From Real Life Villains Wiki

Workhouses were common places to hold the poor in Victorian era Britain and were extremely oppressive, cruel and hazardous places that had the poor act as little more than slaves - forced to do such things as man dangerous machinery, break stones and endure poor health, beatings from their superiors and other conditions that were so bad early activists such as Charles Dickens began to protest in varied ways.

Some Workhouses were so cruel they caused riots and one extremely infamous Workhouse starved the poor so far that they fought over the right to eat bones.

It was regular practice for women, children and men to be separated in Workhouses - meaning poor families were separated from one another upon entering and even infants were removed from their mothers.