Minster had poorhouse in operation as early as 1630 (Judge, 1987). It was part of the Manor of Minster, owned by Sir John Haywood, which was left to be administered as a charity after his death. The poorhouse provided shelter for the old and homeless until any of those that were able could find work or accommodation.
A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded parish workhouses in operation at Minster with accommodation for up to 26 inmates, and at East Church (40 inmates).
In 1784, a new workhouse was erected at what is now Wards Hill Road, Minster, but burnt down five years later and was rebuilt.
Sheppey Poor Law Union officially came into existence on 25th March 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 14 in number, representing its 7 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Kent:
Eastchurch (2), Isle of Elmley, Isle of Harty, Leysdown, Minster in Sheppey (6), Queenborough (2), Warden.
Later Addition: Sheerness (from 1894).
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 9,847 with parishes ranging in size from Warden (population 27) to Minster in Sheppey (7,922). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1831-4 had been £6,695 or 13s.7d. per head of the population.
The new Sheppey Union adopted the existing Minster workhouse. In 1836, the Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £1,000 on enlargement of the building. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1908 map below:
The oldest surviving portion, believed to date from 1789, was the workhouse lodge at the southernmost corner of the site.
An irregular mixture of 19th century blocks ran along the roadside at the southern edge of the site.
A new infirmary was erected perpendicular to the road in 1869. Latterly, the entrance to the site was at the southern side of this block.
In 1889, another fire caused damage to the workhouse buildings.
The workhouse had its own school at the north of the site which was in operation until 1895. From that date, workhouse children were sent to the local village school although they had to sit in their own part of the classroom. From around 1904, children born in the workhouse were given the address "Cliff House" on their birth certificates to disguise their place of birth.
After the official end of the workhouse system in 1930, the site came under the control of Kent County Council. In 1938, the buildings were redesignated as Minster Hospital with facilities including a maternity unit and operating theatre. It later became Sheppey Hospital, which closed in around 2002. Most of the buildings have since been demolished and replaced by modern housing. In 2009, some of the roadside buildings at the south of the site were still standing.
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 (1835-1930); Ledger (1835-1930, with gaps); Births (1835-1930); Deaths (1866-1931); Creed registers (1869-1930); Register of mechanical restraint (1890-1922); Admissions and discharges (1853-1929); Indoor relief books (1848-1921, with gaps); etc.
- Higginbotham, Peter Workhouses of London and the South East (2019)
- Sheppey General Hospital — A Brief History by Sheila Judge (Bygone Kent, Vol. 8, June 1987)
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