Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Frances Hood - Assistant Matron

In 2002, a Roger Hood posted the following question on Roots Web:

Could anyone please tell me where I might find information/ history of Woking Prison? My gt. grandmother FRANCES MILLICENT HOOD was assistant matron at the Female Convict Prison Knaphill on 1881 census (although Millicent was spelt Nuliecut). She was a Widow aged 36. Two of her children were living in Prison Street , JASPER HOOD my grandfather aged 6 described as a boarder and ALICE Hood aged 11 a nursemaid.

I was quite intrigued by that fact that little Alice was a nursemaid at the tender age of 11, and after a quick search discovered that it wasn't uncommon for nursemaids to be little more than children themselves. They were among the youngest and least experienced of all domestic servants, only one step up from the lowly scullery maid.

Poor Frances, it couldn't have been easy being a widow with two young mouths to feed. By all accounts, Victorian prison warders were badly paid. She probably didn't have any other choice but to send little Alice out to work.

In addition, I discovered the following rules and regulations that had to be observed by a prison matron:

The Matron is to reside in the Prison and be under the directions of the Governor; she is to have the care and superintendence of the whole female department, and enforce upon the Female Prisoners the observance of the Prison.

She shall be present at the distribution of meals to the Female Prisoners, and daily visit every part of the Prison appropriated to Females, inspect the bedding, clothing, and food of the Female Prisoners, and see every Female Prisoner at least once in twenty four hours ...


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