|LOST HOSPITALS OF LONDON|
(Country Branch, Hospital for Sick Children)
Tadworth, Surrey KT20 5RU
|1927 - 1983
By the early 1920s the governors of the Hospital for Sick Children in Great Ormond Street deemed that the Convalescent Home for Children in Highgate was no longer suitable. The area around was being developed, and with so many new roads and houses being built, the air was no longer fresh and clean; a new site for sought for the Home.
In 1925 a 17th century mansion was found near Epsom - Tadworth Court - which stood in extensive parkland. The governors bought the property, together with some 100 acres, using a legacy of £20,000 bequeathed to the Hospital by a Mr Peter Reid in 1917. Work began in 1926 to prepare the building for use as a Convalescent Home.
The Country Branch of the Hospital opened in May 1927, when the first patients with respiratory disease were admitted. (The official opening - by the Princess Royal - only took place two years later.)
The mansion contained 22 beds in two wards, but it was not really suitable for non-ambulant patients, so single-storey brick wards were built in the grounds for these children.
The first - the Zachary Merton Pavilion - was added in 1931 (the last pavilion was built in 1966). These ward pavilions were specially built so that one wall was fitted with sliding doors, enabling the children to be exposed to as much fresh air as possible. (At this time the open air movement was extremely popular. It was believed that exposure to fresh air and sunshine during the day, regardless of season, was beneficial to pre-tuberculous and debilitated children. In fact, it proved so and many open air schools were established nationwide.) Good food and rest were part of the convalescents' treatment.
School lessons for the children were held out of doors as often as possible. As well as extensive outdoor play equipment, the Home kept donkeys, which the patients could ride.
In April 1932 the Princess Royal returned, to open a new pavilion. By this time the mansion contained a few wards, but was used mainly for administrative offices and nursing accommodation. The wards in the main building and in the pavilions were considered to be bright, airy and cheerful. The patients suffered mainly from lung conditions, such as tuberculosis, and the sequelae of rheumatic fever.
Because of the threat of war, the Home closed in February 1939, but opened again so that patients and staff from the Hospital in central London could be evacuated there.
In 1948 the Home joined the NHS along with its parent Hospital.
By the late 1960s it had 106 beds and an operating theatre. However, by the end of the next decade, the number of children sent for convalescence had fallen. The number of beds was reduced to 80.
By 1982 only 40 beds remained open and the Home was threatened with closure. A campaign was launched by the parents, nursing staff and local community to try to prevent its closure. Several newspapers took up the cause and began a nationwide 'Save Tadworth' campaign. Within five months, some £80,000 had been raised in donations.
The Home ceased to be the Country Branch of the Hospital for Sick Children in 1983 but, as a result of the popular public campaign, in 1984 the Department of Health transferred its management to the newly created Tadworth Court Trust.
Present status (November 2009)
The Grade I listed English Baroque style building remains a centre for the care and treatment of children with multiple disabilities run by the Trust, which was renamed the Children's Trust in 1994.
The Lodge and walls at the entrance to Tadworth Court are also Grade I listed.
Tadworth Court is believed to have been built around 1694.
12th December 2014)
(Author unstated) 1926 The hospital world. British Journal of Nursing (May), 110.
(Author unstated) 1932 The hospital world. British Journal of Nursing (April), 105.
(Author unstated) 1939 The hospital world. British Journal of Nursing (February), 47.
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