Tuesday 22 September 2015

The Sins Of The Express

The post of yesterday 21st, "Sins Of The Fathers" has the link to the story in The Express about Jeremy Corbyn's ancestors.  It deals with James Sargeant, Workhouse Master at Farnham in Surrey in the mid 19th Century.

You are led to imagine that this was the result of skilled journalism researching the past and to take it on trust.  Having a few minutes to spare between tea breaks I had a look at the Workhouse in question.

This is very easy.  A first class historical website is Workhouses dot org. which is a treasure house of detailed research and information.

The Farnham page is here.  The Express story is a direct lift from this, which is not admitted and which does not need much in the way of added effort to round off.  But the text of the Workhouse site has more information which is omitted and is instructive.


Following the establishment in 1856 of the army camp at Aldershot, the number of syphilitic cases entering the workhouse increased ten-fold and part of the aged men's block used for their accommodation. In 1864, the aged men were moved to the front building of the workhouse, formerly used as a tailor's workshop.


Sixty odd years ago I was in those very barrack blocks built in the late 1850's, then Cavalry.  I still shiver in memory of the winter spent there.  But between those at the Workhouse in 1861 and those in 1871 there is a radical change both in numbers and the origins of the paupers.

James Sargeant, the 1861 Master and Corbyn's ancestor was a former cloth worker who with his wife and some low paid servants were left to cope with the expansion of numbers and far greater demands arising.  Once a rural backwater Farnham and Aldershot became a busy mixed community and garrison town.

Jeremy Corbyn is known to be anti-military.  It is ironic that two of the most disastrous military actions in our warrior and imperial history were in the 1850's, The Crimean War and The Indian Mutiny.

If the problems in the district arose in part from these events as well as all the new building it would have put severe stress on what were the unreformed local authorities at the time.

The past is a different place and it is useful to check the facts, something, alas, that the Express failed to do.

1 comment:

  1. If I see a story flagged as originating from the Express I don't bother with it. Too unreliable.

    One of the Derby workhouse buildings still exists as the Royal Crown Derby factory.