Should An Isolation Hospital be Built?
In July 1881 Mr Cole purchased 42 acres belonging to Hangleton Bush Farm, which in October 1881 he sold to Mr W. Knight for £3,200. On 4 October 1881 Mr Knight offered to sell ten acres of the land to the Hove Commissioners for £3,000; he further stated he was prepared to take the property in Portslade at that time owned by the Hove Commissioners for £1,000 and whichever way you look at it, it was a quick profit for Mr Knight. Indeed some people thought the price was a bit steep while others thought it was a reasonable sum.
In March 1881 a Public Inquiry was held to determine whether or not an Isolation Hospital ought to be built at Foredown. There was strong local feeling against such a scheme. All the inhabitants of Hangleton signed a memorial against it and so did nearly all the inhabitants of Portslade except for one person who happened to live in a property owned by the Hove Commissioners.
There was a difference of opinion amongst the medical profession about the supposed benefits of an Isolation Hospital. Dr Richardson, Medical Officer for Worthing, said he preferred to isolate infectious patients at home and apparently the Worthing Infectious Hospital was never used. Dr Kelly, Medical Officer for West Sussex, disliked the idea of an Isolation Hospital very much and he feared the conveyance of infectious patients through towns might help to spread disease rather than contain it.
Dr T. Fuller, Chairman of the Shoreham Waterworks Company and Medical Officer of Steyning Union, stated he was worried about the water in the company’s reservoir, which was situated not far from the proposed site. He said ‘it was a matter of great importance that the water should be beyond suspicion.’
John Burgess of Foredown Forge grumbled that he never would have purchased the premises the previous year if he had known about the hospital proposal.
Mr Barber of Portslade Manor sent a letter of objection. There was also a debate about whether the cows at Hangleton Farm would be contaminated.
The Revd R.P. Hooper, Chairman of Hove Sanitary Committee, said that the question of having an Infectious Diseases Hospital had been under discussion for some time but they had been unable to find a suitable site in Hove. He thought such a hospital would benefit the inhabitants of Southwick, Shoreham and Kingston as well as Hove. The conclusion was that such a hospital should be built.
Plans Drawn Up
The Hove Commissioners were quite carried away with the grandeur of the idea and Mr A. Taylor Allen drew up plans for three large ward blocks. But when the Commissioners found out how much such a venture would cost, they quickly changed their minds, having a more modest plan drawn up in house, as it were, by Hove’s Surveyor Mr E.B. Ellis Clark.
Within a year, they would regret their frugality because the hospital became cramped enough for an extension to be called for. Mr Ellis Clark’s plan was for a one-ward block, an administration block and a small isolation block. There would be enough accommodation for fifteen patients and staff. Nine tenders were submitted for the opportunity to build the hospital and amongst them were the following:
J. Parson & Sons £6,595-16-8d
J.T. Chappell £6,338
Peter Peters £5,805
J.T. Chappell was a prestigious but pricey builder and he was responsible for building many of the grand houses in Hove. But Mr Peters was the man chosen for the work because his tender was the second lowest in price.
A well was sunk and the Gas Company agreed to lay a gas main for £200 plus £20 a year for fourteen years. John Lamb was appointed Clerk of the Works.
Perhaps a surprising omission was the lack of main drainage but then some houses were still being built in Portslade with a cess-pit in the garden. Earth closets were used at the hospital but no proper cess-pit had been dug and instead the contents of the drain were emptied onto a five-acre field. The authorities must have decided the arrangements would be sufficient for a small number of people on an isolated and wind-swept site. Building work started in 1883 and to commemorate it a terracotta plaque bearing the date ‘AD 1883’ was placed on the north west elevation of the administration block.
The administrative block’s lower walls were faced with flints with the mortar being raised and irregular to correspond to the size of flint used. This style of flint-work can also be seen in the stable block at Easthill House and at Cemetery Lodge in Trafalgar Road built in 1894. The upper storey was rendered and whitewashed and there were brick quoins, stone sills, slate roofs and tall chimneys. Slender, shaped columns adorned the front porch and above it there was a window and a gable. It is regrettable that such a handsome building could not be preserved although part of the boundary wall survives, exhibiting the same type of flint-work.
Foredown Hospital Opened
There is some discrepancy about the actual date of Foredown Hospital being opened. Some people maintain it was ready in 1884 but the Hove Commissioners’ Minutes (20 January 1887) indicate the hospital buildings had recently been declared dry and opened for the reception of patients.
In 1887 the staff consisted of one female nurse, another nurse and a man to act as caretaker. Mrs Steele, the caretaker’s wife, was willing and able to act as a nurse and the wages for both of them was £100 a year but that did not include board. Miss Annie Mawer was the first matron and she came from Evesham Sanatorium. Her salary in 1888 was £50 a year. Obviously she did not think this was enough because in 1890 she asked for an increase and was awarded the princely sum of an extra £10 a year.
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This early photograph of rural north Portslade shows the Foredown Hospital Water Tower and Foredown Hospital roof
on the hill above North House Farm
Dr Kebbel was the first Medical Superintendent. The Sanitary Committee considered his salary ought to be raised to £200 a year because the hospital was so far distant from Hove. But after some discussion the salary question was referred back to the General Purposes Committee in case ratepayers thought it too extravagant. One committee member envisaged a member of the public seeing Dr Kebbel driving off to the hospital and being moved to remark ‘Ah! There goes another 10/- of public money.’
In view of the opposition of the Medical Officer for Steyning Union to the idea of an Isolation Hospital, it is ironic to note that in 1888 Steyning Union wanted to be able to send infectious cases among the out-door poor to Foredown; Hove Commissioners replied there was not enough accommodation.
In 1888 a child died from diphtheria at Foredown Hospital. It was stated the mother came from a distant place and the child was sent to Hove for safety because the mother had recently died from the disease.
In 1889 a washing machine and a hand-sewing machine were purchased for the hospital. Although there had been almost total opposition from Portslade residents to the hospital being built, this did not prevent them from supplying goods for the hospital’s needs. Some well-known Portslade names crop up in the accounts. For example Mr M. Broomfield of Mile Oak supplied milk (£1-19s a month) Mr W. Coustick supplied bread and flour (£1-2-9d a month) while Dudney & Son delivered ale and stout (2-19-6d from 1 April to 21 June 1889).
An Extension Needed
By June 1890 discussions were taking place about extending the hospital. The Sanitary Committee wanted to spend £2,000 on a new block but some people considered such an expense unwarranted. Mr C.T. Cheesman stated the hospital cost £1,300 a year to run but it had only treated 101 patients since it opened.
Dr Toms warmly recommended the use of tents in the case of an epidemic but in answer Mr Farmer quoted from a Local Government circular to the effect that tents were not suited to this climate. However, in 1892 when there were fears about an outbreak of cholera in Europe, the Medical Officer was given sanction to purchase two canvas tents each large enough to contain four beds while in 1893 he was authorised to purchase a tent at an estimated cost of £74 large enough to accommodate twelve patients.
The General Purposes Committee considered £1,200 to be a sufficient sum to spend on building the central portion of the proposed new block. But a few days later a full Board Meeting decided to revert to the original suggestion and spent around £2,000 on the project.
In June 1890 plans were approved for the new block at Foredown Hospital. But then Hove’s Surveyor, Mr H.H. Scott, and Henry Price, a Hove Commissioner, made a trip to Bournemouth on 30 October 1890 to see their new hospital block. As a result of this visit alterations were made in the plans for Foredown.
The original plans had one block containing two wards with four beds each, three single bedrooms and a nurse’s room and two single bedrooms on the second floor. The new plans had two blocks that were entirely separate and without an upper floor, containing in each, one ward with four beds, two single bedrooms and a nurse’s room. The cost was the same and the alterations were made to make the task of separating different diseases easier.
In November 1890 Mr H.J. Spink was paid £3-13-6d to take a photograph of the hospital. It was taken looking west from Hangleton and shows the hospital in a very bleak light on its own on top of a bare hill with not a tree or bush in sight.
In 1891 a carriage road was made between the road on the west side of the ward block and the entrance to the isolation ward.
Also in 1891 Fire Superintendent Ellis and Mr H.H. Scott visited the hospital to ascertain how water might be obtained in the event of a fire. Mr Ellis thought a fire engine standing close to the tank in the grounds would be able to command any of the buildings. But the supply of water was limited to the quantity within the tank. The working capacity of the tank was 8,500 gallons and it was filled up every four weeks or so. It was suggested that the tank ought to be filled every week instead. It was also felt useful if a fire hydrant could be placed at the north west corner of the administration block and connected with the cistern in the roof. Two longer lengths of hose plus twelve metallic fire buckets at a cost of £2-10s each were thought necessary too.
Hove Commissioners received ten tenders for the building of the new blocks. They included the following:
C. & F. Cheesman £2,440
J. Longley & Co. £2,382
J. Parsons & Sons £2,300
P. Peters £2,100
J.J.G. Saunders £1,099-17s
Mr Saunders’s tender was accepted. It was in fact the second lowest one but Mr Kemp, who submitted the lowest one, had not provided any sureties.
At the same time as the new work was undertaken, the opportunity was taken to improve the laundry. The ironing stove was moved to the centre of the room so that there was more space in which to dry clothes and a new ironing table was provided at a cost of £4-10s. There were new washing troughs costing £10 each, a slate tank at a cost of £5 and a £12 water boiler.
By March 1892 the new ward block was nearly finished but unfortunately frost had broken up the joints of the brickwork and re-pointing was necessary. A windmill was to be provided for pumping water from the tank to the cistern in the roof at a cost of £50.
When the block was completed, the accommodation for patients was raised to twenty-six beds, which met with the required standard of one bed for every 1,000 inhabitants.
Steyning Rural Sanitary Authority and New Shoreham Local Board asked if they could be allowed to use the ‘Infectious Hospital at Hangleton’. Hove Commissioners arranged for the former to have the use of two beds while the latter was allocated a single bed. There was a fixed charge of £15 per annum and if a bed were occupied there was an additional charge of £5-5s. If further beds were required, an application must be made to the Commissioners.
In September 1893 a letter was received from Steyning Union Authority stating that Brighton had agreed to take their cases for only £2-2s and they wanted the charges at Foredown Hospital to be lowered. But Hove Commissioners refused and resolved instead to discontinue the admission of patients from outside the limits of the town.
Foredown Hospital was always mainly concerned with Hove residents and those in the immediate vicinity.
Number of Residents in 1892
West Blatchington 95
In 1892 it was arranged that Mr Kelsey of Hove should provide a brougham ambulance fitted up with pole and bar, brake and stretcher for £105, and that he would convey persons suffering from infectious diseases to Foredown Hospital.
Scarlet fever 143
Typhoid fever 20
Chicken pox 1
In 1892 Emily Bassett, laundry maid and general help, asked for an increase in wages and she was given an extra £3 making the sum of £25 a year. In 1894 Miss Mawer, matron, was awarded £10 extra, bringing her total to £70 a year while in 1895 the wages of Norah Creane, nurse, were increased by £4 making a total of £24 a year.
In 1893 permanent staff were provided with a uniform consisting of a gown, caps and collars at a cost of £11. But matron was allowed to choose her own uniform provided it did not cost more than £3.
In 1893 speaking tubes were provided between the administration block and three wards at a cost of £20.
In October 1893 the surveyor was authorised to spend £25 on planting shrubs or trees at his discretion in the hospital grounds. He submitted a plan that included a row of trees along the west side, a privet hedge and ornamental shrubs in an oval bed while the west boundary wall was to be covered by creepers. The cost of this scheme came to £45. Two months later 100 trees were purchased from Messrs Balchin & Sons consisting of black Italian poplars and three types of willow, varying in height from 9 feet to 13 feet and with stems from 3 to 4 inches in diameter.
A Decision Reversed
Despite the Commissioners having decided not take patients from outside their immediate area, by December 1895 they were in negotiation with Steyning East Rural District. The terms were set at £15 a year for the option to use three beds but if the beds were occupied that would incur an additional sum. Smallpox was obviously an expensive and dangerous disease because they would be charged five guineas a week for the patient; there was a charge of three guineas a week for those suffering from typhoid or diphtheria and for scarlet fever it was two guineas a week.
In the late 1890s other places were asking about terms to reserve beds. Cuckfield was turned down perhaps because the authorities thought it was too far away. But Southwick and Portslade had to accept terms similar to those agreed with Steyning. It seems a trifle odd in the case of Portslade because after all Foredown Hospital stood on Portslade land.
In 1900 there were discussions about whether or not patients ought to pay for their stay in hospital on a scale of charges according to their income. The Medical Officer was against the idea, no doubt thinking of all the red tape involved. However, he had nothing against the idea of a patient paying should they require a private room, in which case they should pay two guineas a week.
In September 1898 Miss Mawer resigned her post as matron. Miss Helen Whitaker became the new matron at Foredown and she had been working at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Cambridge since 1894. Her salary was £65 a year with £3 for uniform, rations and apartment. But evidently the post was not to her liking because she stayed barely a year.
Miss Florence Hill became the new matron. She did not have far to move because she had been working at the Sussex County Hospital at Brighton. It is interesting to note that the authorities had to sift through 62 applications for the job. Miss Hill was obviously happy at Portslade because she found romance and left her post in June 1904 to be married.
Miss Lilian Baker was the new matron. She did not have to move at all because she had been deputy matron at Foredown for the previous three years.
In 1900 a nurse caught typhoid fever from a patient and died as a result. In 1901 two nurses contracted diphtheria, two were ill with scarlet fever and one suffered from typhoid but all of them recovered.
The staffing level could fluctuate from six to nine and in 1915 there was a matron, a sister, one nurse and five probationers. It was not enough and so two assistant nurses were taken on.
In 1900 a new horse was needed for the hospital’s ambulance and the authorities declared themselves willing to spend £35 on purchasing a suitable animal. But one could not be found at such a low price and finally they agreed to pay an additional seven guineas.
In 1903 new bathrooms were built at either end of block C. This must have been a great boon because until then moveable baths had been stored in the entrance lobbies and wheeled into wards as required.
In January 1904 there was a long report concerning the accommodation, which would be quite inadequate should an epidemic occur. It was felt it was wrong that ‘a corrugated iron structure should be made to do service as a permanent building.’ These ‘iron hospitals’ were a stopgap money-saving way of providing extra beds. Messrs Humphrey erected the first one in 1897 for £174-10s; gas and water were laid on. The same firm was engaged to erect another one in 1899. This time it was stated the structure cost £500 to buy but it was large enough to take twenty-four beds. There were other expenses involved such as levelling the site and so the final cost came to £810.
The report mentioned that when the first block was built, there were rooms for nurses upstairs but this was now contrary to the rules and besides the nurses were overcrowded. The staff consisted of a matron, deputy matron, seven nurses, three servants, one laundress plus an occasional laundress and two porters.
Hove’s Surveyor, Mr H.H. Scott, recommended a new ward, the enlargement of the administration block, the reconstruction and enlargement of the laundry, a water tower, a porter’s lodge and a discharging block, main drainage and a destructor at a total cost of £12,500.
Obviously, the authorities thought all those plans were too expensive to implement at once and when Hove Council approached Whitehall for permission to borrow money for the project, they asked for £6,500. The money was only forthcoming with strings attached because Whitehall stipulated smallpox patients must not be treated in the hospital or at any site within a quarter of a mile of it, but in separate accommodation. Hove Council had no option but to agree.
In August 1907 Herr G Menges donated a gramophone to the hospital. He was from a prominent local family of talented musicians and indeed the money for the gramophone came from a concert given by his daughter.
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The former Foredown Hospital Water Tower
In 1908 Alderman J.J. Clark offered a few hundred large euonymus if Hove Council would plant some trees on the east side ‘so that the buildings may not look quite so bare and unattractive when seen from the surrounding district as they do now.’ It would be interesting to know what happened to the previous planting attempt but then it is a very exposed site.
In 1909 Foredown water tower was erected main drainage laid on and by May 1910 the new lodge was almost completed.
Hove Council advertised for a married couple (without children) to be engaged as a porter and portress at a joint wage of 25/- a week. There was of course the additional bonus of apartments in the lodge, plus firing and lighting.
In August 1911 Hove Council accepted the tender of Messrs J. & M. Patrick of Wandsworth to build a new block at a cost of £2,579; it was completed the following year.
By 1913 there were already some tuberculosis patients at the hospital and there were some in D block in 1914. But the Borough Surveyor did not think they should share blocks with patients suffering from other infectious diseases and he recommended that the iron building, known as the Humphrey Block, should be converted for the use of tuberculosis patients.
By 1913 the hospital was called the Hove Borough Sanatorium, Portslade, although there were only six tuberculosis beds out of a total of 61 beds.
In 1916 Dr Rawdon Wood, Medical Officer of Health, said a verandah should be built on the south side of the building and the windows lowered in order that patients could be wheeled outside. In the days before antibiotics, the only cure for tuberculosis was rest and plenty of fresh air. When the patients were fit enough they could undertake light duties in the garden.
In 1918 East Sussex County Council reserved sixteen beds for male tuberculosis patients.
Number of Tuberculosis Cases Admitted
1912 – 12
1913 – 30
1914 – 50
1915 - 13
First World War
During the First World War the hospital admitted a number of infectious cases from soldiers based at Shoreham Camp. They were suffering from scarlet fever, diphtheria and typhoid. There were twenty-seven cases in the first two years but after that the military authorities dealt with matters themselves.
In 1916 there was too much work for one solitary gardener, especially when there were no tuberculosis patients fit enough to help out; an assistant gardener was hired at a wage of one guinea a week.
In 1917 the gardener’s wage was increased to 27/- a week while by 1919 the chief gardener earned 47/- a week and his assistant received 43/-.
In February 1926 it was decided to give the gardener one month’s wages in lieu of notice because the Public Health Committee concluded the cost of keeping up the gardens to supply the hospital with fruit and vegetables was out of all proportion to the results obtained. The assistant gardener was kept on as an odd job man and to keep the gardens tidy. In 1927 the gardener was Mr Bridgeman and his wages were increased by 5/- a week.
More about Matrons
The year 1925 saw a new matron and a new sister at Foredown Hospital. Miss A.G. Wilson was the matron and she had already seen service in the same place as a sister. She was a trained nurse with a war decoration from the Royal Red Cross (2nd class). The new sister was Miss Elizabeth Beet and there was a difference of £25 between their wages. However, Miss Beet did not stay long and in the following year Mrs Bertha Luke from Southport Isolation Hospital was appointed sister.
In 1927 the Public Health Committee considered the question of heating at Foredown Hospital. They even went as far as obtaining a quotation from a Westminster firm to install equipment to provide heating and hot water. But they blanched at the quotation of £2,000: much too expensive. They then fell back on the tried and tested formula of asking the Hove Borough Surveyor to draw up plans. As a preliminary he listed the number of fireplaces as follows:
Administrative Block – ground floor 1 range and 10 fireplaces; upstairs, 1 fireplace in each of the two bedrooms.
Ward A – 1 range, 4 fireplaces, 1 gas fire; 2 fireplaces upstairs.
Ward D – 1 range, 2 fireplaces 1 gas fire.
Ward E – 3 fireplaces, 1 Beeson boiler.
Ward F – 1 range, 3 fireplaces.
Ward G – (iron building) no hot water circuit.
The cost of fuel for the year ending March 1926 came to £208-9s. Mr H.H. Scott recommended the hot water radiator system, which he considered would be more economic than open fires. Before the go-ahead was given for the whole system to be installed, it was decided to install a sample unit in Ward D so that experience could be gained. The experiment proved successful and the system was installed in Wards E and F too.
Second World War
Later on there was a gun site in the grounds and soldiers took up quarters in the old iron buildings, once used as wards. Soldiers also guarded the entrance and many a nurse, returning later in the evenings than she should have done, was challenged in such ringing tones that matron was sure to be alerted.
One night two bombs fell near Foredown Hospital (one a 500-pounder) but they buried themselves without doing much harm apart from some windows being blown out. It is amusing to note that although matron and sister had not retired to bed, they did not realise what was going on because they were engrossed in listening to the radio.
On 27 December 1950 two cases of smallpox were confirmed at Bevendean Hospital, Brighton. A large-scale operation swung into action because it was important to identify all known contacts of the victims, besides arranging for a mass vaccination of local people.
On a personal note, I remember joining a long queue of people waiting to be vaccinated at Palmeira Stores in Hove. My mother and I reacted to the vaccine by feeling quite ill and taking to our beds. A guest at my parents’ party on Christmas Eve had arrived by taxi and the taxi driver later died of smallpox. The guest had to be isolated in his house until the medial authorities deemed it was safe to mingle with people again.
Further smallpox cases were to be sent to the smallpox hospital at Dartford. But the weather was so bad with snow and ice that fourteen cases were sent to Foredown Hospital instead, which was then isolated from all contact with the outside world. Notices with No Admittance went up around the hospital and supplies were left outside the main gate. Dr Lennhoff was the only person going in and out and she tended to stricken patients at both hospitals. Petrol supplies for her car were brought up to Bevendean and her car was disinfected after each journey. There were four deaths at Foredown and the quarantine ban was not lifted until 2 February 1951.
During the 1950s some polio cases were treated at Foredown Hospital. Mrs Lintott of Mile Oak Road remembered as a child spending eighteen months at the hospital in the mid-1950s because of polio. She had to spend six weeks in an isolation room and she was furious because she thought her parents had abandoned her; they were not permitted to visit. Other parents of infected children were only allowed to gaze at their offspring through a window.
From 1972 onwards no more infectious cases were admitted to Foredown Hospital. Instead it became a centre for children with learning difficulties.
In 1984 Brighton Health Authority wanted to close down the place for good and to move the twenty-six residents to three smaller homes in Hove; Park View Road, Pembroke Avenue and Wish Road.
Facts and Figures
Scarlet Fever Cases Admitted
1892 – 35 1893 – 132 1894 – 36 1895 – 53
1896 – 35 1897 – 38 1898 – 74 1899 – 240
1900 – 145 1901 – 103 1902 – 38 1903 – 25
1904 – 35 1905 – 34 1906 – 34 1907 – 45
1908 – 247 1909 – 88 1910 – 75 1911 – 54
1912 – 99 1913 – 82 1914 – 115 1915 – 60
1919 – 19 1920 – 53 1921 – 75 1925 – 27
Diphtheria Cases Admitted
1892 – 5 1893 – 5 1894 – 3 1895 – 30
1896 – 26 1897 – 52 1898 – 200 1899 – 171
1900 – 62 1901 – 131 1902 – 40 1903 – 18
1904 – 28 1905 – 27 1906 – 18 1907 – 22
1908 – 14 1909 – 51 1910 – 26 1911 – 22
1912 – 99 1913 – 48 1914 – 18 1915 – 32
1919 – 50 1920 – 98 1921 – 35 1925 – 8
Typhoid Cases Admitted
1892 – 6 1893 – 1 1894 – 3 1895 – 10
1896 – 17 1897 – 7 1898 – 11 1899 – 8
1900 – 11 1901 – 14 1902 – 6 1903 - 5
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The Foredown Water Tower and housing estate built on the site of the former Foredown Hospital
In 1988 Brighton wanted to build 64 houses on the site of Foredown Hospital but planning permission was refused; the same thing happened to Persimmon’s plans for 52 houses and twelve flats.
Hove Council wanted to keep intact the administration block as well as the water tower and part of the flint wall. Persimmon Homes also thought it would be a good idea to convert the block into fifteen flats. But the enterprise depended on someone willing to buy the block and convert it. During the course of eighteen months there were negotiations with four different companies but unhappily there was no satisfactory result.
One developer was quite happy to go ahead provided he was given permission to convert the block into twenty to twenty-four studio flats but such a density was against the Hove Borough Plan.
Meanwhile, the empty building was vandalised in 1989 and the lead ripped off. There was no option but to demolish it – the rest of the hospital buildings having been taken down in the summer of 1988.
J.Middleton Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Hove Commissioners Minute Books
Proceedings of Committees (Hove Council)
Copyright © J.Middleton 2014
page layout by D.Sharp
page layout by D.Sharp