The Oracle became a troop garrison during the English Civil War, and then 'an Habitation for an idle sort of Poor, who lived in it Rent free.' The building was demolished in 1850 and the site redeveloped. It rarely happens that a labourer supports himself, wife and children without applying for parochial aid; weavers who can earn 18s.Later parish workhouses included: St Giles', an old building on Horn Street for 62 inmates; St Laurence's, a group of old cottages on Thorn Street, for 100 inmates; and St Mary's, a building on Pinkney's Lane dating from the 1770s, also for 100. a week do not hesitate soliciting relief, if a temporary stagnation of business curtails their common receipts, and reduces them to those difficulties which a little parsimony might have obviated.A small amount of residential accommodation was also provided for several employees including the overseers of the weaving and clothworking shops.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).
It seems a comfortable and convenient lodging for the Poor, but not always sufficiently aired. Reading Poor Law Union was formed on 10th August 1835.
The mayor and burgesses were to purchase: a faire plot of ground within the said towne...
and thereupon shall erect and build a strong house of Bricke fit and commodious for setting of the poore on worke therein; or else shall buy and purchase such an house, being already built, if they can finde one alreadie fitting, or that may with a reasonable summe be made fir for the said use; the same house to have a faire garden adjoyning, and to be from time to time kept in good and sufficient reparations by the said mayor and burgesses for the time being for ever.
Complaints also began that insufficient work was being created for the poor. Donations of about £100 a year are distributed among the Poor. Many of the labouring classes here possess very little foresight.
In 1639, the workhouse was reorganised to provide training and employment for fatherless children. Twelve persons belonging to this parish are in different almshouses, and receive from 7d. It is not uncommon for a healthy young fellow, who has ample means of supporting himself and family, to request the parish to pay for the midwife for his first child.