Following on from the post featuring Midhurst Sanatorium chapel, I wanted to look at the main Sanatorium building. It is one of the most important former sanatoria in England and one of the most attractive. Latterly the King Edward VII Hospital, it closed in 2006 and remained empty for some years after. The sanatorium building and chapel were listed Grade II* and the gardens registered, conferring a degree of protection for these important buildings and imposing restrictions on the re-use and redevelopment of the site. Nevertheless, by 2012 the condition of the buildings had deteriorated and the chapel was placed on the Heritage at Risk register. In 2015 work began on the redevelopment of the site, turning it into a luxury estate, by the developers City and Country.
A rather scratchy slide from June 1992 of the King Edward VII Hospital, as it then was.
As the name of the hospital implies, the origins of this sanatorium were closely linked with Edward VII. Having decided to fund the erection of a sanatorium in England for patients suffering from tuberculosis, in 1901, the year that he acceded to the throne, the king appointed an advisory committee comprising some of the leading medical men of the day to ensure that it should be of the most up-to-date design. There were six men on the committee: Sir William Broadbent Bt KCVO; Sir Richard Douglas Powell Bt KCVO; Sir Francis Laking KCVO; Sir Felix Semon; Sir Hermann Weber; and Dr C. Theodore Williams. In February 1902 the committee announced in the medical press of Europe and America that a competition was to be held for an essay and plans for the erection of the sanatorium. There was no restriction as to the nationality of the entrants, and they might be either from medical men or jointly from a medic and an architect (but not just from architects). The sanatorium was to provide for 100 patients, equally divided between the sexes, of which 88 beds were to be for the ‘necessitous classes’ the remaining 12 set aside for the well-to-do. All the accommodation was to be comfortable, with a single room for each patient, though with ‘superior arrangements’ being made for the wealthy patients. The building was to have the latest sanitary fittings and have facilities for scientific research. Entries were to be anonymous, but have a motto to distinguish them. The king was to provide £800 in prize money, awarding £500 for the best entry, then £200 and £100 for second and third place.
Arthur Latham deposited this bound edition of his prize-winning entry in the library of the Royal College of Physicians. It has been digitised by the internet archive
There were 180 entries, and the winners were announced in August 1902. The top prize went to Dr Arthur Latham of London and William West, architect, also from London (motto – ‘Give him air, he’ll straight be well’). Second prize went to Dr F. J. Wethered with Messrs Law and Allen, architects, also all from London (motto – ‘If preventable, why not prevented?’), and third prize to Dr E. C. Morland with Mr G. Morland, architect, both of Croydon (motto – ‘Vis Medicatrix naturae’, roughly ‘the healing power of nature’, a motto associated with the nature cure movement). On the architectural side, these were not well-known names. There were four honourable mentions, amongst whom were some better-known architects: Dr P. S. Hichens of Northampton submitted his essay in association with the architect Robert Weir Schultz, and Dr Jane Walker with Smith & Brewer. The only non-English entrant that featured in this list was the celebrated Dr Karl Turban of Davos whose architect was J. Gros. The final honourable mention went to Dr J. P. Wills of Bexhill, with Mr Wills, architect, London.
In the mean time the site had been chosen, at Midhurst in Sussex (now West Sussex). But the commission to design the new sanatorium did not go to Latham’s little-known architect William West, but to H. Percy Adams, presumably considered a safer pair of hands as he was already a well-experienced hospital architect. Since 1898 Charles Holden had been in Adams’ practice, and the final design for Midhurst Sanatorium bears the hallmarks of Holden’s characteristic style.
Aerial perspective of the ‘King’s Sanatorium’ as designed by H. Percy Adams and Charles Holden in 1902, published in Academy Architecture, 1903
To assist them in drawing up the design Adams and Holden had the benefit of Latham and West’s essay and plans, but they also visited sanatoria in Germany and Switzerland – Edward VII had been particularly impressed by the sanatorium at Falkenstein in Germany. The aerial perspective above shows the arrangement of the building. The patients were to occupy the shallow-V-shaped range to the right, which faced south, behind which was a U-plan administration block. These two ranges were linked by a central corridor. The admin block contained suites of offices, the committee room and service rooms, as well as an operating theatre, X-ray and casualty rooms, laboratories, a medical library, and the patients’ dining hall.
Plan from Latham and West’s essay. Their preferred scheme was to provide separate blocks for the wealthy and necessitous patients, this plan being the block for the more wealthy patients.
This was Latham & West’s alternative plan, which housed the wealthy and necessitous in one building. Both plans have elements in common with the designs drawn up by Adams & Holden.
Edward VII retained his interest in the progress of the sanatorium, laying the foundation stone on 3 November 1903. Delays in construction, in part over the water supply, caused the king some vexation, but it was finally opened on 13 June 1906.
The main front of the sanatorium, photographed in June 1992
The patients’ wing to the south was symmetrically arranged with a taller central block of three storeys. The ground floor breaks forward, its flat roof providing a terrace for the rooms on the first floor. Within were two spacious recreation rooms on the ground floor, one either side of the central corridor which marked the division of the sexes (males on the west, females on the east side). There were also hydro-therapy rooms flanking the garden entrance. Each patient had a separate room, as the original competition rules had required. The rooms faced south and opened on to a terrace or balcony. Bathrooms and WCs were provided in sanitary towers to the north of the patients’ corridor that ran along the back of their rooms and at the far ends of the building. The wealthier or higher class patients had slightly larger rooms with private balconies situated in the central range, while the lower-class patients occupied the wings.
Detail of the central gabled bay, June 1992
One of the stone alcoves on the south front, which provided a secluded shelter
The furnishings and fittings combined hygienic and aesthetic requirements. Washable wallpaper was used in the patients’ bedrooms, an early use of this new product in England, and the floors were of wood blocks. Moulmein teak was used for the staircases which was less susceptible to fire than other, coarser grained wood. The dining-hall and kitchen walls were lined with Doulton’s Carrara tiles.
A formal garden was designed for the area to the south of the main building by the horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll. Her layout, of gardens built on terraces on several levels, with buttressed stone walls separating one level from another, follows closely the scheme indicated by Adams in his perspective drawing. Lawns and flower beds were laid out on the terraces, and various shrubs, flowers and aromatic herbs were planted, many supplied personally by Jekyll. She also designed small gardens to fill the spaces between the administration block and the patients’ wings, again following closely Adams’ original designs. The work was carried out under Jekyll’s direction by two gardeners aided by some of the patients.
A. Latham The Prize Essay on the erection of a sanatorium for tuberculosis… 1903
Academy Architecture, 1903, ii, pp.116-9
F. Allibone, typescript notes to collection of drawings by Adams, Holden & Pearson in RIBA Drawings Collection
The Builder, 23 May 1903, pp.531-2; 22 April 1905, pp.440; 23 June 1906, p.707
Building News, 27 May 1904, p.761
Kelly’s Directory of Sussex 1934, 1934, p.243
S. E. Large, King Edward VII Hospital Midhurst 1901-1986, 1986
I. Nairn & N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Sussex, 1965
see also urbexer’s exploration of the site from 2012 on 28dayslater