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Charles Dickens presents a topical chat show about workhouses in Victorian times. Nelly travels to a workhouse in Nottinghamshire. In 1861, 35,000 children under 12 lived and worked in workhouses in Britain. These children would work day and night, and their masters would often treat them very badly. A workhouse boy, very like Charles Dickens’ famous character Oliver Twist, reports on the living conditions for children, including work picking out old ropes, harsh discipline and punishment by whipping. He shows us the cold, cramped conditions the boys have to sleep in, as well as telling us about the brutality of the staff. The boy tells us about the story of how he ended up in the workhouse. We get to see the jobs the boys are given in order to pay their keep at the workhouse, as well as hearing the boy's views on the situation.
This clip is from:
First broadcast:
29 March 2012

Classroom Ideas

Pupils could be asked why there were so many children in workhouses in Victorian Britain, and how were they treated in this workhouse in Nottinghamshire? Do pupils think children were treated fairly because they were poor? Was staying somewhere warm and dry to live, and having foods to eat enough? They could read part of Charles Dickens' book 'Oliver Twist', or watch the film version. Do children think the workhouse in the clip represents a typical workhouse? They could find out more about either workhouses or Victorian attitudes to poor children. Does their research agree with the clip, or disagree? They might try to discover why poor people, and especially poor children, were regarded as such a problem in Victorian times. How is the way they were treated similar, and how is it different to the way we treat poor children today? Pupils could write a diary entry from the point of view of a Victorian child.

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