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100 years ago: Workhouses need chaplains

13 October 2023

October 12th, 1923.

IN THE Manchester Guardian “Artifex” points out a peculiar meanness to which some of the clergy are subjected. It is not infrequently announced in the Press that the Poor Law Guardians of such and such a place, though admonished to do so by the Home Office, have refused to appoint a paid chaplain for the workhouse, and that “the work will continue to be done by the neighbouring clergy as part of their parochial duty.” The action of the Guardians is, of course, illegal. But, as “Artifex” says, its illegality is less unpleasant than its meanness. For the Guardians know that the work will be done even if they refuse to pay for it, and that the clergy will not let the sick and aged die without the ministrations of religion, nor neglect the officials, and the children and others who are within workhouse walls. It is a matter for their consciences; if they neglected this work the Guardians would probably neither know nor care. But it is a work which is very exacting of time and strength. We seem to remember several cases of such meanness in Devonshire; “Artifex” says that there has lately been a very bad case near Manchester. And he wonders what a Guardian who kept a dairy would say if his colleagues on the Board decided that in future they would not supply milk for pauper children, but would allow their fellow-Guardian to supply it as part of his public duties. The matter is one which Churchmen who are also ratepayers might well take up. Elected bodies are not insensitive to public opinion; and if Churchmen exposed this meanness whenever they came across it, a grave abuse, which happens to be also an illegality, would soon be remedied.

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