A parliamentary survey of 1776 recorded the operation of parish workhouses in Chiddingstone (for up to 30 inmates), Cowden (24), and Leigh (30). A workhouse was in operation at Penshurst by 1821.
The Penshurst Poor Law Union officially came into existence on 25th March 1835, one of the first in Kent to be created and relatively small in size. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 12 in number, representing its 6 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Kent: Chiddingstone (2), Cowden, Edenbridge (3), Hever, Leigh (2), Penshurst (3).
The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 6,367 with parishes ranging in size from from Hever (population 559) to Penshurst itself (1,453). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1831-4 had been £6,409 or 19s.10d. per head of the population.
A new Penshurst union workhouse was completed by February 1836 at what is variously referred to as Bough Beeches or "Bough Beech Green. Its opening was clearly unwelcome to many as the West Kent Guardian reported on 13th February:
However, on 22nd September 1836, despite opposition from the Penshurst Vestry, all the Penshurst Union's member parishes were absorbed into the adjacent Sevenoaks Poor Law Union. The Penshurst workhouse building was sold off in December 1838.
- Maidstone Journal (16/2/1836 and 18/12/1838)
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