Page last updated at 16:53 GMT, Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Memories of Morda's workhouse near Oswestry
Syd Bailey (being held by a woman) with his cousin (white dress) and inmates at Morda workhouse in the 1920s
Syd Bailey spent a lot time with inmates at the workhouse

Syd Bailey spent the first 18 years of his life at the workhouse in Morda near Oswestry.

His father and mother became master and matron in 1922 and Mr Bailey has fond memories of his time there.

He wants to preserve the social history of Morda and is writing a book about the workhouse and the village.

He left the village to join the police service in Birmingham and later joined the RAF and was sent to train in Southern Rhodesia.

Mr Bailey said the house and grounds at the workhouse were like "an adventure playground" when he was a child in the 1920s.

Workhouse staff put on entertainments
Syd Bailey was six (with drum) when he took part in this entertainment.

During the family's stay it changed a lot: "The workhouse as such actually finished in about the mid 1930s and then it was run by the county council and became known as a 'public assistance institution'."

"In the 1920s there was still an atmosphere of the old Dickensian workhouse about it," he said.

Mr Bailey said things had changed again during WWII: "There were evacuees in it. Not children but senior citizens from the East End of London...They were accommodated in the workhouse."

Treated with respect

Many of the inmates in the early years were mentally and physically disabled and the regimented life of the workhouse suited them but some were not so happy to be there.

"There were others of course who had been better educated and had better family backgrounds who probably did feel sort of deprived. Then there were the tramps, the casuals. Now they were a remarkable lot," Mr Bailey said.

His parents encouraged him to play with the workhouse children and mix with the inmates: "The thing that was impressed upon me from the very beginning by my father was to have respect for people. Never laugh at them, never shout at them.

"Never order them to do anything. Treat them with respect as individuals. That's the thing that's rubbed off on me all my life."

The nursery at Morda workhouse
Young children and babies were cared for in the nursery

Mr Bailey recalls having his own bedroom and sitting room from the age of about 10 and two female inmates looked after him and his rooms.

He said he felt compelled to write down his memories of the workhouse and the village because so many new families had moved into the area and knew little of its history.

He believes the workhouse had an effect on the village at the time: "I thought if I didn't write this down... it would be forgotten. It's all part of the tapestry of social history and I thought I'd write down my memories of this."

Communal workhouse

Morda House was originally opened in 1792 as the communal workhouse for Oswestry, Chirk and Llansilin.

After the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 its scope was extended to take in people from many more of the surrounding parishes.

According to the 1881 census, 10 members of staff looked after 215 inmates whose ages ranged from 91 year old agricultural worker, Samuel Brown from Kinnerley to Sarah Evans from Oswestry who was just a month old.

Most of the inmates were from the local area, some came from as far afield as Ireland, Liverpool and Derby.

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