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.
- Country Life, 1909