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13 former hospitals in Kent and what has replaced them

ByRebecca Tuffin

Kent has been home to many hospitals over the years, from notorious mental health facilities to floating infirmaries on the River Thames.

However, as time has gone by and large, purpose-built hospitals have been established, many of these older medical institutions have closed down and been replaced by something else.

Some of the corrugated iron clad buildings at the one-time Warren Isolation Hospital. Picture: John Olliver
Some of the corrugated iron clad buildings at the one-time Warren Isolation Hospital. Picture: John Olliver

Warren Isolation Hospital, Ashford

If you use the M20 to get to work, you may well be driving right over the spot where people with the most infectious diseases were treated in the Victorian times.

Ashford Isolation Hospital was established in 1867 by a doctor Mr Whitfeld who felt there needed to be a specific place for patients suffering with highly infectious conditions.

He built a small hospital which he mostly used in connection with his own practice.

The entrance to the long-lost Warren Isolation Hospital after closure. Picture: John Olliver
The entrance to the long-lost Warren Isolation Hospital after closure. Picture: John Olliver

When Mr Whitfield died in 1877, the Urban Sanitary Authority took a lease of the hospital and enlarged it to accommodate eight beds.

Several additional blocks were added through the years and in the 1970s, it became known as Warren Isolation Hospital.

It was demolished to make way for the M20 motorway in the late 1970s or early 1980s - it would have been just south-west of junction 9.

Bow Arrow Hospital, Dartford

This Dartford isolation hospital built in 1893 originally comprised of corrugated-iron ward pavilions and a brick administration block.

It remained like this for 11 years before the Bow Arrow Lane building was extended.

After the work was completed, there were seven ward blocks on the site, as well as a nurses’ home, boiler house and a small chapel.

Bow Arrow Lane now. Picture: Google street view
Bow Arrow Lane now. Picture: Google street view

In 1935, part of the hospital became a nurses training school and in 1950, it closed to common infectious disease and became a hospital for tuberculosis.

Bow Arrow admitted its last patients in 1982, with all buildings knocked down to make way for a housing estate.

St Augustine's Hospital, Chartham

One of the country's most notorious psychiatric hospitals, this Chartham institution became known for subjecting its patients to abuse and neglect.

Originally called East Kent County Asylum, it was founded in 1872, and over the next 50 years became a self-contained village with its own farm, fire-brigade and graveyard.

There was even a school, Beech House Hospital School, which remained open until the 1990s.

St Augustine's Hospital, Chartham in 1974
St Augustine's Hospital, Chartham in 1974

In 1948, it became part of the NHS and was renamed St Augustine's, with new treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy and psychosurgery being used.

However, a dark underside of the hospital was revealed when a university researcher, Brian Ankers, began a temporary job there as a nursing assistant.

He was shocked by the horrendous ill treatment of patients and complained.

This complaint was rejected, so he produced a detailed report including 70 instances of abuse, neglect and degradation of patients, forcing the health authority to set up an inquiry.

The majority of complaints were upheld and the senior staff were heavily criticised, especially for their casual use of electroconvulsive therapy.

St Augustine's in 1984
St Augustine's in 1984
St Augustine's in 1984
St Augustine's in 1984

The hospital finally closed in 1993 with new development of the site starting a couple of years later.

Much of the hospital was demolished, with only a few buildings remaining, and houses now stand in its place.

Melville Hospital, Chatham

This large naval hospital was erected in 1828 and provided accommodation for 252 patients.

When an even larger hospital opened in Chatham in 1905, Melville was taken over by the Royal Marines’ Barracks, where it remained in use until 1950 when Chatham ceased to operate as a naval base.

Chatham Royal Marines’ Barracks in 1942, previously Melville Hospital
Chatham Royal Marines’ Barracks in 1942, previously Melville Hospital

Most of the buildings on the Dock Road site were demolished about a decade later and the Medway Council offices and car park now stand it their place.

Long Reach Hospital, Dartford

Erected in 1901 in the face of a smallpox epidemic, Long Reach Hospital was built in connection with the hospital ships moored on the River Thames in Dartford.

These floating infirmaries were introduced as way to deal with infectious diseases, with isolation hospitals built on the river banks and patients transported along the river, to keep the disease away from the general population, and also provide a more efficient way of transporting ill people to hospital.

Some patients were even treated on the water - three hospital ships were set up in Long Reach in 1883.

A hospital ship on the River Thames in Dartford
A hospital ship on the River Thames in Dartford
Inside one of the floating infirmaries
Inside one of the floating infirmaries

Long Reach Hospital was situated on the land adjoining the shore base of these three ships; Atlas, Endymion, and Castalia.

It was originally built of timber with some of the buildings replaced by more permanent structures in 1928.

Despite the flooding of the area in 1953, the hospital remained in use until 1975 when the site was cleared to make way for a new flood barrier.

Orchard Hospital, Dartford

This was another, temporary hospital also built on the River Thames in the Long Reach area of Dartford to help cope with the smallpox epidemic.

It was established in 1902 and had 800 beds within it's thin, hutted pavilion walls.

The Orchard as an Australian Auxiliary Hospital in 1918
The Orchard as an Australian Auxiliary Hospital in 1918

However, it spent much of its time closed, only opening for major epidemics.

It was used as a military hospital in the First World War, becoming the Dartford Australian Auxiliary Hospital. Upon their arrival, the foreign soldiers described the building as having an "unattractive and deserted appearance with shacks called wards".

After the war, it went back to the occasional opening for epidemics of scarlet fever and diphtheria.

The Orchard as a fever hospital in 1920
The Orchard as a fever hospital in 1920

Largely destroyed by bombs in the Second World War, the hospital was fully demolished some years later; the last few buildings used as a pig farm for Joyce Green. The site is now covered in grasslands and shrubbery.

Royal Victoria Hospital, Dover

If you live in Dover, you will have walked past this old hospital many times.

The small, disused house in the High Street was originally built in 1834 for a local paper-maker, but became The Dover Hospital in 1851.

Royal Victoria Hospital in Dover High Street. Picture: Google street view
Royal Victoria Hospital in Dover High Street. Picture: Google street view

Several wards were added over the years including an Arts Nouveau style outpatients department, and it was renamed Royal Victoria Hospital.

It closed in 1987, and is now known as Royal Victoria Place and has been converted into flats.

Leybourne Grange, West Malling

Leybourne Grange was a huge hospital for patients with severe learning difficulties,

Opened in 1936, it covered 270 acres, with room for 1,200 patients, and was largely hidden from the main road by trees.

Leybourne Grange
Leybourne Grange

Due to Care in the Community becoming more prevalent, the hospital closed in 1996 and was left to decay in the elements until the Healthcare Communications Association sold the buildings to developers, Leybourne Chase Housing.

Most of the site has been demolished, with only the big old manor house and clock tower retained.

The clock tower at Leybourne Grange. Picture: Grant Falvey
The clock tower at Leybourne Grange. Picture: Grant Falvey

A housing estate, Leybourne Chase, and a primary school of the same name now stands in its place.

The Oakwood Hospital, Maidstone

The Oakwood Hospital was founded as “Kent County Lunatic Asylum” - a single building constructed between 1829 and 1833 in Barming Heath, Maidstone.

At its peak, the hospital held around 2,000 psychiatric patients from around the county, as well as some from London.

Rescue operation during a fire at Oakwood Hospital in 1957, where seven people were killed when a tower collapsed
Rescue operation during a fire at Oakwood Hospital in 1957, where seven people were killed when a tower collapsed

With the shift away from long-term institutionalisation of the mentally ill in the later part of the 20th century, the hospital fell into disuse, and was abandoned in the 1990s.

The complex stood derelict for some years, giving urban explorers the opportunity to venture into its corridors.

Today, the remaining buildings are privately-owned and have been converted into apartments, the estate known as St Andrew's Park.

The Mount Hospital, Canterbury

This isolation hospital spent time as student accommodation before being converted into private housing.

The Mount Hospital, originally named Canterbury Sanatorium, opened in Stodmarsh Road, Canterbury in 1897.

The Mount Hospital from above. Picture: Mark Kerr
The Mount Hospital from above. Picture: Mark Kerr

It was transferred to the NHS in 1948 and closed in the 1980s due to a lack of need, and was later used by Canterbury Christ Church University as student accommodation.

In 1990, the land was designated as a conservation area and in 2007, Monro Homes bought the site and transformed it into 21 houses, converting some of the existing property into seven homes as well as building 14 new ones.

Preston Hall Hospital, Aylesford

During the First World War, Preston Hall was used as a hospital and convalescent home for servicemen wounded in the war and built a particular reputation for the treatment of tuberculosis.

After the war, the site became a sanatorium, training colony and village for wounded soldiers.

Preston Hall was used as a hospital during both world wars
Preston Hall was used as a hospital during both world wars

Royal British Legion Industries took over the running the centre in 1925. The village quickly increased in population and became known as the British Legion Village, caring for veterans until this day.

The main hall was converted into 36 flats in 2015 and The Heart of Kent Hospice also occupies a site on the property.

Willesborough Hospital, Ashford

This red brick building in Kennington Road began life as East Ashford Union Workhouse, with the first inmates admitted in April 1836.

In 1930, it was taken over by Kent County Council and became know as the East Ashford Public Assistance Institution, and later, Willesborough Hospital.

Willesborough Hospital has been converted into housing and business premises. Picture: Google street view
Willesborough Hospital has been converted into housing and business premises. Picture: Google street view

It closed in 1979 due to the opening of other larger hospitals, and the buildings, which include a chapel, are now privately owned, converted into housing and offices used by several local businesses.

Ashford Cottage Hospital, Ashford

This hospital was established in Wellesley Road, Ashford in 1869.

The original premises, a converted house, were replaced by a purpose-built hospital in 1877.

Ashford Cottage Hospital in 1972
Ashford Cottage Hospital in 1972

But as the years went on, new hospitals were built in the town, so the need for Ashford Cottage dwindled.

In 1992, the building was renamed Caxton House and converted into offices. It is now home to self-help charity, Advocacy for All.

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