The first Board meeting of the Guardians of the Tonbridge Union took place in November 1835 and the Union continued to be run by the Guardians until 1 April 1930 when its responsibilities were transferred under the Local Government Act of 1929 to Kent County Council. Under this new system the parishes which comprised the old Tonbridge Union became part of the Tonbridge and District Area under the control of the Kent County Council Public Assistance Committee.
PARISHES WITHIN UNION
- Tunbridge Wells
Prior to the erection of the new Union Workhouse the inmates of the existing parish poorhouses were removed to the poorhouses of Pembury, Speldhurst and Tonbridge. The new Union Workhouse was built at Pembury with the first inmates being admitted to the new Workhouse in December 1835.
The workhouse buildings were taken over by Kent County Council in 1930 and became known as the Tonbridge Public Assistance Institution. At a later date it was also known as the County Hospital, Pembury, Pembury Hospital and Tunbridge Wells Hospital.
The workhouse buildings have now been demolished with only the Workhouse Chapel remaining.
BURIAL OF INMATES DYING IN THE WORKHOUSE
The normal practice for persons dying in the Workhouse was for them to be removed to their parish of settlement (if within the Union) for burial or in the parish where the Workhouse was situated, which for the Tonbridge Union was Pembury. If a person died in an institution which was situated out of the Union’s area they were normally buried in the parish of that institution.
Following the Burial Acts of 1852-1857 burials may also have taken place at a cemetery built and operated by the local Burial Board.
BAPTISM OF CHILDREN BORN IN THE WORKHOUSE
The Baptism of children born in the Union Workhouse would normally only take place under exceptional circumstances unless the licence given to the Chaplain of the Workhouse included permission to carry out baptisms in the Workhouse Chapel. Baptisms could also take place in the parish church closest to the Workhouse, in this case Pembury, or the parish of settlement.
From 1 January 1905 the address recorded on the birth certificates of children born in the Workhouse was entered as ““Sandhill”, Pembury, Tunbridge Wells”.
The children were educated in the Union Workhouse until August 1901 when the children attended the local schools.
From February 1895 orphaned and deserted children were boarded out with foster parents where possible.
From October 1912 the girls were removed from the Workhouse and accommodated at the Union’s Scattered Home at “Silverleigh”,Hill View Road, Rustall whilst the boys were removed in December 1912 to the Union’s Scattered Home at “Chalfont”, Lower Green, Pembury.
Children were also sent to other specialist institutions run by other Unions, charities or private individuals.
INMATES RECEIVED FROM OTHER UNION WORKHOUSES
In December 1916 a number of inmates were received from the Eastbourne Union who had been previously accommodated at Hastings Union Workhouse.
INMATES SENT TO OTHER UNION WORKHOUSES
LOCATION OF SURVIVING UNION RECORDS
Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone, Kent
DOCUMENTS WHICH HAVE BEEN TRANSCRIBED
Register of Births – 1835 to 1841
Register of Deaths – 1835 to 1841
Admission and Discharge Registers – 1835 to 1841
Minutes of the Board of Guardians – 1835 to 1841
– SEE “LIST OF SURNAMES”