Minster Workhouse

It is believed that Minster had a poorhouse in operation as early as 1630 in the manor of Minster, the poorhouse provided shelter for the homeless and elderly until anyone staying there could find work or accommodation.

In 1636 it was reported that Sir John Haywood donated land and money in a charitable trust, for a poorhouse to be built at Minster, the poorhouse was to run after Sir John Haywood’s death as a charity.

A parliamentary report of 1777 reported workhouses in operation in Minster, with accommodation for 26 inmates. It also reported accommodation for 40 people at a workhouse in Eastchurch.

A new workhouse was built at Minster in 1784 but in 1789 the thatch roof caught fire and the building collapsed, another workhouse was built on the same site in 1815.

Following the Poor Law Act, in 1834 a board of guardians was enlisted to run a union of parish workhouses, it was known as The Union and situated in Union Road in Minster. The Union were also in charge of the workhouses in Eastchurch and later Queenborough and Sheerness. Each parish was overseen by an elected board of 14 guardians, Eastchurch had 2 guardians, the Isle of Elmly had just 1, the Isle of Harty also had just 1 guardian, Leysdown had 1, Minster had 6 guardians, Queenborough had 2, Warden had just 1 and Sheerness had 1. Sheerness joined the Union later than the others in 1894.

The 1831 Census showed the population within the union was 9,847, it also showed the annual poor-rate expenditure between the years 1831 – 1834 had been £6,695 or 13s.7d per head.

A new infirmary was added in 1869 and in 1889 another fire caused damage to some of the buildings. There was also a school on the site which was in operation until 1895, when the school closed down the children were sent to the local school but had to sit in a different part of the classroom as the other children.. Around the year 1904 to hide where they had been born children at the workhouse were given the address “Cliff House” on birth certificates.

The Union Workhouse was closed in the early 1900’s and in 1938 the buildings were re-opened as Minster Hospital, it had a maternity unit and an operating theatre. The oldest building on site is believed to be Workhouse Lodge, it stands on the corner of Love Lane and was built in 1789. The buildings that run along the road were built during the 19th century.

Currently the site is derelict and has a high security presence, plans have been put through to adapt the older building into blocks of flats, these plans have not been accepted at this time. The site is now under a preservation order, as it is believed to be the site of the Monastery that adjoined Minster Abbey.

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