Monday, November 26, 2012

The Sanatorium

*Sorry for the small size of some of the maps, for some reason I can't make them bigger (I've had this problem before with Blogger), will keep playing!)

I went on a few posts back on finding out more information on the Sanatorium that used to be on the East Cliff in Folkestone and is now currently a school. I did some excavation work with the pupils of the school to see if we could find any evidence for it, which we did in the form of bits of building debris and domestic rubbish.

So far I have been in contact with two lovely people who are very passionate about the history of Folkestone, one is Alan Taylor, who is part of Folkestone and District Local History Society, and Christine Warren, who runs the Folkestone Then & Now website. If you ever need a question answered about the history of Folkestone then go to them as they are a mine of information! I also need to thank my volunteer Mike who lived in Folkestone in his youth, and is not just another mine of information, but has helped me amass whatever information we can on the site.

It appears, however, there is not much information out there on the Sanatorium which is a shame. Alan sent me some photos of the East Cliff Sanatorium which I shall use in my story but some of the the gaps will be filled with my own family history surrounding Sanatoriums. My (paternal) Grandmother spent a year in one outside Newport, Wales, in the 1930s and she had her 7th birthday there. Although she is in her mid-eighties, remembers it vividly and some of my story will draw on the information she gave me about her time there. She has also told me about the time my (paternal) Grandfather spent in one in Herefordshire for Rubella at roughly the same time, and her Mother (my great-grandmother) was in and out of them all her life with an unknown chest compliant (possibly from contracting tuberculosis as a child).

Sanatorium's were run like hospitals and provided a clean, sterile environment with professional care for those who were suffering from long term illnesses or infectious diseases. Houses at the time were not subjected to the cleaning products we know and love today, and food could be scarce or unaffordable making balanced healthy diets unobtainable for most households. In the Sanatorium the patient was well fed (probably better fed then they would have been at home), children went to school in the compound (often outdoors to maximise the intake of fresh air), they were taken on walks to benefit from the fresh air, and the whole experience was generally pleasant. In Folkestone the council decided to erect the East Cliff Sanatorium on 18th February 1871. At the time it was believed that many infectious diseases and medical conditions could be cured or improved by 'taking in the sea air' or going sea bathing. Folkestone was one of the more popular sea side resorts, and remained so until the popularistation of air travel and cheap holidays abroad, and had many hospitals, sanatoriums, and medical clinics where people could get better and enjoy themselves at the same time!

A map (taken from Kent County Council Historic Environment Record; do go and have a play with it!) dated 1897-1900 shows the hospital at the end of Warren Road.

You'll also notice to the right of the map, near the train tracks, they have written that Roman remains have been found! These are now completely covered by roads and houses but we believe they may be associated with the Villa (I will do a post on the Villa site in the next few weeks). Kelly's Directory in 1913 (like our modern day Yellow Pages) states...

'...The Sanatorium for Infectious Diseases (smallpox excepted), erected in 1877, at a cost of about £2000, on the East Cliff, contains 10 wards, with 41 beds and 16 cots and detached offices. New wards for typhoid and diphtheria, administrative blocks, and a mortuary and laundry were erected in 1898 at a cost exceeding £6000, and 12 additional beds provided. There is also a small pox hospital, built under the hills about a mile from the town and containing 12 beds...' there was enough demand for the facility to expand the site in 1898. I don't have any photos for the early phase of the Hospital so we'll move to the next map which is dated 1907-1923.

You can see the houses beginning to creep towards the Sanatorium as the town expands towards the sea. We have some photos from this period, and these are explained below. At this time it was often referred to as The St Mary Magdalene Home for Children. St Bernardo's Children's Home was on Wear Bay Cresent not far from this site.

This is the site in 1915 during the construction of new military wings of the Sanatorium. I believe that it is Martello Tower 2 in the background, now a holiday let. During the First World War Folkestone, along with Dover, played a huge part as they are very close to the French coast; so close that people in the town could hear and see bombs going off in France! Folkestone was the main port that shipped troops out to the frontline, Step Short is a local society set up to honor and remember these people, and for more information do look at their website. In 1917 Folkestone was subjected to one of the first German aeroplane bombings when bad weather forced the planes, which were heading to London, to turn back and they dropped the bombs over the town; one landed in the middle of a busy street killing many women and children who had been queuing for groceries, and amongst others one was dropped on the East Cliff area by Martello Tower 3. Although the Sanatorium didn't suffer a direct hit the blast from the bomb by Martello 3 was enough to blow the windows out of the buildings.

Folkestone became a place for injured soldiers to recover. It had a large number of hospitals and sanatoriums which were easily adapted or expanded to accommodate the patients and our sanatorium was no exception. The Sanatorium my Grandfather was a patient in was adapted in the same way, although when they began to take in soldiers they stopped taking other patients, and when the soldiers left the building was closed as a hospital. Here is another photo of the military blocks going up, the buildings in the background are along Wear Bay Crescent and still exist today!

So we leave the First World War behind and move onto the Second World War. Here's another map dated 1929-1952. The Sanatorium is now almost completely surrounded by houses and the development continued along the East Cliff until quite recently. During the War the buildings were directly hit by a bomb in July 1940, I don't know whether anyone was hurt in the incident but air raid shelters and other prevention methods were in place so I'd like to hope not.

The Sanatorium looked like this.....

...and as you may notice is called The Borough Sanatorium. I'm not sure why they changed the name, it may have something to do with the military using it, maybe it didn't accept children once they had moved in, or perhaps the local authority purchased the hospital. The large building in the middle of the photo, facing towards us, is the original Victorian block. The brick building to the right, that looks like a house, is probably part of the administrative buildings added in 1898, and the two nearest us are likely to be the military blocks added in 1915. I am reliably informed by Mike that 'The Borough Weather Station' was moved to The Lees as he used to use it in the late 1950s as a young lad. One final picture from this period is below.

It shows the nurses being given gas mask training in 1938 by H. W. Gill.

My final photo comes from the 1950s. You can see the houses creeping along the road, in less than 20 years all the allotment gardens had been built over.

You can see they have removed the military blocks. Many were pre-fabricated structures only intended to be temporary so their removal is not surprising.

The Sanatorium was demolished in the late 1960s. The World Wars had advanced medical science and the advent of antibiotics and inoculations made many of the diseases that had affected the patients treatable, or non-existent in some cases! Many Sanatoriums became redundant and were either turned into medical wards, residential properties, or demolished altogether.

Today St Mary's CE Primary School occupies the site (see the connection in the name?) and I hope to be able to give all this information to them so they may use it in their lessons, and build upon it in the future! be continued....

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