Workhouse

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This is the workhouse that used to exist in the town where I live. It sat on a hill so everyone could see it and be afraid. The man who arguably built the town, industrialist and MP, John Fielden, fought the creation of this institution his entire life. He did so by arming men with education, decent living standards, fighting for their right to represent themselves and supporting them in their struggle and putting his money where his mouth was. He stood with them to the point of threatening to close every mill he owned.

He is a man remembered with respect and affection by people born long after he died, his descendents numerous. Every house I have lived in in this valley, one of the houses built by him or the peers he brought here. The man responsible for the streets and factories that gave Todmorden industrial prosperity and a structure for their community, understood the importance of common humanity over greed. 

The workhouse was erected in 1890 after his death. Locals were mortally afraid of what went on within its walls, and the economic conditions which could lead you there. A Victorian obsession with prevention of sex and a twisted morality, ensured married couples lived apart as they were punished for breeding. Their children punished for existing. Half starved and worked to death for the sin of being subject to economic conditions. The sick punished for being. For 40 years the local community resisted. It was turned into a hospital, then torn down. The housing development we now know as Longfield estate is where it used to be. 

The industry Mr.Fielden created, was smashed in pursuit of credit based growth, with only engineering continuing the towns industrial heritage. In a country where working is no longer enough to free you from punitive benefit conditions, the attitudes Mr.Fielden fought are alive and well.
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