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Substantial changes and additions were made to the buildings, including a nurses' home in 1898 at the north-east corner of the site. © Peter Higginbotham St John's Hill children's ward, 1896.The later layout of the site is shown on the 1916 map below. © Peter Higginbotham After its enlargement, the St John's site provided 32 general wards of various sizes, and 10 special rooms or wards for isolation cases.
The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £16,519 or 10s.0d. By the end of the ninenteenth century, Wandsworth and Clapham was London's largest union, with a population of more than 350,000 — a twelfth of the capital's total.At all events, the expenditure on those commodities argues any thing but niggardliness in the guardians of the poor.At my departure from the establishment, I could not help testifying my approbation of the general appearance and management of the house.There were also four large day-rooms which, owing to overcrowding, were pressed into use as wards.The nursing staff comprised 63 female and 4 male nurses, plus other officers and servants.One or two men were also working in the large garden of the establishment.
Proceeding up stairs to the women's division, I entered a species of parlour or sitting-room, cheerfully lighted by windows overlooking the country around, and here were sitting, quietly reading or knitting, a dozen old women; while one of extreme age, a good specimen of the old English dame in humble life, being incapable of locomotion, was wheeled in an easy chair by a companion along the floor and lobby, and with as much enjoyment as a child in its chaise.
St John's Hill workhouse from the south-west, c.1913.
© Peter Higginbotham In 1841, a visitor described his experience of the workhouse: One day, while in London, I took the opportunity of driving a few miles west from Vauxhall, on the Wandsworth road, to visit the large workhouse of the Battersea district, lately erected, and in full operation under the new system.
The Wandsworth and Clapham Poor Law Union was formed on 25th March, 1836.
Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 19 in number representing its 6 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one): Surrey: Battersea (3), Clapham (6), Putney (2), Streatham (2), Tooting Graveney (2), Wandsworth (4).
The spotless purity of the walls and floors, the numerous water-closets and washing-rooms, the laundry, kitchen, school apartments, and small houses in which travelling paupers and their families could be lodged gratuitously for a night — all gave token of careful management, and concern for the comfort of the inmates.