About Maidstone Union Workhouse
Note that the data in this site contains
an extract of only those records pertaining to Staplehurst people which is a
very small portion of the Maidstone Union records.
Until 1838, Staplehurst had maintained a workhouse within the village. Like other villages, the Staplehurst workhouse was expensive to maintain in a relatively small village. The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, which banished outdoor relief and forced the poor on relief into workhouses, allowed parishes to club together and form a union with the objective of providing facilities on a larger scale more economically.
Staplehurst joined the Maidstone Union which consisted of the Maidstone, Staplehurst, Bearsted, Boughton Monchelsea, Barming, East Farleigh, West Farleigh, Hunton, Linton, Loose, Marden, Nettlested, Otham, Teston and Yalding.
The Maidstone Union Workhouse was constructed in 1836 on the Heath Road at Coxheath south of Maidstone town. The design was based on Sir Francis Head's Plan of a Rural Workhouse for 500 Persons published by the Poor Law Commissioners the previous year. The web site ‘Maidstone Workhouse and Poor Law Union’ contains maps and photos of the workhouse.
The Workhouse included a chapel where baptisms and burials took place. Of the surviving records, Staplehurst people are a very small portion of the total.
The birth and baptisms are mostly, but not all, of illegitimate children. But not all illegitimate children were born and baptised in the workhouse as a quick look through the Staplehurst register will demonstrate. There are 3 books; one is Registers of Births covering 1838 to 1842; the second is Baptism in the Maidstone Union Chapel from 1842 to 1870 and the third is a Register of Births from 1870 to 1906.
The burials contain more entries and it
is important to note that one of the burial registers is missing. The book
covering the period 1857 to 1886 is not in the archives and assumed lost.
For the poor, the workhouse was the only medical facility available to them, and many of the old and infirm who could not support themselves ended their days in the workhouse.
The Religious Creed Register covering the period from 1886 to 1909 contains a summary of admission dates and, very usefully, next of kin information from 1890. There are several books which appear to have been loose leaf forms collated together. I am certain there are pages missing and some names are repeated. It certainly will not provide an accurate record of admissions to the workhouse but it does give an interesting glimpse of the people recorded.
The records for the Maidstone Union Workhouse are held at the Centre for Kentish Studies in Maidstone.