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In 1628, the first intake of 24 weavers, 16 shearmen, and six burlers took up employment at the workhouse.
For its first two years, the operation ran at a profit but this soon began to change.
By 1628, the site had been redeveloped to provide a workhouse for poor clothiers.
The impressive building (for which William Brockman, brickmaker of Tilehurst, supplied 200,000 bricks and 20,000 tiles) became known as "The Oracle" — the name possibly deriving from "orchal", a violet dye obtained from lichen.
shall seeme convenient for the employment of poore people, and for the preservation and encrease of the said common stocke.
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.