There were some fascinating happenings at the local work asylum in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. It is a place that has always fascinated me, as I was born there at Christmas in the late 1960s. By then, it had become a hospital serving much of the community. In those days, they kept women confined for a couple of weeks, so my mother has fond memories of the nurses dressed in those old-fashioned starch uniforms and navy blue capes, coming to the maternity ward while holding flashlights. to sing Christmas carols. to new and future moms.
Only a hundred years before, things were very different at St. Tydfil’s Union Workhouse. Those who were lucky enough to get by without being interned there might have struggled out of it to make ends meet, but they often feared that dark omen place with its high walls and strict regime, so much so that they preferred to go without then enter. .
A Christmas dinner back then, according to newspaper reports I have reviewed, was the best meal of the year when inmates were treated to a dinner of roast beef with plum pudding. The rest of the year, however, their meals were very lean, often consisting of a thin, watery porridge for breakfast, bread and cheese, or a light soup with very little poor-quality meat the rest of the time.
Inmates were expected to attend daily prayers in the asylum chapel and the walls of the asylum were adorned with biblical quotes. They were forced into forced labor, since idle hands were thought to do the devil’s work after all. And as a consequence, women often worked in the laundry, scrubbed floors, worked in the kitchen, etc., while men crushed bones, collected, or crushed rocks. It was exhausting work with very poor food rations.
The worst thing for most of the families who were forced to live in the asylum, often through no fault of their own, was that they were separated once inside and rarely saw each other afterward.
The coincidence of being born in the old asylum did not end there, as years later I worked there as a young nursing student and also attended meetings at the site when I was working for two charities. Maybe somehow the stories of the inmates came to me, as their vibes still existed somewhere within the confines of the old building. Sadly, the building has been demolished and I hope, with the help of my story, that people will appreciate what people in my hometown and other cities across the country had to endure once they set foot in the door.