From 1749, the parishes of Birling and Snodland shared a workhouse with Luddesdowne and Halling (Hitchcock, 1985). It occupied the former Bishop's Palace at the south side of Ferry Road, Halling.
A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded parish workhouses in operation at West Malling (for up to 20 inmates), Aylesford (40), Birling (28), Ightham (20), Mereworth (14), East Peckham (40), West Peckham (20), Shipborne (11), Wateringbury (15), Wouldham (5), Wrotham (80).
A row of cottages near the parish church on St Mary's Road in Wrotham is now known as Workhouse Cottages, presumably indicating a former use of the properties.
Malling Poor Law Union officially came into existence on 12th October 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, one representing each of its 22 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Kent: Addington, Allington, Aylesford, Birling, Burham, Ditton, Ightham, Leybourne, East Malling, West Malling, Mereworth, Offham, East Peckham, West Peckham, Ryarsh, Shipborne [Shipbourne], Snodland, Stanstead, Trottiscliffe, Wateringbury, Woldham [Wouldham], Wrotham.
The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 16,398 with parishes ranging in size from Allington (population 37) to Wrotham (2,601). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-5 had been £15,220 or 18s.7d. per head of the population.
The Malling Union workhouse was erected in 1836 at a site to the south of West Malling. It was designed by John Whichcord who was also the architect of the Union workhouses at Cranbrook, Dartford and Tonbridge. In 1836, the Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £5,300 on construction of the building which was to accommodate 360 inmates. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1907 OS map:
The former workhouse buildings have now been demolished.
By the early 1900s, the Malling Union was operating children's scattered homes at West Malling (16 chidren) and East Peckham (7 children). By 1924, a home at Snodland (10 children) had replaced the East Peckham Home,
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 ME14 1LQ Holdings include: Guardians' minutes (1835-1929); Ledger (1835-1930, with gaps); Births and baptisms (1870-1936); Deaths (1870-1940); Creed register (1898-1932); Admissions and discharges (1909-29); Punishment books (1900-34); Register of persons receiving infants (1898-1930); etc.
- Higginbotham, Peter Workhouses of London and the South East (2019)
- Hitchcock, T.V. (1985) The English workhouse: a study in institutional poor relief in selected counties. l695-l750. (DPhil thesis. University of Oxford.)
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