Workhouses were public buildings to house people who had nowhere else to live. Often people could lose their homes when they lost their jobs, so they would end up in a workhouse. They were grim places created to be a warning to the poor. Many people preferred to starve than enter the workhouse.
There were lots of rules to make life as miserable as possible for anyone living in a workhouse. Often, people weren't allowed to speak and they were even punished if they kept themselves too clean and tidy!
Some punishments included being flogged or having to wear the 'Scold's Bride', which was a type of metal gag.