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Penshurst, Kent

Up to 1834

A parliamentary survey of 1776 recorded the oepration of parish workhouses in Chiddingstone (for up to 30 inmates), Cowden (2), and Leigh (30). A workhouse was in operation at Penshurst by 1821.

After 1834

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:

There having been strong indications for some time past of a disposition on the part of the people to make an attack on the New Union Workhouse, erected at Bough Beeches, in the neighbourhood of Chiddingstone, the Tunbridge Wells troop of yeomanry, under the command of Capt. Blencowe, were called out on Sunday evening; but the people having dispersed, they were met upon the road with a notice that their services were not required, and they returned that night. On the following day, however, about noon, they were again called upon, considerable numbers having assembled in the neighbourhood of the workhouse. Mr. Streatfied, the Rev. Mr. Hawes, and other Magistrates were upon the spot — the Riot Act was read — and the people ordered to disperse, which, after some delay, they did, no collision of any consequence between the people and the yeomanry having, we are happy to say, taken place, and no mischief having been done to the building.

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.

Bibliography

  • Maidstone Journal (16/2/1836 and 18/12/1838)

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