As convalescent homes were not strictly speaking medical buildings, and most of the patients sent to convalescence were able to get up during the day, many were established in private houses which required little alteration to fit them to their purpose. If they proved popular and were well supported, they might be replaced by a purpose-built establishment. Location was important, somewhere where the patients could benefit from clean air away from the cities or towns where they were likely to have been living. Many general hospitals set up convalescent homes in the surrounding countryside or by the sea. Others were independent, but both types were run as charitable ventures, supported by donations, subscriptions and fund-raising events.
Charnwood Lodge, near Loughborough, is now a residential home for people with autism and complex behaviour run by Priory Adult Care, but it was originally built as a convalescent home. The foundation stone of was laid on 2 August 1893 by the Duchess of Rutland, and the home was designed by local Loughborough architect, George H. Barrowcliff. A convalescent home for Loughborough patients had first been established in rented rooms in a cottage at Woodhouse Eaves in 1875. Its success led to the opening of a second convalescent home in 1879, intended for Leicester patients. The two homes were merged in 1883 from which time they were officially known as Charnwood Forest Convalescent Homes.
The new building, pictured in the postcard and marked on the map above, was described in the Nottingham Evening Post when the foundation stone was laid in 1893:
The building is situated on the west side of the Buck Hill road, in the heart of Charnwood Forest, being midway between Nanpantan and Woodhouse, … It is sheltered by the Outwoods from the east, by the rough rising rocks known as Easom’s Piece from the west, and by the rising ground at the rear on the north. This site, selected by the committee after most careful consideration, contains an area of four acres, a part of which is covered by a spinney, and it is proposed that the remainder shall be laid out as ornamental grounds. The building, which is of a domestic character, is being erected of the local forest stone, and faced with red sand faced bricks to the doors, windows and corners, and with a brick lining on the inner side, all the external walls to the main building being erected with a two-inch cavity between the stonework and the inner lining. On the front of the building a verandah 7ft 6in wide runs the entire length. This is partly covered with glass, so as not to diminish the light in the rooms. The building will consist of ground, first and second floors, with a spacious corridor running the entire length of each. The entrance hall is approached from the centre of the verandah, and will be available as a committee-room or for the patients to receive their friends, and is divided from the men’s and women’s corridors by swing doors. The remainder of the front consists of three sitting rooms … and a matron’s room 16ft by 13ft. The back portion of the main building ground floor consists of dining hall, … capable of seating 56 persons; sitting room, … china and store rooms. Main staircases at either end lead to the men’s and women’s bedrooms. At the rear are kitchen … scullery, larder, and other offices opening into large paved yard, at the side of which a coach-house is being erected. Suitable lavatory accommodation, lined with white glazed bricks, and isolated from the main buildings, is provided for both sexes at either end of the building. The ventilation and sanitary arrangements are as perfect as can be attained. … The house is designed for 45 patients, and for the entire separation of the sexes except when taking meals, when they will meet in the common dining hall. The sitting and bedrooms will be heated by open fire grates, and the corridors and dining hall by hot water. … The architect after careful consideration has selected the Brindle tile for the roofs from Mr J. Peake, Tunstall bricks for facings from Messrs Tucker and Son of Loughborough, the stone from Messrs. Brabble & Co. Farley Darley Dale quarry. The cost of the structure complete including purchase of land, water supply furnishing etc will be about £6, 000, and the contract is being carried out by Messrs W. Moss & Son of Loughborough, under the direction of the architect, Mr George H. Barrowcliff, of Loughborough.
The home was formally opened by the Duke of Rutland in 1894, and in 1896 a lodge was added to accommodate the gardener who also acted as caretaker to the home while it was closed over the winter.
Although the bedrooms of the men and women were separated in the home, they were able to mix at meal times. Patients were allowed to entertain visitors, and musical entertainments were sometimes put on. There is a suggestion that early on some of the convalescents may have enjoyed their stay rather too much. At the annual meeting of the management committee one of the members, a Mrs Edwin de Lisle, moved that the rules of the home be amended to exclude ‘persons of intemperate habits’. She thought patients ought to be prevented from getting more intoxicating liquors than was sometimes good for them.
Following the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 the management committee offered the War Office the use of the home during the winter months for wounded soldiers, though whether the offer was taken up is not clear. Wounded soldiers were accommodated during the First World War, mostly transferred from larger war time hospitals – such as the 5th Northern Hospital at Leicester.
In 1900 a new building was erected as a children’s convalescent home to replace the small house in Maplewell Road at Woodhouse Eaves. This was entirely funded by the Revd W. H. Cooper of Burleigh Hall, Loughborough, in memory of his wife and was named the Cooper Memorial home for children. It was built on Brand Hill, at the upper corner of Hunger Hill Wood, at Woodhouse Eaves, a well wooded site with fine views on the estate of Mrs Perry Herrick. The home, originally built to house 26 children, was designed by Barrowcliff and Allcock in conjunction with Alfred W. N. Burder. Moss & Sons of Loughborough were the building contractors, and the heating and ventilation were provided by Messenger & Co. Ltd. It provided two large day rooms, one a dining-room the other a play room, sitting rooms for the matron and nurses, and four wards upstairs for the children, one of which was arranged as an isolation ward with nurse’s bedroom attached. A brass memorial plaque was placed in the entrance hall commemorating the home’s benefactor and his late wife.
Both homes continued in use up until the 1950s, the independent charity continuing after the inception of the National Health Service. The Children’s home was sold to the Church of England Children’s Society in 1987, and two years later was converted into a home for the elderly. It is now called Charnwood House, and has been converted into private flats.
[Sources: Leicester Chronicle, 26 April 1884 p.6; 16 Oct 1897, p.11; 24 March 1900, p.11; 27 Oct 1900, p.6: Nottingham Evening Post, 2 Aug 1893, p.4; 14 July 1894, p.2: Nottinghamshire Guardian, 24 Dec 1898, p.3: Nottingham Journal, 2 Dec 1899, p.8: Melton Mowbray Mercury and Oakham and Uppingham News, 14 July 1910, p.8; 1 Oct 1914, p.5; 31 Dec 1914, p.5: Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office, contract files for Messenger and Co. Ltd. : Childrenshomes.org.uk.]