Organ from St Marya??s Workhouse

Organ from St. Marya??s Workhouse

Inmates slept in different parts of the building according to age, gender and physical health.

This organ was originally used in the chapel of the workhouse in St Mary’s Road, Portsmouth. The workhouse was opened in 1846.

Some families would find themselves with no money or out of work. Sailors’ families were often poor as the navy was slow to pay wages. With no other option they would be forced to go into the workhouse.

Conditions were harsh, food was plain and families were split up. Inmates slept in different parts of the building according to age, gender and physical health.

Males were at the west and females at the east. A central corridor ran the length of each wing with rooms off to each side.

The end of the nineteenth century saw the beginning of a major expansion of hospital facilities at the south of the workhouse site. Sections for the mentally ill were added.

The site later became known as St Mary's Hospital. The main workhouse building itself has now been converted to residential accommodation.

Quick Facts

  • Accession number 2003/2586
  • From St Mary's Workhouse, Portsmouth
  • Period Victorian


  • The St Mary's Workhouse was designed by Augustus Livesay and Thomas Ellis Owen of Portsmouth and its construction cost £2,500.
  • The workhouse was near to a major landmark of Portsmouth, St Mary's Church, which is the oldest church site on Portsea. Both Charles Dickens and Isambard Brunel were baptised there. The current church, built later in Victorian times, contains one of the finest Walker Organs in England.
  • This sign can be see as part of the 'No Place like Pompey' exhibtion at Portsmouth City Museum.

Did you know?

It is still possible to play this particular organ given a certain amount of time to prepare it. However those who are able to do so should first contact the staff at the Portsmouth City Museum to see if an appointment can be made.

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