Running the workhouse in mid-nineteenth century Birmingham required numerous supplies of everyday items. Decisions on who and what were supplied were made by the Guardians of the Poor at regular meetings. The workhouse was a considerable customer for many small businesses, and it seems likely that connections across the local business community could play an important role in securing contracts. However, some supplies came from much further afield. Below is the list of suppliers for 1858, agreed at a meeting of the Board of Guardians in early March and published in Aris’s. Meetings of the Guardians were regularly reported in the press, to ensure that local tax payers could see exactly where their money was being spent. The list is interesting for what it reveals of workhouse necessities, from oatmeal for gruel, through to shoes and coffins.
Meat Mr Billingham, Congreve Street
Oatmeal Mr William Jeffcot, Weaman Street
Ale The Deritend Brewery
Wines & Spirits E. Simpkinson, Jamaica Row
Leather Frier, Bull Street
Shoes M’Kinley & Walker, Paisley
Butter & Cheese Knowles, Broad Street
Grocery J. Whilock, High Street
Hosiery, Draper Atkinson & Co., London
Coals Weal, Broad Street
Stationery Mr Billing, Livery Street
Printing Mr Tonks
Drugs Mr Humphreys
Milk T. Saxelby
Birmingham’s local newspaper archive is available to view free of charge at the Library of Birmingham, level 4. It may be prudent to make an appointment to avoid disappointment. The papers are also available to view by subscription to the British Newspaper Archive. Please continue to support our local archives and libraries.