OED spike n. 4.slang. The workhouse.
the casual ward of a workhouse (see casualadj. 9a
); an institution affording more or less temporary accommodation for the homeless.
1866 Temple Bar XVII. 184 Let the ‘spikes’ be what they may they were a great deal better than the ‘paddingkens’.
1894 D. C. MurrayMaking of Novelist 107 To sleep in the workhouse is to go ‘on the spike’.
1900 ‘J. Flynt’Tramping with Tramps 260 The next two nights of our stay..were spent in the Notting Hill casual ward, or ‘spike’, as it is called in tramp parlance.
1903 J. LondonPeople of Abyss viii. 78 On asking him what the ‘spike’ was, he answered, ‘The casual ward. It's a cant word.’
1933 ‘G. Orwell’Down & Out xxvi. 189 D'you come out o' one o' de London spikes (casual wards), eh?
1949 C. GravesIreland Revisited viii. 125 At first we did not understand thieves' slang, or that a ‘spike’ meant a workhouse. (We were told to avoid the Portsmouth ‘spike’.)
1972 Times 27 Dec. 2/8 ‘If this place was not here,’ a proud articulate Glaswegian ‘dosser’ said, ‘we'd be on the road or in the reception centre, the spike. I have been in the spike for the past 11 months.’
1980 Guardian 2 Oct. 18/1 A generation ago there were half a dozen lodging houses in the town..as well as the ‘spike’ or casual ward of the workhouse.