Hello, and thank you for visiting my site. I hope that you'll return often and always find something of interest about my world and what inspires me to pick up a pen. (This is a figure of speech, unfortunately. My handwriting is terrible!) Here's what I've been up to recently...

‘Workhouse Orphan’ at the Ripon Workhouse Museum

It’s hard to think of a more appropriate venue for my illustrated talk. During the two years that I was writing ‘Workhouse Orphan’, I made a good many visits to the Ripon Workhouse Museum for research purposes and to get the general feel of the place. The Museum continues to expand and is well worth a visit for families and anyone interested in social history.

My book has been on sale in the shop there for several months, so quite a few audience members had already read it and arrived prepared with their questions and comments. Others quickly became engaged and we had a lively discussion afterwards.

26 September, 2019 - There are 2 comments on this story

  1. I found your book,’ Workhouse Orphans’ in Ripon Library. I was interested because my grandfather and his 2 years older brother were sent to a West Yorkshire family from the Liverpool Brownlow Hill Workhouse.

    Their full story, I am still trying to discover. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that your 13-year-old was able to be sent from a London workhouse to work as a Hurrier for a miner in a village near Brighouse.

    I am still trying to find out how it was possible to send two boys from Liverpool to Hightown, Liversedge, a village also very near Brighouse. My grandfather, John was too young to be a worker and attended a local school for the next two years but his brother Tom was employed by a Mr Medley as his Hurrier. The Medley family, that they joined, lived in a very small ‘One up and one down’ house which was directly on the roadside of the busy Halifax Road.

    I remember this house well because my grandfather stayed in touch with the Medley family all his life and it was demolished in the 60s, during my time as a Councillor in the former Borough of Spenborough, now absorbed into Kirklees since 1974.

    Here is my only quarrel with your research. You speak of the Cawthra home as having a two rooms, one with a cooking range and a front Parlour. From my own experience, such a house was very much more ‘Upper Working or even Middle Class’ than any miner could have afforded. The Medleys had several children of their own when they took in the two brothers from Liverpool and I assure you that their home had only 2 rooms.

    My own grandfather later had 7 children and also lived in a ‘One up and One down’ house and he too had a Hurrier boy from a workhouse living with his family

    I enjoyed every page of your short novel and my only criticism is that it was far too short. The subject and the excellent quality of your narrative was worthy of many more pages with descriptive information.

    For instance, I know that today, very few people have any idea what a Hurrier boy did unless they have family recollections. I was not sure that you did yourself and I had to re-read several times to be sure that you did.

    Here is a prime example of why I thought your book should have been longer. Hurrier boys were very often treated dreadfully by their masters and their wives and families. David is fortunate and was well cared for by the Cawthras as was my grandfather and his brother Tom.

    I could tell a very different story from a great friend of mine who was born in 1903 and died at nearly 100 years. Her father worked with my grandfather at Hartshead Pit and their Hurriers, she told me, were only fed poor scraps by their mother and were never allowed to sit anywhere near the fire but had to sit at the back near the draughty door.

    Again, it is a pity that you did not spell out the fact that Hurriers were not employed by the mine-owners but relied entirely on the family who had taken them in from a Workhouse. My grandfather stayed with the Medleys until he married and his brother Tom was killed earlier in a Pit disaster. My grandad told us that about the same time the Medleys were informed that their mother had died.

    From being taken to the Workhouse, they never saw her again. He seemed to think that she was in the same Workhouse at Brownlow Hill but I have discovered that no wonder they did nor see her – she was not there but in Walton Workhouse. How dreadful that two youngsters could be in that appalling situation in the 1890s and sent across the Pennines to live in such mean conditions.

    Again, I cam only say that I wish you had expanded this story to enlighten people now of the fact that ‘Oliver Twist’ was not something that had happened in early Victorian times but such conditions continued well into the 20th century.

    I would like to be able to meet and to chat with you as I am particularly intrigued as to how you came up with the name Sutcliffe Cawthra.

    I now live in Ripon too and you can contact me by email –

    jdr23y1r@gmail.com or by mobile phone 07721012569

    Thanks again for a very good read,

    John D Rimmer

    John D Rimmer -

  2. Thank you very much for this, John. I’d love to discuss the story with you and will email you at the address you’ve supplied.

    Maggie Cobbett -

Comment on this story

Basic HTML is allowed in comments. Avatars provided by Gravatar. Some posts may not appear immediately, and need to be manually approved - sorry for any delay.

Check Out My eBooks
Supporting artists, or ‘extras’ as they’re more commonly known, are the unsung heroes of television and film. Maggie Cobbett recalls the ups and downs of twenty years of ‘blending into the background’.
A working holiday in France for so little? “It sounds too good to be true,” says Daisy’s mother, but her warning falls on deaf ears.
The 20th century has just dawned when David is apprenticed to a Yorkshire coal miner. But what of the younger brothers and sister he has been forced to leave behind in their London workhouse? Will he ever see them again?
Blog Categories
Live From Twitter