The National Archives has a new podcast on Victorians and the workhouse (something I've blogged about before). Catch it here.
As the subject is actually the fear of the workhouse, I will also mention a book I've just finished. Esther Waters by George Moore is the grim story of a servant who is made pregnant and abandoned - well, it's a bit more complicated than that - interspersed with an astonishing amount of horseracing talk. We don't learn much about Esther's experience of the workhouse, but we get a lot of detail about her time in hospital and with various employers. However, throughout the book it is clear that she views her time there as the lowest point of her life. She throws it to the father of her child when they meet again and he is shocked.
Was the fear justified? My research says yes, but as with all things, some institutions were better than others and some staff were kind and hardworking.