Catherine Gladstone
Free Convalescent Home
Woodford Hall, South Woodford, Essex
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1869 - 1900

In 1866 Mrs Catherine Gladstone (1812-1900), the wife of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer William Gladstone (1809-1898), was involved daily in caring for the sick admitted to the London Hospital during a cholera outbreak.  The numbers were such that patients had to be laid on the floor until a bed was vacated by death.

Rather than send recovered, but weak patients back to their inadequate homes where they would be unable to look after themselves properly, Mrs Gladstone launched an appeal to raise funds for a convalescent home in the country.  In the meantime she founded an orphanage in Clapton, where babies and children could be cared for after their parents had succumbed to the disease.  If there was no place available for them, she frequently took recovered children and orphans home with her.

In 1866 Woodford Hall on the edge of Epping Forest was acquired to house the orphans.  The huge Georgian house with two wings was set in large grounds and had once been the childhood home of William Morris (1834-1896).  

The outbreak proved to be the last such in London and provision for cholera orphans was no longer necessary.  In 1869 Woodford Hall became the Catherine Gladstone Free Convalescent Home for the Poor, with 30 beds.  It was the only free institution for convalescents in England.  The Home offered places to non-contagious and non-infectious women and children of the East End who were well enough to be discharged from the London Hospital, but were still weak and likely to benefit from fresh air and a nourishing country diet.  All applicants underwent a medical examination at the Hospital, with Mrs Gladstone selecting the patients.

In 1900 the Home moved to Ravensbury Park House in Mitcham.

Present status (January 2012)

Woodford Hall may have become severely dilapidated by the end of the 19th century as it was demolished shortly after the Home moved.  Its site is now occupied by the Woodford Memorial Hall and housing.  The chapel still exists and is now
a private residence known as Chapel le Frith.
Woodford Memorial Hall
Woodford Hall was located at the back of the Woodford Memorial Hall.  The gate post on the left is probably the original one to the drive of Woodford Hall.

Woodford Memorial Hall  Woodford Memorial Hall
The garden of Woodford Memorial Hall (left) contains the War Memorial (right).

Woodford Memorial Hall  
Woodford Memorial Hall  
Foundation stone for the Memorial Hall, laid on 7th May 1902 (left).  A plaque to William Morris, who lived at Woodford Hall from 1840 to 1847 (right).

CG  Old wall   
The original wall of the Woodford Hall estate along Chelmsford Road and Buckingham Road remains.

Woodford Memorial Hall  
Chapel le Frith at No. 57 Buckingham Road is a locally listed building.


(Author unstated) 1916 Nursing echoes.  British Journal of Nursing, 16th September, 237.

Goodman JA 2002 The Catherine Gladstone Home, Morden. Merton Historical Society Bulletin 141 (March),16.

Isba A 2006 Gladstone and Women.  London, Hambledon Continuum.

Pratt EA 1898 Catherine Gladstone: Life, Good Works, and Political Efforts.  London, Sampson Low Marston.


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