Historic Buildings Consultant

18th/19th Century Workhouses, Kent

18th/19th Century Workhouses, Kent

18th/19th Century Workhouses, Kent

The village of Eastry, Kent, was the site of two very important workhouses. The first was a 'Gilbert Union' workhouse founded in the late 18th century, supplemented in 1835/6 by a new workhouse following the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act. The workhouses display very different architecture: the Georgian workhouse is bold, exuberant and a dominating feature of the street scene, whilst the Victorian edifice is restrained, unadorned and set back from the street; a fine example of stigma and deterrence given architectural expression.

The workhouse, having been enlarged further by various blocks and a chapel in the late 19th century, became a hospital in the early 20th century until closure in the 1990s. Regrettably, the majority of the 19th century workhouse was demolished and then burnt out in the 2000s, whilst the old workhouse also suffered huge fire damage. Thankfully, the Grade II-listed 18th century building survives in part.

We provided a Heritage Statement for the owners of the site who intended to restore the 18th century fire damaged building and redevelop the remainder of the huge, vacant site. The case required consideration of appropriate conservation philosophy, which would generally counsel against restoration. However, like Uppark and Windsor Castle, it was felt that the building was sufficiently important, sufficiently tragic in its demise and sufficiently well-documented in construction, that restoration seemed appropriate and desirable.