Large Tables

The locations and uses of large tables in the English workhouses during the 18th and 19th centuries are able to provide us with information about the differences in lifestyle between those in charge and the working poor. The stories of two particular tables, one located in the governor’s room in the workhouse of Assington and the other located in the parlour in the workhouse in the parish of Staplehurst, help to highlight these differences.

I don’t think that the stories behind these large tables show in anyway that the workhouses were pernicious, but they definitely show that they were fairly institutionalized with disparities in power between those in control and those working, where only minimum care was provided for the latter.

Museums could help to contextualize this by showing, for example, a model to help visualize the difference between the cramped wardroom with a few smaller tables and the governor’s room with the large table in Assington. The same could be done with the table in the parlour in Staplehurst, as the use of a large table in such a room would have been for leisure time and socializing, something that not many poor workers had. Additionally, showing actual replicas of the large tables and what they would have been used for in comparison with smaller tables cramped with workers would also help to contextualize and explain the significance of large tables in a museum.

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