It was back in June 1992 that Colin Thom and I visited King Edward VII Hospital, as it then was, as part of the RCHME Hospitals Project. The project involved site visits to as many pre-1948 hospitals throughout England as we could identify and manage within the three years allotted for the project. For the most interesting of these sites we requested professional photography from the Commission’s pool of excellent photographers, and those are now a part of the Historic England archives. We also took colour slides and black-and-white snaps for ourselves. I have been scanning some of these and have posted some of the slides already, but thought I would share the black-and-white snaps here. They are only snaps, and of mixed quality, but I think they provide an interesting record of how the hospital looked 30 years ago.
You can just spot someone sitting in the alcove on the far left. The gardens around the sanatorium were designed by the architects Adams & Holden and the planting plans were drawn up by Gertrude Jekyll. Jekyll produced some forty plans in about 1905, which detail the planting for the formal gardens, the areas just behind the main south block and between it and the chapel, and also the Medical Superintendent’s garden. The light and sandy soil lent itself to Mediterranean plants, and ‘in the case of the Sanatorium walls, the planting was carefully considered for colour effect, masses of plants of related or harmonious colouring being kept near together’.¹
A raised basement provided a terrace in front of the ground-floor rooms, while the balcony in front of the first-floor rooms created a degree of shelter, as do the deep eaves for the upper-floor rooms. Shutters allowed the inward-opening doors to be left open over-night, to ensure that there was still plentiful fresh air entering the rooms.
The sanatorium was largely surrounded by woodland, in particular pine woods. Pines, and the ‘terebinthine’ vapours they exuded were considered particularly beneficial to those suffering from tuberculosis.
The chapel was most unusual, being V-shaped in plan with twin naves, one for male the other for female patients, each focussed on the central chancel.
The plan of the chapel above marks the entrances (no.54); open cloisters (57); altar (58); vestry (59); organ space (60); pulpit (61); lectern (62), nave for men (63); nave for women (64); courtyard (65); store room (66) and the mortuary chapel (67). It was produced for the Tuberculosis Year Book, and reproduced in F. R. Walters, Sanatoria for the Tuberculous, 1913. The south side of the chapel was originally open, the arcade was only glazed during the 1950s.
Above is a view of the western nave of the chapel showing the south wall with its glazed arcade. Although the glazing was added in the 1950s, its elegant design is very pleasing, and adds rather than detracts from the architectural effect of the building. It is also an indication of the changes in the way that tuberculosis was treated, following the discovery and widespread use of antibiotics, and the rather slower uptake of the BCG vaccine, which finally lead to the decline in TB and the redundancy of the sanatoria.
Above the clerestory windows in the chapel a deep frieze is just-about visible on the photograph above, featuring vine leaves and bunches of grapes. It is an Arts & Crafts detail, inspired by later seventeenth century plasterwork.
Midhurst Sanatorium was one of the most architecturally ambitious, and expensively fitted out anywhere in Britain. It was designed to represent best-practice at the time, and provide a model for future sanatoria in this country, also encouraging the establishment of sanatoria in Britain to bring open-air treatment within the reach of a wider section of society.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Sources 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
Recently 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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