Following Knatchbull's Act of 1723, a house in the Borough of Hampton (now the centre of Herne Bay) was occupied as a workhouse.
A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded parish workhouses in operation at Chislett (for up to 33 inmates), Hearne (30), St Dunstan (26), Sea Salter (16), Steeplegate (6), Sturry (50), and Whitstable (42).
In 1791, the Vicar of Herne and certain parishioners paid £20 for a small piece of land on the Canterbury Road leading out of Herne. A workhouse was built at a cost of £772.1s.7½d and although no formal union was in operation, places in the workhouse were made available (at a cost) to other neighbouring parishes.
Blean Poor Law Union was formed on 20th April 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 19 in number, representing its 16 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
Kent: Canterbury — St Gregory, Canterbury — Christchurch, Chislett (2), Hackington (alias St Stephens), Herne (otherwise Hearne) (2), Hoath, Precinct of Archbishop's Palace, Reculver, St Cosmus and St Damion in the Blean, St Dunstan, Seasalter, Sturry (otherwise Sturrey), Staplegate, Swalecliffe, West-beer (otherwise Westbere), Whitstable (2).
Later Addition: Herne Bay (from 1894)
The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 10,639 with parishes ranging in size from Swalecliffe (population 133) to Herne (1,876) and Whitstable (1,926). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1831-34 had been £12,224 or £1.3s.0d. per head.