Grand old hos­pi­tal fac­ing the bull­doz­ers

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page -

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_ kmash@hot­mail.co.uk 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

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