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It consisted of rows of workshops around a central courtyard, with Kendrick's remodelled house forming the north and east sides. The premises included a large dye-house containing three furnaces, two woad vats and a float vat), a stockarding house, a medling loft with beating hurdles, several weavers' shops containing six broad looms and a kersey loom, and various clothworkers' shops.The main entrance, at the north side was through an ornate dutch-gabled stone gateway. By 1633, a Widow Lampit had been given the free use of several rooms in the workhouse to teach and set the poor on work is spinning and carding.The first inmates were admitted in August 1867 and by the end of the year the paid medical staff consisted of a nurse at a salary £20 per annum, an assistant nurse, and a nurse for the idiots and imbeciles. Reading then adopted the 'scattered homes' system for its pauper children, setting up a number of homes around the town, including: 82-84 Crescent Road; 'Camarra' and 'Rosemont', King's Road; 109 London Road; 11-13 Milman Road; 59 Queen's Road; 23-25 and 40 Russell Street; 'Wilson' and 'Clifford', South Street; and 'Ashberry' and 'Sutton', Southampton Street.
The impressive building (for which William Brockman, brickmaker of Tilehurst, supplied 200,000 bricks and 20,000 tiles) became known as "The Oracle" — the name possibly deriving from "orchal", a violet dye obtained from lichen.
The new Reading workhouse followed the design of the East Grinstead workhouse built in 1859 which comprised receiving blocks, an infirmary and a fever block. The following year, the workhouse was renamed Battle Infirmary, reflecting it increasing role as a provider of medical care to the poor in the area, not just workhouse inmates.
(Vagrants continued to accommodated at the Forbury until 1892.) A competition between seven local architects took place to produce plans for a building costing no more than £6,700. Reading Workhouse - 1892 Infirmary from the south-east, c.1915. Reading Workhouse - 1892 Infirmary from the south, c.1915. Reading Workhouse - 1892 Infirmary from the south-east, 2000. Reading Workhouse - 1892 Infirmary from the north, c.1915. In 1894, the British Medical Journal set up a "commission" to investigate conditions in provincial workhouses and their infirmaries. Following the abolition of the workhouse system in 1929, the workhouse was taken of by the Reading County Borough Council and became Battle Hospital.
The mayor and burgesses were to purchase: a faire plot of ground within the said towne...
and thereupon shall erect and build a strong house of Bricke fit and commodious for setting of the poore on worke therein; or else shall buy and purchase such an house, being already built, if they can finde one alreadie fitting, or that may with a reasonable summe be made fir for the said use; the same house to have a faire garden adjoyning, and to be from time to time kept in good and sufficient reparations by the said mayor and burgesses for the time being for ever.