The contents of the ale and porter barrels, I was informed, were not administered generally, but only to old or infirm paupers by order of the medical attendant, and to those who wrought in the garden, or at more than usually severe labour.As every kind of stimulating liquor is proved to be valueless, except where nature would unavoidably sink without such artificial aid, the beer served out here and elsewhere to all except the positively infirm, may be pronounced so much money of the parishioners' thrown away.Substantial changes and additions were made to the buildings, including a nurses' home in 1898 at the north-east corner of the site. © Peter Higginbotham St John's Hill children's ward, 1896.
The wards were similar to those of other modern infirmaries of the period, except for being longer and having their fireplaces at the centre rather than at the sides or ends of the wards — the large wards had four fireplaces, each of which warmed a quarter of the space.
One ward was set apart for children, varying in age from a few days old to eight or ten years.
A small block containing the porter's lodge stood at the entrance to the site on St John's Hill.
The workhouse location and layout is shown on the 1866 map below: Wandsworth and Clapham St John's workhouse site, 1866.
In 1895, the total number of inmates was 3,559, of whom 2,921 were new cases; 2,501 patients recovered from their ailments, and 435 (12.2 per cent) died.
One celebrated inmate of the Wandsworth Union Infirmary was a Mrs.
Occupying a somewhat elevated piece of ground, overlooking the rich and populous valley of the Thames, with Chelsea and the towers of Westminster in the distance, and closely environed with an extensive garden and shrubbery, the house enjoys a remarkably pleasant, and, I should think, salubrious situation; while the exterior, with its neat porter's lodge and railings, suggests much more the idea of is gentleman's residence than a receptacle for parish paupers.
Conducted over the whole establishment by the house governor, I was surprised at the extent and variety of the details, all apparently on a well-digested scheme for preserving order and discipline, combined with as great comfort as any one could reasonably expect.
The parish of Holy Trinity, Clapham, opened a workhouse in around 1732.