St Benedict's Hospital
Church Lane, Tooting Graveney, SW17
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1897 - 1981

Chronic sick, rehabilitation.  Later, geriatric

In 1897 the former St Joseph's Roman Catholic College was taken over by the Wandsworth Board of Guardians to provide extra workhouse accommodation.  The site, which contained Hill House (the original manor house), had originally been bought by St Joseph's Teaching Brotherhood and they had built the College, which opened as a Roman Catholic school in 1887.  However, the upkeep proved too expensive and the school moved to Beulah Hill in 1895.  The site was bought by the Guardians for £40,000.  Another £30,000 was spent on alterations to  the 3-storey College building, which was renamed the Tooting Home for the Aged and Infirm.  Hill House, once the home of Daniel Defoe,  became the Nurses' Home.

The ground floor contained the Committee Room and various administrative offices, as well as apartments for the Matron and the Master.  There were also two large wards, each containing 42 beds, several smaller wards, some with only seven beds, and a few single rooms used for nursing accommodation.  More wards were located on the first floot, where there were also day rooms for patients to spend recreation time.  Each of the wards was named after one of the Wandsworth Guardians.

The beds had wire spring mattresses with an overlay of hair.  Each bed had a flock bolster and a feather pillow, three blankets and a white counterpane.  A comfortable chair was beside each bed.

The kitchen was well-furnished with a cooking range and three large coppers (cauldrons used for heating water).  It was located in the basement, along with the scullery, pantry and storerooms.  The basement also contained a clothes storeroom, a needle room and staff dormitories.

By 1901 the Home housed 605 inmates.  In 1903 eight temporary single-storey buildings were erected at the northeast of the site to house a further 102 males and 102 females.  These buildings were arranged either side of a central linking corridor, which ran parallel to Church Lane.

During WW1 the Home was taken over by the War Office and became the Church Lane Military Hospital (also known as the Tooting Military Hospital). It had 712 beds for enlisted servicemen, including 40 beds for dysentery cases, 60 for TB and 26 for eye patients.

After the war the Ministry of Pensions used it as a neurological hospital for shell-shocked and neurasthenic ex-servicemen until 1923.

The buildings then became empty and derelict but, in 1930, the LCC bought the site, spending up to £30,000 to renovate and re-equip it as a hospital for long-stay patients.

It reopened in 1931 as St Benedict's Hospital.  Three classes of patients were admitted: convalescents or those needing rehabilitation; the aged chronic sick; and young adults who were permanently incapable.

In 1938 the rehabilitation patients were transferred to Margate and much of the activity of the Hospital was reduced, with only the two classes of chronic patients being admitted.

The Hospital joined the NHS in 1948, when it had 200 patients, coming under the control of the Wandsworth Hospital Management Committee, part of the South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.  Between 1948 and 1950 the X-ray Department was improved and a new chapel was built.  

In 1950 the Hospital had 246 beds.  In 1951 a further 50 beds were opened for fracture cases from St James' Hospital, Balham (which was undergoing major rebuilding works), and for male patients undergoing rehabiltation.

Following a reorganisation of the NHS in 1974 the Hospital came under the control of the Wandsworth and East Merton (Teaching) District Health Authority, part of the South West Thames Regional Health Authority.

It closed in 1981.

Present status (July 2008)

Housing now occupies the site.  The southern corner below Church Lane contains St Benedicts, a private estate of small houses and apartments.

The only surviving remnants of the Hospital buildings are the entrance gateway with its posts on Church Lane, and the main block's portico and clock tower, which have been preserved in the grounds of the modern development.

 old portico
The portico from the former College building.

clock tower
The old clock tower.
old gateposts  
old gate post
The old gateposts still remain (left).  The inscriptions on them  are almost illegible (right).

Signage for St Benedicts Private Estate.
(Author unstated) 1917 List of the various hospitals treating military cases in the United Kingdom.  London, H.M.S.O.


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