Linton in Pictures
A History of Linton
in Photographs
Available here

In Victorian and Edwardian times, it was common practice for wealthy Christian families to help the “deserving” poor. Each Christmas a local Linton benefactor would pay for a dinner, sometimes a “take away” meal but more often a sit down meal in the local Church or School hall. Paternalism has been much maligned since 1945, but it was very beneficial for the poor in former days. Then the only state help came via the Workhouse.

Local benefactors always provided a Christmas dinner for the Workhouse inmates and the aged poor of the Parish. The Workhouse System was instituted in order to deter the “undeserving” poor and force them back to work.

The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act succeeded in this aim and by the 1850’s the huge Workhouse buildings were largely empty. Ninety percent of the poor were supported outside the Workhouse by the Parish Outdoor Relief System. Local Poor Law Rates were used to help these “deserving” poor and the extent of support provided was determined by the local Relieving Officer.

However, about ten percent of the poor remained in the Workhouses because they were too old or too sick to support themselves. Also housed here were orphans, unmarried mothers and the simple minded.

Our attitudes towards this System are partly coloured by the grim portrayal of Workhouse life in Charles Dicken’s “Oliver Twist”. His novel is very biased and paints a wholly unrepresentative picture of Workhouse life.

There had been a number of scandalous incidents in a tiny minority of Workhouses in the early days of the System, but Dickens portrayed such harsh and unfair conditions as the norm. The reality was that no one was ever likely to have been hungry in the Workhouse. The diet was carefully regulated according to age and gender, and was much more substantial than the diet of the ordinary family living outside the Workhouse. Loss of human dignity was the main drawback of the old Workhouse System.

Linton had a population of 1400 in 1891 and about 100 poor people received outdoor relief in their own homes. The Relieving Officer was Mr. Richardson who lived at the “Shrubbery” in Mill Lane.

Numbers in the Workhouse, present day Symonds House, varied between 50 and 70 inmates. These came from over twenty local villages. Benefactors had helped the poor throughout the Victorian period and the Reverend Brett had established a weekly Soup kitchen in 1847. Soup was served to the poor by local ladies who set up a kitchen in the old Market Hall until the 1870’s, and thereafter moved to the Vicarage at number 3, Church Lane. The Soup Kitchen ceased to operate after 1914.

The 1891 Christmas Day meal for the poor of Linton is described in the Parish Magazine of January, 1892. The Reverend John Longe stated that,"On Christmas Day over a hundred of the aged poor were supplied at the soup kitchen with an ample dinner of hot boiled beef, dumplings and vegetables, which they took to their houses, and there, no doubt, enjoyed most thoroughly.They also received a gift of tea and sugar, and in the case of any old man being a smoker, some tobacco. This is the second year they have been so regaled through the kindness of Mr and Mrs. Gotliebb Brinkmann, whom we all hope soon to welcome to the Parish. Our best thanks are due to Mr And Mrs Nichols and Miss Jessie Currie for their care and trouble in arranging for and dispensing the dinners so successfully."

Mr. Brinkmann was Danish and had worked in Singapore and the Dutch East Indies for a Manchester clothing firm.The couple moved to Linton in 1892 and arranged for a large house to be built at the bottom of Green Lane at "The Beeches". They retired to Linton because Mrs. Brinkmann and Mrs. Nichols were sisters. The Nichols lived at the Mill and Clopton’s Meadow next to the Mill House was undeveloped. Miss Currie was their niece. Another connection was through the Holttum family since Edward Holttum worked for the same Manchester firm as Gotliebb. Perhaps the Brinkmann’s had originally met in Linton through this work connection.

Gotliebb Brinkmann died on December 19th, 1917 at the age of 81, and characteristically remembered the poor of Linton in his Will. He left a bequest of £500 to be administered after March 1918 by the Parish Council. A Trust was to provide coal and food for the poor of Linton paid for out of the interest on the capital sum. Preference was to be given to the children who had lost their fathers in the Great War. He also left £150 to the Church to buy hassocks and chairs. The Charity still operates today.

It always makes me feel sad when I walk through the section of the Churchyard closest to the Camping Close, and see his grave so terribly vandalised. He was a rich man who really cared and did something positive for the poor, when he need not have done anything at all. In the 1980’s a few local youths, in their ignorance, smashed the stones and broke the crosses which marked the graves of the Brinkmann and Nichols families.