On this day: Emily goes to the workhouse

21st September 1903. Emily Norkett and her illegitimate baby son William Thomas Norkett were admitted to the City Road Workhouse in Holborn. Emily’s occupation was ‘charring’ (part-time cleaning) and she was twenty-four at the time.

As a poor mother of an illegitimate child, Emily would have had little choice but to enter the workhouse. It seems likely she would have left as soon as possible, once she was fit to work, but I wonder if William stayed there.

See previous posts in the ‘ordinary people’ series: Thomasine enters the asylum, birthday of Cora Coombe, seven rioters sentenced.

5 thoughts on “On this day: Emily goes to the workhouse”

  1. Oh, this made my heart ache. I wish we had a way to know what became of Emily and William. From what I’ve read, workhouses could be really terrible places to live. I hope they both got out soon and had good lives after that.

    1. It’s so sad, isn’t it? No one would go to the workhouse unless they had no choice, and of course for poor unmarried mothers there was nothing else they could do.

  2. Ph this is so sad. So young and her only option to go to the workhouse which can’t have been an easy decision to make since I’m not sure they would let her take her son with her after she left. 🙁

    1. You’re right, it’s sad and most likely she would have to go out to work and leave him behind, but I would hope that they reunited later.

      1. I think there’s hope it could have happened. I remember some Who Do You Think You Are episode talked about someone’s family (can’t remember the celebrity) where there were brothers both in the workhouse that later reunited. There’s always hope 🙂

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