one of the sources for their material. One of these (name unknown) was photographed at St Marylebone.

Cecil Sharp's Marylebone Man
© English Folk Dance and Song Society.

The American folk song collector James Madison Carpenter visited Britain in 1928 and recorded singers at the Ely the Insch parish poorhouse in Aberdeenshire. He also collected songs from the Ely workhouse in Cambridgeshire. The colllection has an online catalogue.

The workhouse was occasionally the subject of maudlin ballads such as Standing at the Workhouse Gate by B.K. Aungur in around 1908.

Standing at the Workhouse Gate

Modern songs by Peter Higginbotham.

  • The Ballad of Captain Swing — Captain Swing was the mythical leader of the agricultural riots in southern England in 1829-30
  • The Archway of Tears — The Archway of Tears was the local name for the entrance to the Birmingham workhouse.

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Ancestry UK

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