A rare plaster bust of the first Chairman of the Bath Poor Law Guardians, who oversaw the Bath Workhouse is to be shown as part of the ‘Poor Man’s Friend?: Bath and the Workhouse 1836-2016’ exhibition which will open at the Museum on Thursday May 18th. The exhibition will run until September 2017.
This major exhibition, which reveals how provision for the poorest was arranged from the 1830s onwards at the site on Midford Road which later became St Martin’s Hospital. The exhibition has been researched by local historian John Payne in collaboration with Museum Director Stuart Burroughs and Lecturer Richard White. In addition to displays on the workhouse a programme of walks has been arranged by Richard White and the exhibition will include artworks by Lorna Bernstein and a large bell, which hung above the chapel at the Bath Workhouse and has been kindly lent by the National Health Service.
Director Stuart Burroughs said ‘I was born at St Martin’s Hospital, as it was then, so you might say I was brought up in the Workhouse but this timely exhibition shows how assistance and support was provided for the poorest from the 1830s and how our attitudes towards the poor have evolved over the years. The Workhouse bell is a particular favourite although we needed to buy a small hand crane to move it into position!
Reverend Spencer, who had been curate at St John’s Church, Hinton Charterhouse became Chairman of the Guardians when the Workhouse opened in 1836 and after some years became Chairman of the Temperance Society and moved to London. The bust has been kindly lent by St John’s Church and we are grateful to the Churchwarden Elisabeth Wordsworth for the loan.