• Gruel was little more than a small amount of oatmeal boiled in a large amount of water. According to Hannah Glasse’s Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1747), gruel was made by boiling a spoonful of oatmeal in a pint of water three or four times, straining off the excess water and adding a piece of butter.[ i ]

Pease Pudding

  • A meal that consisted of boiled and mashed peas. According to the official Manual of Workhouse Cookery (1901), ½ pound of split peas were to be boiled, strained and then mashed with a ¼ ounce of animal fat.[ii]


  • A highly seasoned pork sausage – something that would not be part of Oliver’s workhouse diet.


  • In nineteenth-century Britain, a parish was an administrative unit that oversaw a district or community which contained its own church, as well as a priest or pastor. The parish directly administered workhouses before the New Poor Laws were put into effect.[iii]


  • Related to the parish.


  • An employee of the parish, frequently associated with charitable duties.


  • A person who prepares the deceased for burial.


  • A very poor person who receives private or public charity.


  • To try and obtain something without working or paying for it. People eating at a workhouse could be said to be looking to cadge a meal.



  • Otherwise known as a “beak” to the Artful Dodger. Magistrates are essentially judges who administer law.

[ i ]Higginbotham, 29-30.

[ii]Higginbotham, 165.

[iii]Wood, 198.



Online Resources:



  • Oliver Twist (1948) – David Lean
  • Oliver Twist (2005) – Roman Polanski



  • Peter Higginbotham, The Workhouse Cookbook (Stroud: The History Press, 2008)
  • Lynda Nead, Victorian Babylon (London: Yale University Press, 2000)
  • Frank Crompton, Workhouse Children (Stroud: Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1997)
  • Judith Jennings, The Business of Abolishing the British Slave Trade, 1783-1807 (London: F. Cass, 1997)
  • Derek Peterson, Abolitionism and Imperialism in Britain, Africa and the Atlantic (Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2010)
  • M. A. Crowther, The Workhouse System 1834 – 1929 (London: Batsford Academic and Educational Ltd., 1981)