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The first inmates were admitted in August 1867 and by the end of the year the paid medical staff consisted of a nurse at a salary £20 per annum, an assistant nurse, and a nurse for the idiots and imbeciles. Reading then adopted the 'scattered homes' system for its pauper children, setting up a number of homes around the town, including: 82-84 Crescent Road; 'Camarra' and 'Rosemont', King's Road; 109 London Road; 11-13 Milman Road; 59 Queen's Road; 23-25 and 40 Russell Street; 'Wilson' and 'Clifford', South Street; and 'Ashberry' and 'Sutton', Southampton Street.

A receiving home for new admissions was based at The Beeches, 109 London Road, Reading.

The workhouse was run by several "undertakers" — local clothiers, appointed by the Corporation, who organised the cloth production for which they received loans from the common stock.

The lodging rooms contain 2, 3,4 beds apiece, made of flocks and feathers. If they require more they are usually taken into the house. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 15 in number, representing its 3 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one): Berkshire: St Giles, with Whitley (5); St Lawrence, Reading (5); St Mary, with Southcot (5).

In winter generally about 80 or 90 persons in the house. Diet in Workhouse: Breakfast—Sunday—Bread, cheese and beer; Monday and Friday—Bread and broth; Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday—Milk pottage; Thursday— bread and cheese. The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 16,042 — 5,112 in St Giles 4,048 in St Lawrence, and 6,882 in St Mary.

They are chiefly employed in spinning hemp, but 2 looms for weaving sail cloth were lately erected. Dinner—Sunday, Thursday—Meat, pudding, vegetables and bread; Monday, Saturday Bread and cheese; Tuesday—Bread and broth; Wednesday, Friday—Cold meat. Old people are allowed tea, bread and butter for breakfast. The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1832-35 had been £8,179 or 10s.2d. For the first 30 years of its life, Reading Union made use of two of the pre-1834 parish workhouses which were adapted and enlarged: St Mary's (160 inmates) was for the aged, the infirm, the sick, mothers with children, and children without parents; St Laurence's (190 inmates) was used for able-bodied paupers and vagrants. In 1846, the Poor Law Commissioners expressed concern about sanitary conditions at St Laurence's. This suggestion dismissed by the guardians, although in April of the following year an additional workhouse was opened specifically to accommodate the 'wayfaring and vagrant poor'.

Some of the Poor are sent out to work for the farmers. This was in an old granary at the entrance to King's Meadows in the Forbury.