The first Board meeting of the Guardians of the Medway Union took place in September 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 West Ashford Union became part of the Medway Towns District Area under the control of the Kent County Council Public Assistance Committee.
PARISHES WITHIN UNION
- Cathedral Precincts (Rochester)
- St Margaret’s (Rochester)
- St Nicholas (Rochester)
On the formation of the Union the poorhouse of St Margaret’s, Rochester was used to accommodate the able bodied men, St Nicholas to accommodate the children and Chatham to accommodate the remaining. The inmates of St Margaret’s poor house were removed to the Chatham Workhouse in March 1838 following the enlargement of the Chatham Workhouse but the children continued to remain in the St Nicholas Workhouse until late 1859 when all the inmates were housed in the new Union Workhouse built in Chatham.
The workhouse buildings were taken over by Kent County Council in 1930 and became known as the Medway Public Assistance Institution. At a later date it was also known as the County Hospital Chatham, Medway Hospital and All Saints Hospital.
Only a small portion of the buildings now remain and are privately owned.
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 Medway Union was Chatham. 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. This was the case at Chatham from at least 1865. Baptisms could also take place in the parish church closest to the Workhouse, in this case St Mary’s, Chatham 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 “No 42, Magpie Hall Lane” (later No 42, Magpie Hall Road”).
The children were educated in the St Nicholas Union Workhouse at Rochester until late 1859 when the children were removed to the new Union Workhouse in Chatham where they continued to be educated. On their removal to the new Union Cottage Homes in 1903 the children were educated within the establishment.
From June 1894 orphaned and deserted children were boarded out with foster parents where possible.
From August 1903 the children were sent to the Cottage Homes in Chatham built by the Medway Union.
Children were also sent to other specialist institutions run by other Unions, charities or private individuals.
INMATES RECEIVED FROM OTHER UNION WORKHOUSES
From April 1915 children were received from the Hollingbourne Union and accommodated at the Medway Union Cottage Homes.
From November 1915 infirm men and women were accommodated at the Union Workhouse.
From June 1916 children were received from the Faversham Union and accommodated at the Medway Union Cottage Homes.
From May 1917 children were received from the Bridge Union and accommodated at the Medway Union Cottage Homes.
From May 1920 children were received from the Dover Union and accommodated at the Medway Union Cottage Homes.
From May 1921 children were received from the Gravesend Union and accommodated at the Medway Union Cottage Homes.
INMATES SENT TO OTHER UNION WORKHOUSES
LOCATION OF SURVIVING UNION RECORDS
Medway Archives Centre, Strood, Kent
DOCUMENTS WHICH HAVE BEEN TRANSCRIBED
Register of Births – 1836 to 1841
Minutes of the Board of Guardians – 1835 to 1841
Correspondence Out – 1835 to 1841
– SEE “LIST OF SURNAMES”