Vagrants in the Workhouse

Discover the stories of the vagrants in the Guildford Union Workhouse on the night of the 1881 census

On 3rd April 1881, 14 vagrants were listed on the census for the Guildford Union Workhouse, accommodated in the ‘casual ward’, separated from the structured routine of the Workhouse because of their potential  disruptive influence, filthy clothes, crude language and coarse behaviour.

Why were they there? Here are some of their stories.

          Sidney ATTFIELD (1840-?) :  Workhouse, homeless and prisoner, all by the age of 16
          William (1845-1916) & Ellen KILLICK (c1852-1911) :  ‘Father Christmas’ arrested for begging
          Henry Simmonds (1821-?) : A night at the Guildford ‘Spike’ for a lonely vagrant 

In 1906 a new ‘casual ward’ was built to house vagrants and casual workers.  The Guildford Spike Heritage Centre remains today as a unique example of an Edwardian casual ward where you can

  • explore the lives of the Spike inmates and the type of people who would have stayed here
  • experience the sights, sounds and smells of a casual ward in 1906
  • discover a working cell and what a vagrant had to do to earn his keep
  • learn about the treatment of the homeless, past and present 

More information on Tramps and Vagrants can be found on Peter Higginbottom’s excellent Workhouses.org.uk site.

Tramps and Vagrants The Workhouse, The Story of an Institution, Peter Higginbotham Workhouses.org.uk