Grand old hospital facing the bulldozers
This week’s Remember When takes a special trip down memory lane, looking at one of the town’s much loved and recently lost medical facilities – that of the old Ashford Hospital in Kings Avenue. At the moment, the derelict hospital is undergoing demolition, and already a large part has been bulldozed in the name of progress. Plans were unveiled to transform the site into a new health centre for the area, and many officials and locals wanted to see the original hospital frontage retained, but a few months back, plans were ditched and the former bustling hospital continued to deteriorate. The demolition of the frontage remains on hold – its fate uncertain. Many of the buildings behind were deemed to be of no historical interest, and have already gone, and the highly destructive japanese knotweed had smothered the site since the main hospital closed in the mid-1990s, upon the opening of new replacement facilities at the William Harvey Hospital. The Ashford Hospital, originally intended to replace the Cottage Hospital in Wellesley Road, was opened by the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) on October 20, 1926, with much pomp and ceremony. The new facilities were said to be some of the most modern at the time, and included casualty and outpatients departments. Upon the opening of the William Harvey Hospital in 1979, Ashford Hospital transferred all patients to the new hospital, and although a few services remained, life for Ashford as a ‘first class’ hospital was thought to be over. In 1983, the local health authority put those thoughts to rest when they spent £270,000 converting the old facilities into those for elderly care, and up until 1993 the town’s physiotherapy department was housed in the old isolation department, that had been used for infectious diseases during the war years. Our first picture this week (taken on October 20, 1926) shows the Duke and Duchess meeting local dignitaries alongside the foundation stone of the hospital. The foundation stone can still be seen on the remaining frontage of the derelict site today. The royal couple also visited the former Southern Railway Works on the same day, and inspected a new engine built at the works, namely the Lord Nelson. The second picture illustrates the hospital back in 1974 with scores of now classic cars parked outside the classical 1920s frontage. The foundation stone is positioned to the left of the front step. Many locals speak of their desire to have this building as a house, the expanse of land behind being one of the temptations. Our third and final picture this week illustrates a sad and neglected Ashford Hospital frontage, after the recent demolition of its many wards and departments. The demolition contractors informed me that demolition work on the frontage had been stopped for further investigation and study. Will this local landmark frontage survive? We shall see. As always, I would like to appeal to readers who either took or have any amateur or professional pictures of the town during the changes from the 1950s to the 1970s as I would love to see them. I am always keen to hear from those who worked in the town, perhaps in local government, or whose job entailed photographing the town, for example for planning and conservation, highways and consultation purposes, and also those involved with the Compulsory Purchase regulations in the 1970s. Please contact me at the address below, if you have material that you are willing to share with readers.
Have you got any pictures, negatives or transparencies from the past that you would be willing to share with readers? If so, send them with brief details, to Steve Salter, Kentish Express Remember When, 34-36 North Street, Ashford, Kent, TN24 8JR, or by e-mail to, rememberwhen_ firstname.lastname@example.org Please supply a return address for the return of originals.
The remaining derelict frontage of the former 1926 Ashford hospital, and extensive site behind in April 2010