Stone House Hospital, Dartford – now The Residence

Former Stone House Hospital photographed in 2005. The main range of the former hospital is now known as The Residence. © Copyright Glyn Baker and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

A short hop from the Bluewater shopping centre is the former Stone House Hospital, built in the 1860s as the City of London Pauper Lunatic Asylum. The hospital was closed in 2005, a process that had begun some years before, and the buildings remained empty and slowly deteriorating for around seven years before planning permission was given for the redevelopment of the site for housing.

Stone House Hospital, administration block, photographed in 1992.

The P. J. Livesey Group carried out the development. Listed building consent was granted in 2012 for the conversion of the main hospital range, the former superintendent’s house (the Hollies), coach-house and stable buildings to provide 93 dwellings and a private gym, change of use for the chapel to offices. Consent was also given for the demolition of the female infirmary, boiler house, laundry rooms, mortuary and associated buildings. A total of 260 residences were planned for the site.

Stone House Hospital, near Dartford in Kent, built as the City of London Pauper Lunatic Asylum and opened in 1866. Extract from the 2nd-edition OS Map revised in 1895, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Corporation of London dragged its heels over building a pauper lunatic asylum. They acquired a site at Stone near Dartford in Kent in 1859 from C. White Esq of Barnsfield. Plans were commissioned from the City Clerk of Works, J. B. Bunning. Arguments rumbled on over how big the asylum should be, or if it were needed at all, but after a few revisions of the plans, work finally began in 1862. Progress was painfully slow. With work still far from complete, Horace Jones replaced Bunning as City Architect in 1864.  Jones supervised the completion of the building which was officially opened on 16 April 1866.

Engraved view of the City of London Asylum, 1866.

The year before the Visiting Committee reported that the furniture, bedding and general stores had, for the most part, been delivered. An arrangement had been made for the gas supply from Dartford, but the water supply was insufficient. The Committee recommended that patients should not be transferred to the new asylum until the spring, because of the ‘bleak and unsheltered situation of the asylum’. Committee members were also concerned that this bleakness also applied to the interior, where the walls were just ‘rough brickwork whitewashed from the ceiling to the floor’. They feared the contrast would make for an unpleasant change for the poor patients and called for walls to be painted or papered with a cheerful-coloured pattern.

Former Chelsea Ward. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of Peter Aitkenhead. 

The City Asylum was contemporary with various second county asylums: Dorset, Surrey, Staffordshire, and Cheshire, and a number of other city asylums, such as Norwich, Newcastle and Bristol. Its plan demonstrated the refinements that were being introduced to the established corridor plan, having broader corridors, large day rooms and dormitories and fewer single rooms.

Stone House Hospital, former canteen. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of Peter Aitkenhead. 

The asylum was extended many times following its completion, with new wings added in the 1870s, an isolation hospital in 1885 (the cottage hospital, now demolished), and extensive additions in the late 1890s.

Extract from the 25-inch OS Map revised in 1931, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

A detached chapel (St Luke’s) was built to the north of the main hospital range in 1898-1901 to designs by Andrew Murray. The original chapel, which was at the heart of the main building above the dining-hall, was then converted into a recreation room ‘for concerts, dancing and theatrical amusements’. Whereas the site of the asylum had been described as bleak and unsheltered in the 1860s, it was now commended as being ‘notable for its salubrity’, commanding a view of the Thames and a charming rural panorama.

Stone House Hospital chapel, photographed in 1992. 
Stone House Hospital chapel, photographed in 1992. 
Stone House Hospital Chapel, west window. Photograph reproduced by kind permission of Peter Aitkenhead.

Sources and References: 

The surviving archives of the hospital are in the London Metropolitan Archives – ref: CLA/001: Gravesend Reporter, North Kent and South Essex Advertiser, 31 March 1860 p.4 : London City Press, 16 Dec 1865 p.3: Illustrated Times, 31 March 1866, p.205: Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, 19 June 1898, p.1: Building Design, 23 July 2010, 4: Lost Hospitals of London: P. J. Livesey Group websiteParliamentary Papers, Reports of the Commissioners in Lunacy.

14 thoughts on “Stone House Hospital, Dartford – now The Residence

  1. Good question. Jones certainly should be mentioned for carrying out Bunning’s design and for designing some of the later additions to the hospital. I will amend the post, and add him in. Thank you picking up on the omission.

  2. Is there any more information or photographs of the nurses house built in 1909? I live in the building now and can find little on it.
    Many thanks

    • Dear Sarah,
      The records of Stone House Hospital are in the London Metropolitan Archives. They have 3 plans of the nurses’ home refs: CLA/001/P/01/005 to 007
      You can search the LMS catalogue online. They have photographs of the hospital, which may include the nurses’ home. You could also try looking at the Visiting Committee Minutes for around 1908-9, or the Annual Reports. The LMA staff are very helpful, so I am sure they would be able to suggest other sources, and you can access Ancestry at the LMA to see who was living there on the night of the 1911 Census.
      I hope that’s of some help,
      best wishes
      from Harriet

  3. My grandfather, William Dixon, worked as a shepherd at the Stone House Hospital for 18 years , finishing in approximately 1930. Would there be any records about his employment?
    Thanks, Barbara Want (Nambour, Qld. Australia

    • Hi Barbara, it is possible there may be some records of his time at Stone House. They would be at the London Metropolitan Archives. I would try contacting them, or having a look at the online catalogue.

  4. Hi Harriett, really interesting to see your writing about Napsbury and Stone house- will you at any time be writing about the Shelton Asylum in Shropshire,St George’s Stafforshire, Springfield, Hanwell or Camberwell Hospitals?
    Between about 1901 and the 1920’s you can find members of my grandmother’s family in all of these- nursing.
    My grandmother’s older sister Fanny Mabel married Arthur O’Neill who was a doctor at Napsbury and she worked as a matron there. My grandmother and another sister worked at Stone House while my great grandfather was an attendant at Shelton. I have some pictures of family taken in the Napsbury grounds and one of Shelton, but none of the others so loving your in depth site! Thank you

    • thank you, I will try to do something on the places where your ancestors worked. I have visited the London hospitals, Springfield, Hanwell and Camberwell and have photos of those, so I will put them at the top of my list. It would be lovely to see the pictures of your family in the Napsbury grounds and Shelton.
      with best wishes,

  5. Dear Harriet,

    Re: Jane Pearson’s submission

    I have just read this response which you received recently and I hoped you might be able to put me in touch with the person called Jane Pearson who wrote the following paragraph to you on 4th September.

    “My grandmother’s older sister Fanny Mabel married Arthur O’Neill who was a doctor at Napsbury and she worked as a matron there. My grandmother and another sister worked at Stone House while my great grandfather was an attendant at Shelton. I have some pictures of family taken in Napsbury”.

    My grandfather was called Arthur O’Neill and I know he was married once, before eventually marrying the person who became my grandmother, who died when I was only 4 or 5 years old, known to me only as “Stee”! It seems that the Arthur O’Neill mentioned above, might probably be my grandfather, whose title as far as I know was “Medical Superintendent” and he was certainly a doctor.

    One of my reasons for this interest is that my mother grew up as a teenager in the asylum when Arthur O’Neill her father, was medical superintendent at Napsbury and she got to know Louis Wain, whom you may know was a famous patient at Napsbury at that time. Wain was a famous painter of cats, whose work is now the subject of an exhibition in London at the Chris Beetles gallery.

    Through my mother, I inherited a painting which Wain had painted especially for her and as a result of this I am trying to research this particular part of my ancestry.

    I know my grandfather was married twice but even my mother did not know this until she read his death certificate! So none of my family have ever known any details about his first wife.

    Having read the above submission from Jane Pearson, I think it is very likely that her grandmother’s older sister was actually my grandfather’s first wife!

    I would be delighted to see some of the photographs she has of the Napsbury period and learn all I can about Fanny Mabel.

    Thank you in anticipation.


    Niel Roberts

    • Dear Niel,
      how fascinating, and how marvellous to have a Louis Wain painting that was done for your grandmother. If you could supply a contact email I would be happy to pass it on to Jane Pearson.

  6. Hi Niel, your mother was my mother’s cousin. We met when I was about three years old when we lived in a flat in Chiswick. I remember your mother falrly well, and your aunt Molly- and the first I heard about Arthur O’Neills first marriage is your story above!
    Fanny Mabel (your grandmother) was my grandmother’s older sister. She died in 1951.
    I have some old photos of your mother and your aunt and your grandparents from c 1915 or so.
    I can digitise and let you have copies if you send me an email (via Harriet rther than publicly?) Would it be possible to get a digital copy of the Louis Wain painting- your mother told me some fascinating stuff about him from her memories.

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  8. Does anyone know if there was maternity unit on the site in 1948? I would be very interested to find out. Many thanks.

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