In Andover Workhouse

Andover workhouse became famous for its abuse under the control of a Scottish former Sergeant Major and his wife. He was often drunk and abusive, and took advantage of the women in his care. This is from ‘The Scandal of the Andover Workhouse’ by Ian Anstruther:

“Elizabeth Hutchins, a matron of more than average spirit who has passed an unusually interesting life, … Born in 1793, a cottage still inhabited today in the beautiful parish of Abbot’s Ann, she had known hunger, literally fom birth, her parents, Joseph and Elizabeth Brown, being even then supported by the parish she had maried in May, 1811, her husband being a deserted soldier who was taken back to his regiment and flogged only a fortnight after their wedding. then she was forcibly taken to Chute, her husband’s parish to the west of Andover which, by law, was compeled to support her because, clearly, she was still a pauper. Here she took up with a man callede winter with whom she lived for 5 years and to whom she bore a son caled William. When she was found to be living with anohter man when her husband (whose name was Charles Hutchins) returned at last fgrom active service, she was taken down to Andover market, tied to a rope like a troublesome heifer and sold to winter for two and sixpence, an event of sufficient rustic charm to be given a report in the Salisbury Journal. Shelived with winter for a further year, giving him another baby, Jane. Then her husband claimed her back. Several legitimate children folowed, the Chute baptismal register describin their father as ‘labourer’ and ‘pauper’. Elizabeth herself, at a later date, said that, in al, her family nubered 11. One of her babies died as an infant; the progres of others is not redorded; the eldest, William, wa hanged for arson. He was said to have fired a stack of corn, but as the man to whome it belonged was also one of the jury that tried him, and as, according to the rule of the day, he was not alowed to be represented but had to cpeak from the dock himself, his chances of being acquitted were slight. His mother never went to the trial being, as it happened, great with child., but she always swore that she knew he was innocent. It sems he was subject to epileptic fits, and when he was condemned he fainted in the dock. He wa hanged in Salisbury, in 1835, and his body returned to his native parish wher, on the 25th March, it was buried close to the crumbling church in a grave that is now forgotten.

Perhaps because of this terrible event the Hutchins family decided to emigrate and with, presumably, the help of the parish, went to america in 1836. There Charles Hitchins died, leaving Elizabeth without support. Somehow or other she managed to get back; and toward sthe end of 1838, then at the age of 44, she and her children entered the Andover workhouse.

Known to her friends as Bettty Duck – it was just, she said, the name for a fool though other people more than hinted that, for an act or two of adultery, she had earned it for being ducked in a pond – she did not prevaricate or blush for shame when McDougla asked her for a breif connection.

‘Mr McDougal made a proposal to me after I had been in teh workhouse sme timep he asked me a question or two. It might be a month after I had been in the house; I was then up in the sick ward. He asked me if I had any objection t lie with him; I told hi to go off. that wsa the first time; he asked me again afterwards. He said then the same as he said before. I considered myself, and I thought as the children were almost starved, and he said he’d give me some victuala and some beeer, tha tif he asked me again, I would.

He asked me again, and I gave consent, sir; it tok place up in the sick ward. He gave me sme victuals and some beer. That took place once or twice; 4 or 5 times whilst I was in the house.

There was no night in particular that it was done. There was one Saturday evening; I slept with him a little owhile one Saturday evening; I had a young child, and I did not stay long. He slept with me next room to mistress [ie his wife] . He did not sleep with mistress on Saturday evenings; he slept next room to her. …

I recollect Mr McDouglas that evening coming up into the sick ward to me. I don’t remember the time because I had been to bed, and was asleep. At that time I had a young child. He came and tapped at the door to the sick ward twice.

When he did that I went out to him; he waited till I came out. I then went down the sick-ward stairs…..

Betty, in many respects was lucky, for at least she was able to speak to McDougal and, when desperate, get some extras, even though she had to pay for them. Other inmates, especially the men, simply had to live as they could, on even less….

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