High Wood Hospital
Ongar Road, Brentwood, Essex CM15 9DY
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1904 - 2010

Ophthalmia.  Later, tuberculosis, then geriatric.

In 1897 the Metropolitan Asylum Board (MAB) was given responsibility for providing hospital care for poor children suffering from contagious diseases of the eye, skin or scalp.  To this end, in 1898, a 28 acre site in Brentwood, Essex, was purchased to build a hospital school for children with ophthalmia (severe inflammation of the eye), so they could be treated daily for their eye infection without missing an education.  It was the second such institution established by MAB, the other being the White Oak Hospital in Swanley, Kent.

High Wood School opened in July 1904 with 204 patients. The children were housed in 30 red brick cottage homes, each accommodating ten children.  The cottage wards were arranged in five groups around two greens.  A resident trained Sister looked after the six cottages in each group, and each group had a staff block.  As was the custom then, the cottage groups were named after trees - cherry, rowans, poplars, etc.  To the south of the central green areas were the junior and senior schools and, to the north of it, an administration block.  Parents were allowed to visit the children on Sundays.

In 1914, at the outbreak of WW1, the Hospital was loaned to the War Office.

After the war, from August 1918 to November 1919, the Hospital was used for sane epileptics (that is, those who were epileptic but not mentally ill or mentally defective - the link between lunacy and epilepsy was a historical one, with such patients being inappropriately placed in a lunatic asylum). 

In 1922 it was renamed the High Wood Hospital for Children, and became a hospital for children with non-pulmonary tuberculosis and rheumatic diseases.  It had 308 beds.  Metal-clad open-air wards were introduced and, later, timber-clad extensions added to some of the buildings.  By 1926 the Hospital had 322 beds.

In 1930 the LCC took control of the Hospital and made a number of improvements, adding sun balconies to the wards so that open air treatment could be provided for more patients.

During WW2 part of the Hospital became a general hospital, dealing with medical, surgical and orthopaedic cases.  In 1940 an EMS Hospital was built to the west of the site.  It opened in 1941 as an annexe to the London Hospital and became known as Little High Wood Hospital.  In 1944, because of the V1 flying bomb attacks, the children and staff were evacuated to Northumberland.

In 1948 the Hospital joined the NHS, continuing to provide treatment and care for children with TB of the joints, while Essex County Council took over the running of the school.  

With the advent of drugs for the treatment of TB, the number of patients declined and, in 1959, the school closed and the remaining 30 patients were transferred to the Black Notley Hospital in Braintree.

From 1960 onwards the Hospital mainly provided long-term geriatric care and various Out-Patient clinics, while Little High Wood Hospital accommodated mentally handicapped children.  In 1971 a County School opened at Little High Wood.

In 1979 High Wood had become a geriatric day hospital.

By 2004 the mentally handicapped children at Little High Wood Hospital had been resettled within the community and the site became vacant.  In 2008 work began to redevelop it at a cost of £2.5m as the Brentwood Resource Centre, to house mental health services, a Day Centre, a dementia clinic and therapy services for adults and the elderly.  It was officially opened in March 2010 by Alastair Campbell.

Since the opening of the new Brentwood Community Hospital in 2008 and the Brentwood Resource Centre, the Area Health Authority decided that High Wood Hospital was surplus to requirements.  It closed in 2010 and the remaining services on site transferred to the Brentwood Resource Centre.

Present status (June 2010)

The Hospital site had been made a conservation area in 2001. 

The land was sold by NHS South West Essex to Bellway Homes in 2010 for £12m.  The company plan to build a housing estate on the 17 acres.  It will contain 205 apartments and houses, 72 of which will be designated social housing.

(N.B.  These photographs were obtained in May 2008)

entrance drive  old gate posts
The entrance drive to the Hospital (left).  The old gate posts by Ongar Road and Geary Drive (right).

admin building
The main administration building.

  plaque  plaque
Stone plaques are mounted on the administration building

ward block ward block
ward blocks ward blocks
Ward blocks on the east side of the site.

ward blocks ward blocks
ward blocks ward blocks
Ward blocks on the west of the site.

wishing well
A memorial wishing well at the north of the site.

site plan
Site plan of the Hospital.
Ward J 2004 Brentwood. A History.  Chichester, Phillimore & Co.

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