The Spike Heritage Centre

These workshops are offered primarily for KS1 and KS2 students but many can be easily adapted for use by older age groups.


If weather permits, pupils will be given a map showing the site of the old workhouse and a map showing the current new estate. Pupils will be taken on a tour to try and discover original parts of the workhouse. This activity will enable them to understand the scale of the original workhouse site and encourage discussion around the changing face of the local area.


Before their visit - pupils will be encouraged to research and study source materials detailing cases of workhouse children accused of stealing. A discussion group on crime and punishment and treatment of the poor will be facilitated, alternatively pupils may choose to act out in role-play short scenes choosing to either take a positive or negative view of the system.


Pupils will be given source material concerning the treatment of homeless people in the past and the homeless situation today. They will look at how men, women and children were separated from one another and treated within the workhouse system. There will be opportunities to look more closely at the causes of homelessness, then and today.


In 1906 when The Spike was built, vagrants were expected to perform a task of work to earn their keep. Pupils will take a look at the type of work done at The Spike during their stay. They will then divide into groups to explore the four sleeping cells inhabited by four people who would have different stories to tell. They will discuss and share their discoveries with the rest of the group.


Pupils will be given cards with items such as water, cars and computers. They will be asked to decide which are ‘Wants’ and which are ‘Needs’. They will compare these to the belongings and possessions the Tramps might have had at The Spike. This can lead to a discussion on basic physical, intellectual and emotional human needs and the development of the ‘whole’ person.

THE THREE R’s – Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic

A specially designed workhouse school was built in Guildford in 1856. At first it was felt to be a waste of time educating workhouse children. But by law from 1870 all children had to attend.  Children will receive an insight into a girls’ and boys’ education and given materials to join in  reciting, copying, dictation, spelling and multiplication tables!


Tramps used signs, graffiti and their own type of ‘slang’ to communicate with one another. Children will attempt to break the tramps code and talk to one another in ‘Tramp Slang’. Discussion will centre around why signs rather than words were used and children can devise some secret messages of their own.


Children will be encouraged to look at recycling today with examples from home and compare this with recycling in Victorian times. There will be an opportunity to participate in sewing, rag-rugging, darning and knitting in order to ‘fix and make-do’ and to consider how they could recycle more of their own belongings equipped with this knowledge.


During the tour of the building children are shown the amount and type of food a pauper might receive during his stay. Discussion on healthy eating, food values and illnesses associated with undernourishment follow. Children will have the opportunity to weigh and measure using ‘old’ weights measures and tables to calculate the amount of food an adult or child would be given.


Bring your own sketchpads and pencils to capture the cold and sombre interior of the building. Use the sights of the washerwoman and smells of Jeyes fluid or carbolic soap to influence your sketch. Listen to the sounds of coughing and the stories related by the inmates to add detail to your drawings .


Children will be given some ‘old’ currency and tables and asked to work out how much they would have paid for a loaf of bread and a bed for the night. They will compare that to prices today and play a game to test their sterling skills. The distance from one Spike to another was about 12 miles. But chains, rods and furlongs, what are they?


Children are encouraged to talk about their recreation and play at school and at home today. They will then compare this to the games and activities children from “the posh ‘ouses” played and the street games, make do and make-believe games poorer children played. There will be opportunity for participation in games from this period. Are we better off today or did they have more fun and freedom in the past?

Tasks and Activities at the Spike