A field just off the Wellsway, Bath
Here over 3100 bodies lie in unmarked graves, the last remains of those who died of poverty in the Bath workhouse between 1858 and 1899.
In the low winter sun you can make out the mounds and depressions of the burials.
A makeshift memorial comes and goes in a place that once may have had something more permanent.
Visitors add flowers occasionally. We add to them. A regular monthly virtual walk, click here for latest details
April 2020, as Covid-19 closed us down to isolation and social distancing, Walking the Names went online. An informal trawl of those who had joined the first few monthly walks resulted in nearly twenty walkers interested in taking part on line. Each walker was issued with a set of names from the Register of Burials at the Bath Union Workhouse burial ground.
Our first virtual Walking the Names on Sunday April 5th was the day in which the government announced 708 dead from the virus. In May as the UK deathtoll from the virus officially reached 30,000 the project continued. The June walks took place as the death toll exceeded 40,000. Many of the deaths were in carehomes, the modern homes of the old and the vulnerable, many of the deaths are of careworkers. There are resonances with those who died of poverty in the Victorian Workhouse and we reflect on contemporary responsibilities. Every name was a life. Every death a local tragedy. Walking and reading the names, recorded or not, breathes a momentary presence to that life.
As we walk and read, connections emerge.
Walkers have discovered ancestors buried in the field.
Tragic local stories, snap shots of brutal poverty and brief lives before the welfare state, glimpses of the punitive regime of the workhouse.
Please get in touch if you would like to help discover the stories behind the names.
Local historian, John Payne’s research on Bath Workhouse is available to download – Workhouse to Hospital
These videos show imagery from the walks and layer the voices to produce short audio-visual memorials.
These assemblies of readings retain the noises, distortions and reader stumbles as sound echoes of our reaching out through time, shame and the Burial Register to real lives lived long and others so sadly cut short.