White Oak Hospital
London Road, Swanley, Kent
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1903 - 1950


In 1897 a 49 acre site at Swanley was purchased by the Metropolitan Asylums Board (MAB) at the cost of £5,050 for the site of a hospital and school for poor London children with contagious eye disease.  It was one of the two institutions established by MAB for the treatment of ophthalmia (the other was High Wood Hospital in Brentwood, Essex).  Before these hospitals were opened the children - about 2000 in total - were sent to private establishments for treatment.

The White Oak Hospital and School, built at the cost of £112,324, opened in 1903.  The Hospital consisted of a gate porter's lodge by the entrance on London Road, together with a receiving block, an ophthalmoscopy room for eye examinations and a laboratory.  There were 30 cottages for the children (each cottage accommodated 12 children and a house mother), which were arranged in 15 pairs, and then in 5 groups of three pairs each.  The five groups each had a staff block, which contained a room where the 72 children in the group received medical care.  The duty nurse lived in this block, as did the cook and the servant.  The kitchen for the group was also in this block.

In the central administration block were found living quarters for the matron, assistant matron and other nurses, as well as for the domestic and laundry staff.  The general stores and storekeeper's office were located here, and also a needlework room.

The site contained buildings for the junior and senior schools, four cottages for the male staff and, at the north part, an infirmary and an isolation cottage.  

The average length of stay was seven to nine months.  The most common eye complaint was blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids), then ophthalmia and interstitial keratitis. Trachoma and conjunctivis were less common.

The Hospital joined the NHS in 1948, but its future was uncertain.  Proposals that it continue as a children's hospital for ophthalmic and other disorders, with the establishment of a tuberculosis eye unit, came to nought and it closed in 1950.

Present status (December 2008)

The main site of the Hospital is now White Oak Place, a business park, but the original gateway opposite the Swanley police station in London Road remains.
old walls and gateway  original gateway
The original wall and gateway along London Road

business park  business park
White Oak Place

business park
Pioneer Way, inside White Oak Place
Sorsby S 1938 White Oak Hospital, 1933-38.  British Journal of Ophthalmology 22, 174-177.

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