A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a parish workhouse in operation at Elham with accommodation for up to 60 inmates.
Elham was part of a Gilbert Union formed under Gilbert's Act of 1782 which provided a variety of powers including the operation of a workhouse for the elderly, infirm and children.
The Elham workhouse and adjacent Master's quarters were situated on the High Street in Elham.
Newington's parish workhouse stood at the east side of The Street.
Elham Poor Law Union officially came into existence on 3rd June 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, one representing each of its 18 constituent parishes as listed below:
County of Kent: Acrise, Cheriton, Elham, Elmsted, Hawkinge, Lyminge, Lympne, Monks Horton, Newington, Paddlesworth, Postling, Saltwood, Sandgate, Sellindge, Stanford, Stelling, Stelling Minnis, Stowting, Swingfield.
These were joined on 23rd April 1836 by: Folkestone (2 Guardians) and Hythe St Leonard (1).
The population falling within the enlarged Union at the 1831 census had been 14,137 with parishes ranging in size from from Paddlesworth (population 54) to Folkestone (3,638). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-5 had been £12,127 or 17s.2d. per head of the population.
Elham Union workhouse was erected in 1835 at Etchinghill in the parish of Lyminge. In 1836, the Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £6,500 on construction of the building which was to accommodate 300 inmates. The building was designed by Sir Francis Head following his model courtyard plan. This comprised a large quadrangle enclosed by two-storey buildings, a layout which was used at a number of Kent workhouses including Bridge, Cranbrook, Dartford, East Ashford, Eastry, Malling, and Tonbridge.
In the 1890s, major additions were made to the site including a new administration block at the east side of the workhouse, an infirmary to the south-east, a chapel to the north-east, and casual wards to the north near to the road. The workhouse site is shown on the 1905 map below:
The workhouse site later became the Elham Poor Law Institution, and was also known as Hill House. Under the National Health Service, it became St Mary's Hospital and provided geriatric care. The site has now been redeveloped and all the buildings demolished with the exception of the chapel.
Cheriton Cottage Homes
In 1888, the Elham Union erected a children's cottage home site at Cheriton. The homes, designed by Joseph Gardner and John Ladds, were enlarged in 1893. Their location and layout are shown on the 1908 map below.
Contrary to what was usual for cottage homes, the children in the homes attended the local school, Sunday school and parish church, and so were effectively operating as scattered homes.
The former cottage homes site is now used by local social services.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- Kent History and Library Centre, James Whatman Way, Maidstone, Kent (from Spring 2012). Holdings include: Guardians' minutes (1835-1930); Ledger (1835-1930); Births (1867-1914); Deaths (1836-52, 1898-1914); Creed registers (1869-1935); Admissions and discharges (1835-1931); Cottage homes admissions and discharges (1922-30); Register of persons receiving infants for reward (1919-30); etc.
- Higginbotham, Peter Workhouses of London and the South East (2019)
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