Maggy Milner’s recent project, a series of contemporary art installations in collaboration with the National Trust, is a response both, to the austere eerie and oppressive atmosphere of The Workhouse, and to the social history of the Victorian Workhouse systems that were, at that time, the economic solution to deal with poor, the unemployed and vulnerable.

Many governments have grappled with the balancing act of how much, or how little state support should be given to those in need. This series of installations also draws parallels with similar issues in society today.

Southwell’s Workhouse was designed in 1824 as an institution for the poor and disadvantaged. Masterminded by the Reverend John Thomas Becher. it introduced a new ‘welfare system’, requiring that the poor, old and infirm were given refuge. This system was adopted throughout England and Wales.

Becher’s philosophy of ‘Supervision, Classification and Segregation’ caused great humiliation and degradation for the unemployed and disadvantaged. The harsh regime has been described as a ‘fearful deterrent’. (Andrew Roberts, Lecturer in Sociology, Middlesex University).

Maggy Milner’s work refers to the demeaning, repetitive drudgery, regimentation and the rigid ‘black and white’ categorisation of Workhouse inmates. By using multiples of freestanding objects - some ready-made, some hand-crafted, she hopes to convey the delicate balance between state support and the independence of the individual.

Objects chosen for their ambiguity are labeled and placed in regimented rows to denote classification, segregation and supervision. Backlit by the atmospheric light, the work has a luminous transparency suggesting the fragility and precariousness of life.

Arts Council

A series of six site specific installations at the Workhouse, Southwell, Notts