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Norwich Workhouses at the beginning of the 19th Century

James Neild - State of Prisons in England, Scotland and WalesWilliam Darby was born in St Augustine's workhouse in Norwich. This was one of two workhouses in Norwich during this period, the other being the former Duke of Norfolk's Palace. What was it like in these workhouses?

In 1805, James Neild, the well known penal reformer, visited the "Duke's Palace". Neild kept a diary of his visits and used his notes to write to his friend, Dr. John Coakley Lettsom. Lettsom persuaded Neild to allow him to publish these letters with a preface in The Gentleman's Magazine. His account of his visit to Norwich became a cause célèbre and was used, at the time, to support those campaigning for reform, and later to illustrate the state of workhouses during the period. However, William Firth's reply, on behalf of the Norwich authorities, is often not quoted and shows the way in which Neild's reports were often received by civic authorities.

Here are transcripts of both. Who was right?

Neild's account of the Norwich Workhouse - Gentleman's Magazine, October 1805

William Firth's response to Neild - Gentleman's Magazine, November 1805

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