|LOST HOSPITALS OF LONDON|
17 Cromwell Avenue, Bromley, Kent BR2 9AJ
|1869 - 2003
Early in 1869 a committee was formed with the encouragement of Dr Walter Thomas Beeby (1841-1926), a local GP, to consider establishing a cottage hospital. A fund-raising Appeal was launched to raise money for the project.
Two small cottages were purchased for £1,700 in Pieter's Lane (now Cromwell Avenue), and these became the first Bromley (Kent) Cottage Hospital. It opened in May 1869, with Dr Beeby as its first Medical Officer. The Hospital had six beds and had been equipped for £150.
Applications for treatment soon were far in excess of the accommodation and, in 1875, the cottages were demolished and a new building erected. Sir Thomas Charles Dewey (1840-1926), Chairman of the Prudential Assurance Company, became the Honorary Secretary of the Hospital (until 1880).
Ten years later the bed accommodation again proved inadequate and work began on an extension, which opened in 1886. The Hospital then had 20 beds.
In 1896 the High Sheriff of Kent, Mr J.W. Wheeler-Bennett and his wife paid for the building of a children's ward with 10 cots in memory of their son (three years later Mr Wheeler-Bennett gave £4,000 for its endowment).
In 1897 a new wing was added at a cost of £2,000 and the Hospital then had 24 beds for adults and 10 cots for children.
During 1900 and 1901 the Hospital was further extended at a cost of £1,500. The medical staff comprised five local GPs and a dental surgeon. Three Honorary Consultant Physicians were enlisted from London in case of emergencies. By 1905 two more London consultants and another local GP had joined the staff. In 1908 Sir Thomas Dewey became the Honorary Treasurer (until 1924).
In 1910 two new wards were added, at a cost of £10,000. The enlarged and modernised Hospital with 42 beds was officially opened in 1911 by Constance, Dowager Duchess of Derby.
At the outbreak of WW1 the local Voluntary Aid Detachment, who had trained at the Hospital, was mobilised on 13th October. The following day most of the Hospital beds were occupied by wounded Belgian soldiers.
In 1928 the Hospital changed its name to Bromley (Kent) and District Hospital. By this time it consisted of a single building on a north-south axis. Its north end had once been two cottages and contained the kitchen, staff bedrooms and sitting room. The middle section was a 3-storey building with administration offices, an X-ray Department and two private patient rooms on the ground floor, various departments and two more private patient rooms on the first floor and nurses' bedrooms on the second floor. The south end was a 2-storey ward block, with male and female wards of 14 beds each, with verandahs facing south. Running east from the 3-storey block was a single-storey extension containing the children's ward and the operating theatre.
The Hospital committee made plans for further expansion, but the various parts added at different times in a haphazard way made it difficult to extend the building in a sensible way. It was thought undesirable to have the children's ward adjacent to the operating theatre and inconveniently far away from the other wards. Its site had been the choice of the donors, but Mrs Wheeler-Bennett, now widowed and a Trustee of the endowment fund, vetoed all alternative sites and plans for a new children's ward. It was decided to leave the issue for later and to go ahead with plans to build a Nurses' Home on a recently acquired site to the southeast of the Hospital building.
The Nurses' Home opened in 1929. It looked over open country (it was thought that the area was unlikely to be closely built up). The 3-storey building had cost £8,000 and had 16 bedrooms, and sitting rooms for the nurses and Sisters.
The remainder of the extensions were completed in 1931, at a total cost of £16,500 (some £17,000 had been raised in three years for the project). The operating theatre was improved, with the existing children's ward converted into anaesthetic and sterilizing rooms, at a cost of £2,000. A new children's ward with 3 cots opened in the main building, while each of the large wards was extended from 14 to 20 beds. The two private patient rooms on the ground floor were converted into a Massage and Electrical Department, with facilities for diathermy, radiant heat treatment and artificial sunlight.
In October 1934 a cottage and its gardens at the north of the site were bought for £1,050, with a view to further extension of the Hospital. Being close to the main road leading to the South Coast, the Hospital was dealing with a rising number of road traffic accidents. Early in 1935 a short wing was added to the north of the 2-storey building and a larger wing, with two new wards of 24 beds each, to the south. A new mortuary and post-mortem room were built, as well as a new Massage and Electrical Department, with staff quarters above, and new quarters for the Resident Medical Officer. The Nurses' Home was extended, essentially doubled in size, as the staff numbers had increased from 20 nurses to 35 following the expansion of the Hospital. The improvements had cost £35,000. The new extensions were opened by Sir Samuel Scott, Bart. The Hospital then had 96 beds, including the two private patient rooms on the first floor, charged at 6 guineas (£6.30) a week.
In 1936 the Hospital changed its name again, dropping the '(Kent)' and becoming simply the Bromley and District Hospital. In 1937 the top floor of the old building was altered to provide four private patient rooms. A house in Cromwell Avenue, which backed onto the Hospital and was owned by it, was used as an additional Nurses' Home.
During WW2 an extra ten beds were added to each ward to accommodate anticipated air-raid casualties.
In December 1946 a Rehabilitation and Occupational Therapy Centre was officially opened by Sir William Jameson, Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health. Sir William praised the Hospital in being one of the finest GP hospitals in the country and for being in the vanguard of providing preventative and rehabilitative care rather than limiting itself to the more critical phases of ill-health. The Centre, once fully staffed at the beginning of 1947, employed eight physiotherapists.
The Hospital joined the NHS in 1948 under the control of the Bromley Group Hospital Management Committee, part of the South East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.
By 1957 the Hospital had 187 beds and was a hotch-potch of buildings added at different times, some well-built in brick, others temporary wooden huts, private houses and odd sheds. Most were unsuitable for use in a modern hospital. The boiler house chimney was located in the middle of the kitchen, splitting the room into inconveniently shaped areas and a number of walls, and the ventilation was inadequate (the Catering Officer commented that, when the midday meal was being cooked, so were the staff). The staff changing rooms were lamentable.
In 1961 the Hospital had 186 beds but, by 1966, 155 beds, including the maternity annexe with 31 beds in Masons Hill. Plans were made in 1966 to completely rebuild the Hospital as a small district general hospital with 400 beds, while Beckenham Hospital would close, but the project floundered because of a lack of money. However, improvements were made to the Accident Centre, Pathology Department and maternity annexe.
By 1990 it was known as Bromley Hospital, an acute hospital with 170 beds, including 10 day care beds. There were also 15 day places for psychiatric patients at Stepping Stones House in Masons Hill.
The Hospital closed in 2003. Services were transferred to the newly built Princess Royal University Hospital at Locksbottom.
The site was sold to Barratt Homes, who demolished the Hospital and built a large housing estate.
New housing in Cromwell Avenue.
(Author unstated) 1947 Rehabilitation and Occupational Therapy Centre at Bromley. British Medical Journal 1 (4487), 24.
Horsborough ELS 1971 Bromley. Bromley, SR Publishing Ltd.
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