Lady Margaret Hospital
31-33 London Road,  Bromley, Kent
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1903 - 1921

The only fruitarian hospital in England was founded by Dr Josiah Oldfield, physician, dietetic specialist, philosopher, author, penal reformer and Warden of the Oriolet Hospital in Loughton, Essex.

Dr Oldfield was a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi and together, while at Oxford University, they founded the Fruitarian Society to promote vegetarianism.

The Lady Margaret Hospital opened in 1903 at 31-33 London Road, Bromley.  It had 12 beds and 4 cots.  A chapel was situated between the men's and the women's wards, with Dr Oldfield holding the services himself.

Both medical and surgical cases were treated, surgery being performed on Saturday mornings at 10.00 a.m.  No patients suffering from tuberculosis or other infectious diseases were admitted.  Diet replaced drug treatment and preference was given to patients suffering from disorders of the digestive system.  The patients - nearly all meat-eaters before admission - were allowed only a fruit and vegetable diet.  No fish, fowl or flesh - or alcohol - was permitted, unless under prescription.  Instead of animal fats, a substance called Darlene (a pure coconut fat), vegetable oils and malted nuts were used.

This was the third hospital that Dr Oldfield, himself a vegetarian, had founded.  The first, an anti-vivisection hospital - the Hospital of St Francis opened in 1897 at 145 New Kent Road.  A scathing attack in the press with a description of the accommodation offered there forced the Hospital to close in 1902.  The following year Dr Oldfield opened another hospital in Darenth House, 34 Camberwell Green - to be called the South London Hospital.  It closed in 1904, ostensibly because of building work nearly for King's College Hospital, and was absorbed by the Battersea Hospital, The Anti-Vivisection Hospital in 1906.

In 1908 Dr Oldfield founded an 'open air' hospital at Greet, a small hamlet southwest of the village of Doddington in Kent.  The estate of Greet Farm was almost derelict, with its oast house (later known as Ellens Court) open at one end.  The Hospital, named Lady Margaret Manor, was referred to as a Fruitarian Village and consisted of chalets, lodges and cottages for the patients.  It was surrounded by countryside and woods.

During WW1 the Bromley branch was offered to the War Office, especially for use by Indian soldiers.  Some Belgian troops were also accommodated in 1915.  By 1916 the Hospital had 40 beds and cots.  It was run by the Kent/54 Voluntary Aid Detachment.

In 1921 the Hospital relocated to the site at Lady Margaret Manor.

Present status (July 2008)

The Bromley buildings are still in existence.  No. 31 is now Anthony Jones, insurance brokers and No. 33 serves as a Servicemen's Club; a Hall extension has been erected at the rear of the site.

The Servicemen's Club

Building from the south
The southside of No. 33 London Road
33 London Road is now the Bromley United Services Club

plaque on side of house
A builder's plaque dated 1900
In 1935 the cottage at Lady Margaret Manor where Dr Oldfield was living was destroyed by fire, as well as his extensive library of dietetic books.  However, he remained living at the estate, almost as a hermit, in the 'Monk's Hut', a converted woodshed.  A bathroom was added but had no door; the only access to it was through a hole near the eaves of the hut which was reached by a ladder.  If he could access his bathroom, Dr Oldfield felt reassured he had not succumbed to rheumatism.  He died in 1953 at the age of 89 years.

During WW2 Ellens Court at Lady Margaret Manor was taken over by a charitable organisation, the Stansfield Association, which arranged holidays for deprived children living in the East End of London.

After the war Ellens Court became a youth hostel.

Today the building is run by Mortimer Homes as a residence for adults with learning difficulties.
References (Accessed 19th August 2014)

Batten MK, Marshall HJO 1976 The Lady Margaret Hospital, Bromley.  Bromley Local History 1: 13-15.

Oldfield J 1951 Letter to the Editor:  A festival fruit tree.  British Journal of Nursing (November), 118.

Oldfield J 1953 Eat Nature's Food and Live Long.  Doddington, Kent, The Fruitarian Society.

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