Workhouse Recipes

The food served in workhouses changed quite a lot over the years with more variety and better nutritional value introduced towards the end of the 19th and the early 20th centuries. We don't have the exact recipes used in the Epsom Workhouse but the following are thought to be fairly close to those used.
e.& o.e.


Oatmeal - 2oz.
Water - 1 pint
Treacle - ½oz. (Optional)
Salt - pinch

Slowly add the oatmeal to a pan of boiling water, stir till mixed in, bring back to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes then stir in the treacle and serve. Makes one pint.
NOTE: Gruel should be served quickly and not kept warm for a long period or reheated. However the large volumes required meant that breakfast gruel, served in medium to large workhouses, would often have been prepared the night before - so making it far less palatable.


Meat - Boneless cut into small cubes - 3oz
Bones - Chopped small - 3oz.
Peas or lentils or beans - well washed - 2oz.
Salt & Pepper to taste
Oatmeal - ½oz.
Vegetables (e.g. Carrot, Turnip, Onion, Leek) - well washed and chopped very small - 1oz.
Herbs as desired

Put the bones in a net bag, place the bone bag and the meat with a pinch of salt into a clean saucepan of cold water bring to the boil. Skim off the surface scum then add the vegetables and other ingredients. Bring back to the boil and simmer for about 4 hours. Remove and discard the bag of bones and serve. Makes one pint.

Rice Pudding

Rice (or Semolina or Sago) - washed - 3oz.
Sugar - ½oz.
Water - ½ pint
Milk - ½ pint
Salt - pinch
Fat to grease cooking tin.

Boil rice in the water. Place the boiled rice in a well greased cooking tin with the milk, sugar and salt and bake in a slow oven for about 75 minutes then serve. Makes one pound.


Meat Stock - 1 pint
Vegetables (e.g. Carrot, Turnip, Onion, Leek) - well washed and chopped very small - 2oz.
Dripping - ½oz.
Salt & Pepper to taste
Herbs as desired

Gently fry the vegetables in the dripping for about 10 minutes, add the stock bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Makes one pint.

Epsom Workhouse
Epsom Workhouse