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26 January 2021

Bella’s Story: Working at Sharow View

A poorhouse has stood on Allhallowgate in Ripon since 1776, replaced by the larger union workhouse in 1854. With the introduction of the Welfare State in the late 1940s, changes were made at the workhouse that gave it a more hospitable feel and it was renamed Sharow View. By then it had become an old people’s home which survived till the mid-1970s.

In later years, the building was used as office space by North Yorkshire County Council, before it became the Workhouse Museum.

Bella Lofthouse, who celebrated her 98th birthday in January 2021, worked there for many years and enjoyed a tour of her former workplace in January 2020, led by our volunteers.

We interviewed Bella about her experiences.

What was your role at Sharow View?

I started working at Sharow View in the late 1940s and continued to work there for 30 years.

I was a domestic worker, working very long hours (48 hours per week). The work was hard, but I was very much appreciated by Mr. and Mrs. Brook who ran the place. Mr. Brook was very fair and friendly and mixed with all the staff.

I left to have my daughter in 1963, then later returned on a part-time basis. Myself and my sister Margaret, who was also a domestic, worked a full-time position between us. She worked mornings and I worked afternoons. We both loved working there. Mr. and Mrs. Brook were in charge for most of our time and were very good to work for. Mrs. Colbeck was assistant Matron and sewing Mistress she was also a lovely lady.

Marion, another of my sisters, also worked there for a short time.

Visitors to the Workhouse Museum can see a photograph of Bella and her sister, Margaret, on display in the Tramp’s Day Room.

What was life like for the residents at Sharow View?

The residents who were able were given little jobs such as chopping wood, filling coal buckets and helping in the laundry.

Porridge was the staple breakfast food, but all the food was very wholesome and the residents thoroughly enjoyed it. They were all very well fed, with a good variety of food served. Any illnesses were dealt with in the medical rooms, where Matron Graham was in charge.

I do remember some of the residents in particular.

Bobby Umpleby helped in the laundry and also helped at Appleton’s Butchers, riding a bike to deliver pork pies.

Old Joe Lee was quite a character in Ripon. He used to stand and direct the traffic, wearing white gloves, which were actually given to him by the police!

Another resident I remember was Lucy, who was very sweet. She had been a state registered nurse.

What are your favourite memories of Sharow View?

I can honestly say that I spent some of the happiest days of my working life at Sharow View, and have very fond memories of many people. Especially Mr. Brook who was a well-respected man, who I continued to work with at Ripon House for many years when Sharow View closed down.

When I eventually retired, he gave me a wonderful send off and also attended my surprise retirement party, which my daughter had arranged. Wonderful memories!

Thanks to Bella for sharing her story with us. You can hear more from Bella in this oral history interview, alongside Pauline McHardy, who also worked as a nurse in Ripon, partly at the Workhouse site and is a city councillor.

If you have memories of Sharow View, we’d love to hear from you! Email [email protected].

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