This 19th-century workhouse at Southwell has a different feel to most National Trust properties: no tea and cakes or topiary here. The imposing three-storey red-brick building survives much as it was when the old, infirm and destitute came knocking. Founded in 1824 by the Rev JT Belcher, it introduced a harsh system which was adopted by more than 600 other workhouses. Husbands, wives and children were segregated and strictly supervised.
Children can follow guided trails based on 10-year-old twins Emma and Sarah, or Henry, an 11-year-old orphan who came with his brother, William. A snakes and ladders style game, Master's Punishment, is available to borrow while you tour the building. At the end are interactive exhibits, including a chance to be prime minister and end poverty. Children can try on workhouse uniforms: shawls and pinafores for girls, waistcoats and caps for boys.
Tours start with a short film about Reverend Belcher. You then explore the segregated work yards, day rooms, dormitories and dank cellars with the aid of an audio guide. One of the most surprising rooms is a 1970s bedsit - the workhouse was still in use, as a women's refuge, in 1977. On the third Sunday of every month, costumed characters take up residence.
Nothing on site except a drinks vending machine, but Southwell has plenty of teashops, cafés and pubs.
Only the ground floor is accessible by wheelchair. There are steep stairs to other floors, but those with less mobility can have an audio-visual tour. There is an induction loop at reception. Braille, large print and foreign language guides are available and the introductory film is subtitled.
Open Thursday to Sunday, 12-5pm. Adults, £4.90, children £2.40, family (two adults, two children), £12.20. There is a reduced rate if you don't come by car.
How to get there
The Workhouse is on Upton Road in Southwell, Notts (01636 817250; nationaltrust. org.uk/workhouse). By car: 13 miles from Nottingham, off the A612; free parking.
By train: Fiskerton station (Central Trains, 08457 484950, centraltrains.co.uk). By bus: from Nottingham, Newark and Mansfield (Nottingham City Transport, 0115-950 6070, nctx.co.uk)
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