A mysterious coded message from Midhurst Sanatorium

hospitals182Recently I bought this post-card of the chapel at the King Edward VII Sanatorium, Midhurst, and was both surprised and puzzled to find what I assume to be a coded message on the back. The postmark is Aldershot, 7 August 1912, another puzzle as it suggests that the postcard was not sent from the hospital. If anyone has any idea how to translate the code I would be very grateful for any clues or explanations.

The puzzling message on a 1912 postcard to Miss Goddard of Ufton Green from ‘J’. A search in the census found a Georgina Goddard, born about 1887, who grew up on her Grandfather’s farm at Ufton in Berkshire and was living at the farm with her parents in 1911.

I had no idea about the message when I bought the card, it was the photograph of the chapel that I was interested in. The former Midhurst Sanatorium is one of the finest examples of this type of hospital. It was designed by H. Percy Adams and Charles Holden and was opened by Edward VII in 1906. The King had founded, and funded, the sanatorium which was for paying patients suffering from tuberculosis not wealthy enough to seek treatment abroad. Edward VII had been impressed with sanatoria on the Continent and their open air regimes.

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Not the best snap, but it gives an idea of the unusual V-shaped plan which created two naves stretching out from a central chancel under the squat tower. At the centre is an open-air pulpit – seen more clearly in the photograph below.

In 1901 the King formed an advisory committee comprising eminent physicians and authorities on the treatment of tuberculosis. It was decided to hold a competition, not for the design of a sanatoria, but for an essay on the subject, and was aimed at members of the medical profession as much as, or even rather than architects. The competition was won by Dr Arthur Latham and the architect William West of London, Robert Weir Schultz gained an honourable mention, but the commission went to H. Percy Adams. Adams was able to consult the winning entry before drawing up his plans and also visited several sanatoria in Germany and Switzerland.

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Open-air pulpit at the Midhurst Sanatorium chapel, from which the chaplain could address a garden congregation. The arcade in front of the arched windows lighting the nave provided shade or shelter, as the windows originally were unglazed. 

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Looking across from one arcade to the other. The main sanatorium building can just be glimpsed to the right of the photograph.

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Looking down one of the arcades

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The entrance to the west nave, off-set from the nave behind. It has a commanding and solid presence, faced in stone with a chequerboard band below the parapet.

The idea of designing an open-air chapel did not come from Adams and Holden, it had been suggested by the Advisory Committee, but without any clear indication of what form it should take. The twin naves Adams and Holden designed allowed for the division of men from women, and the V-shaped or half-butterfly plan is common to sanatoria and some country houses as it produced a sun-trap.

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The tall arched openings leading out to the arcade were originally unglazed and open to the elements, so that even while attending a chapel service patients could continue their open-air regime. The glazing was added in 1957 designed by Brian Poulter, the hospital’s consulting architect.

In an open-air chapel, heating was important and here a system of under-floor heating was provided. It comprised steam pipes which warmed the stone floor, and was similar to that used at Eppendorf Hospital, Hamburg.

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The chancel is octagonal and domed, the pulpit, lectern and altar have carved teak and inlaid ebony detailing.  

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Another view of the chancel. The walls of Bath stone are finely jointed ashlar and the floor is of York stone.

Sir John Brickwood, brewer of Portsmouth, provided the £25,000 to build the chapel, which opened at the same time as the hospital in 1906. His wife, Lady Jessie Brickwood, embroidered an intricate altar cloth that had a central figure of Christ flanked by the emblems of the four evangelists set against scrolling foliage. (There is a picture of the altar with its altar cloth on Brickwoods.co.uk, with much more information on the family)

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The rear of the chapel. Although the later extension to the right detracts a little from the impact of this elevation, the tower is still impressive with its graded stripes and patterns in the brickwork and the boldness of its composition, suggestive of the talents of Charles Holden.

Sources

RCHME Report on King Edward VII Hospital, NBR No. 101270, written by H. Richardson and C. Thom November 1992, for which the following sources were used:  Academy Architecture, 1903, ii, 116-9:  Allibone, F, typescript notes to collection of drawings by Adams, Holden & Pearson in RIBA Drawings Collection: The Builder, 23 May 1903, 531-2; 22 April 1905, 440; 23 June 1906, 707: Building News, 27 May 1904, 761: Kelly’s Directory of Sussex 1934, 1934, 243: Large, S E, 1986. King Edward VII Hospital Midhurst 1901-1986: Nairn, I & Pevsner, N, 1965. The Buildings of England: Sussex: Recent English Ecclesiastical Architecture, 2nd ed, 212-6

 

 

 

 

About Harriet Richardson

I am an architectural historian, working on the Survey of London at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. I have worked on surveys of hospital architecture in Scotland and England.
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4 Responses to A mysterious coded message from Midhurst Sanatorium

  1. Plug the cipher into this website: http://quipqiup.com/index.php
    It comes up with this (I added more spaces as _): THANKS FOR PC DARLING I LOOKED FOR IT HOPE YOU RECEIVED LETTER I DO WANT TO KISS YOU WILL THERE JE_A_LETTER FOR ME TO MORROW I SEE I AM_ON_DUTY SATURDAY I WILL TRY AND CHANGE_LOVE AND KISSES YOURS ALWAYS BACK
    Obviously “be a letter for me”, not “je”, and the PC is probably another postcard.
    Reverse engineer to figure out what the actual cipher was (the website decoder doesn’t say)!

    Like

  2. rosamundi says:

    “thanks for pc [postcard] darling I looked for it hope you received letter I do want to kiss you will there be a letter for me tomorrow I see I am on duty saturday i will try and change love and kisses yours always jack”
    The key is:
    NVZUTLWJMHRFIASXPKOEDBGYQC
    abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

    Like

    • Thank you, very impressive code breaking. It seems she may not have married Jack. Georgina married William James Vincent in 1917, but she died the following year. She was only about 31 years old, perhaps she died in childbirth, or perhaps the Spanish Flu.

      Like

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