THE WORKHOUSE SOUTHWELL

Sunday is a quiet day.
The work has stopped,
only the tarpaulin, the plastic, and scaffolding
show the extent of restoration
and only a yellow-hammer moves.

I move from shadow to sunshine
clutching camera and restoration plan.
The sun is bright as I face the arched front door,
paint cracked and peeling.

Matron, who is that person down there?

East wing, West wing,
the arched doorway separating husbands, wives, families.
Through builders’ fencing my eye measures exercise yards,
left, the women’s courts,
right, the men’s,
brick-edged semicircles of water
marking the site of privies.

I push under sacking, through the gap of a doorway.

That man is in the women’s exercise yard.
Send for the Reverend Belcher.

Show us yer pego, duckie!

 

And stop Alice her meat ration for using obscene language.

Sacking moves;
I look south through the gnarled trees of the orchard,
down the length of overgrown garden.
Shadows of old men hoe, weed, dig potatoes,
warmth on their backs.

And then I move on,
photographing the later additions:
1871 Infirmary; 1913 Stables; 1925 Mortuary,
all locked and windows boarded
awaiting grants, renovations, visitors.

Excuse me Sir, the Governor would like a word.

A door closes behind me.
I climb narrow stone stairs.
Sunday is a quiet day.
A day for prayer.

2000: A Time and a Place
Newark and Sherwood Millennium Chronicle