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It broadly followed the popular cruciform layout with an entrance block at the front, behind which lay the inmates' accommodation wings radiating from a central hub, with four yards for the different classes of pauper (male/female, old/young).A detached infirmary was erected at the north of the main workhouse building.The spotless purity of the walls and floors, the numerous water-closets and washing-rooms, the laundry, kitchen, school apartments, and small houses in which travelling paupers and their families could be lodged gratuitously for a night — all gave token of careful management, and concern for the comfort of the inmates.
A parliamentary report of 1776 listed parish workhouses in operation in Battersea (accommodating up to 70 inmates), Putney (70), Streatham (30), and Wandsworth (120).
In 1868-70, a much larger infirmary was erected at the north of the workhouse site on the ground previously used for the workhouse's gardens.
It comprised four three-storey ward pavilions linked to a central four-storey administration block. © Peter Higginbotham After 1886, when a new workhouse was opened at Garratt lane, St John's took on the role of union infirmary.
Occupying a somewhat elevated piece of ground, overlooking the rich and populous valley of the Thames, with Chelsea and the towers of Westminster in the distance, and closely environed with an extensive garden and shrubbery, the house enjoys a remarkably pleasant, and, I should think, salubrious situation; while the exterior, with its neat porter's lodge and railings, suggests much more the idea of is gentleman's residence than a receptacle for parish paupers.
Conducted over the whole establishment by the house governor, I was surprised at the extent and variety of the details, all apparently on a well-digested scheme for preserving order and discipline, combined with as great comfort as any one could reasonably expect.
There were also four large day-rooms which, owing to overcrowding, were pressed into use as wards.