Workhouse meal serves up slice of past

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Over 50 volunteers will bring history to life when they prepare, cook and eat a typical 1860’s Workhouse meal at Ripon’s Workhouse Museum.

Artist Pippa Hale, who came up with the idea, will film participants preparing, cooking and eating a typical Workhouse meal during a day-long performance which is to take place in the original workhouse kitchen and dining room.

Pippa, a contemporary artist based in Leeds with a special interest in social history, said: “I’m thrilled to be working with Ripon Museums to create a new art work specifically for the Workhouse Museum.

“I’ll be making a film with the museum’s volunteers showing the preparation and consumption of a standard meal that would have been served to inmates in 1861.

“What’s really exciting is that the film will be shot in the kitchen and dining room of the original workhouse which the museum is in the process of acquiring.”

Work on the Arts Council England funded project will start soon with filming due to take place in January 2017.

And 50 participants drawn from Ripon museums’ large pool of volunteers will prepare the meal using a traditional menu and cooking techniques under the direction of a professional cook which they will then eat in the original Dining Room.

They will wear their own clothing but be segregated by sex as would have happened in the 19th century. The meal is based on one that records show was served to inmates in 1861.

James Etherington, Director of Ripon Museum Trust, said: “We hope that this project will draw attention to the gender, class and societal position in the latter part of the nineteenth century and bring alive the experience of living in the Workhouse for both volunteers and visitors.”

The project will take place in the original kitchen and dining room, areas which were used to feed the Workhouse inmates in Victorian times.

Ripon Museum Trust have recently been awarded Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) to expand the Ripon Workhouse Museum, resulting in the purchase of buildings originally occupied by the Ripon Union Workhouse.