Milford Hospital History

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The Foundation Stone for Milford Hospital, in its original form as a TB Sanatorium, was laid in May 1927 by Col. The Lord Ashcombe CB., TD., the Lord Lieutenant of the County.  The Sanatorium was officially opened, by the Rt Hon Neville Chamberlain MP, Minister of Health on 20th June 1928

The story of Milford Hospital really starts in 1911 with Parliament passing the ‘National Insurance (Treatment of Tuberculosis) Act`. This gave power to, and urged Local Authorities, to concern themselves with a disease which than accounted for some 65,000 deaths per annum and even those in medical care had only a one in five chance of recovery.

The story of Milford is to the greatest credit of Surrey County Council and one in which the County can take the greatest pride. In response to this Act in 1911 Surrey County Council purchased 110 acres of land, between Tuesley Lane and the Southern Railway line, from the Sattenham Estate at a cost of £8,234 for the purpose of establishing a TB Sanatorium.

Milford Hospital
Milford Hospital 1960’s © Milford Hospital, Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust

However, World War I intervened and development had to be postponed, Following the trauma of the War, Local Authorities could direct their attention to domestic affairs and ʻTBʻ again became a priority.

The War had devastated a generation; young widows were aplenty and the birth rate was negligible. A flu epidemic struck in the early 1920’s and the birth rate fell to the point of National Survival. At that time, TB was the most consistent killer disease upon which an assault could be made. Medical research and Local Authorities responsibilities were directed to this end and Surrey responded.

In the 1920’s, Surrey County Councils sanatarium sub-committee found it a duty to implement their pre—War decisions, endorsed by the full Council, and the land was available. Sydney Tattle, FRIBA was appointed Architect and the Building Contract awarded to Chapman, Lower and Peptic Ltd.  The final cost was £155,000.

© Milford Hospital, Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust

In addition, much was raised by private and public donations to provide the ‘comforts’. For example, through the generosity the Mr. H.O. Serpell, formerly High Sheriff, radio was installed through all public rooms and with bedside headphones.

And so Milford Hospital, then known as the Surrey County Sanatorium, came into existence with the official opening on 20th July 1928 by the Rt Hon Neville Chamberlain MP , in the presence E J Holland, DL., JP ., Chairman of the County Council and Arthur Spurge, Kt., JP,, Chairman of the Public Health Committee.  Proceedings of the opening ceremony were recorded in the Surrey Advertiser and County Times of 21″ July 1928. By May 1929 all beds were fully occupied with a Waiting List implemented.  The first Medical Superintendent to be appointed was Dr R J Allison who was later succeeded by Dr Edwin Joules.  The first Matron was Miss F H Hall (the last Matron was Miss Doris Cracker).

© Milford Hospital, Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust
The walkways 2012 © Paul Osborne

It may be of interest to note the annual salaries of nurses at that time (1933) shown less emoluments for residence, meals, uniform etc:
                              Gross Pay        Emoluments  Nett Pay

Staff Nurse                £160.00         £74.00           £86.00

Probationer Nurse     £115.00         £69.00           £46.00

Ward Maid                £130.00          £69.00           £61.00

In the same year pay was raised all round by £6.00 per annum mainly due to a reduction in the contract price of uniforms

TB was generally considered to be within the sphere of the Physician and the best treatment was understood to be complete rest (as prescribed for Charlotte Bronte).  It was believed by the lay person to single out for its victims young women – which was the theme of ʻThe Lady of the Camelliasʼ by Alexander Dumas. However, it was about this time that Physicians, mainly based on the researches of Louis Pasteur, began to revert to earlier methods which were practised by the Ancient Greeks, to whom TB was wall known 3000 years or more ago, of medication, open air, good nourishment and progressive exercises.

Wealthy patients were dispatched to Switzerland but the Milford site had been wisely chosen. A southerly slope in the Surrey pine belt (pine trees exude an essence of Turpentine deemed to be beneficial). Good communications provided by the Southern Railway and the Aldershot Bus Company for transportation. The 110 acres provided the space for progressive exercise (laid out in lanes. 50 yards for the first week, 100 yards for the second and so on). The Architect took the best advantage of the site

orienting the wards accordingly and introduced louverred windows that, regardless of weather or temperature, could not be closed.

TB remained a national scare. Voluntary hospitals did not accept infectious diseases and as soon as a complaint of TB was diagnosed a patient was transferred to the Sanatoria. Removal from poor housing conditions, good nourishment and controlled exercise followed by Occupational Therapy began to show results and in this Milford excelled.  Dr Allison was one of the very few Physicians of his day who was qualified, and a specialist in Pullman Tuberculosis and, under his guidance, Milford Hospital achieved a remarkable reputation. Great emphasis was placed on occupational therapy, Clearly, patients couId not be returned to office life at that time and they needed to be readjusted to an open air life.  In this regard Almoners (now Social Workers) played an important part. Horticultural and Agricultural training was provided and some two and half acres was given over to form an orchard of apples, plums etc (many of which remain today) Farm animals were introduced (in particular pigs who thrived on surplus food which, by the risk of contamination had to be disposed of regardless). A large field was also dug out for potatoes so, on this account, the patients not only received expert training for a new life but the hospital made a profit and was, in many ways, self supporting.

At this period discipline was most severe, not only for the staff but for the patients as well, the Ward Sister was supreme in her ward. Segregation of the sexes was paramount; wards were separated as were exercise hours and it was expected that ʻthe twain never met’!

Arising from the research work of Luis Pasteur, Surgeons began to apply their skills in combating TB. The first lung operation in England was in 1891 and with research, experience and advancing techniques it became accepted that Surgery had a major role to play in the treatment of TB. By 1940, Thoracic Surgery, with the aid of Radiology, took up the fight in removing the cause and repairing the damage. Much pioneering work in this field was done at Hydestile, King George V Sanatorium, and one of the most progressive.

In 1938, a small operating theatre was added to the existing X-Ray and Pathology departments but its capability was restricted to minor surgery concerned solely with Pulmonary Tuberculosis.  Whilst in the 1930’s lung surgery was very elementary and rarely successful, rapid progress was made and by the 1960’s was highly advanced — to a great extent due to the development and extensive use of antibiotics, The partnership of Physicians, Surgeon, Nurse, Physiotherapist and Occupational Therapist had reached its peak in conquering TB but this mass killer was itself on the wane through early diagnosis, made possible by the NationalHealth Service, the post war slum clearance and the compulsory immunisation of children.

For many however, the process had been long and painful requiring three or more visits to the operating theatre. The removal of ribs and shoulder blades was not an unusual procedure with me cavities being filled with anything from sand, olive oil, to plastic bubbles and a three year stay in hospital was commonplace.

The Hospital was always keen to promote innovation and education and, in the 1950‘s—1960’s, the hospital ran two year courses for the Cerificate of the British Thoracic and Tuberculosis Association. This Certificate opened up employment in the grade of Staff Nurse as a specialist in any ward dealing with chest complaints.

After more than 50 years of playing a major part in eliminating this devastating disease, and the tremendous advances made in Thoracic Surgery due to the Medical Superintendents Dr Allison and Dr Joules and the high quality of Physicians, Surgeons, Physiotherapists, Nurses Occupational Therapists, Administrative and Support staff who served the hospital, in January 1980 the Department of Thoracic Surgery was transferred to the newly opened ‘Royal Surrey County HospitaIʼ at Guildford.

The importance of the Milford site to provide care was acknowledged and with the aim of building on the hospital’s existing strengths it was converted into a Geriatric Hospital.  ‘Geriatric” is often perceived as a rather morbid word but it should be confined to its medical term as the care of the elderly.

Today, Milford Hospital has seen many changes but still enjoys the wide open space and ambience of its early days. New wards with wider corridors were built in the 1980’s and Miiford is now a rehabilitation Hospital for the Elderly with 52 in patient beds and a day assessment and rehabilitation unit. Wards are now integrated with the therapy areas under one roof to provide the Milford Assessment and Rehabilitation Centre. The cheerful colour scheme ensures patients are received in bright and welcoming surroundings

while a newly constructed covered corridor provides a link between the therapy areas and the wards. This new environment lends itself to more cohesive working arrangements and closer partnerships within our multidisciplinary team allowing for more interaction and flexibility in the use of staff and thereby improved efficiency in patient care.

The future of Milford Rehabilitation Hospital, based upon such a great past, now lies in the hands of Surrey Hampshire Borders NHS Trust with elderly patients under the care of multidisciplinary teams comprising two Geriatricians, Dr V Seth and Dr H Powell and a wide range of skilled staff including doctors; nurses; physiotherapists; occupational therapists, speech therapists and Social Services care managers. Through the hands of this efficient and multidisciplinary team a high proportion of patients receive the appropriate treatment needed to continue as independent a life as possible

This compares considerably with years gone past when Milford Hospital was known as The Chest Hospital’ and it was feared ‘the and of the road’ for many people in me area who suffered TB., lung cancer and other diseases of the chest for which there were than few treatments.

Today, Milford Hospital is undergoing a £1m refurbishment and has seen many changes but still enjoys the wide open space and ambience of its early days. New wards with wider corridors were built in the 1980’s and Miiford is now a rehabilitation Hospital for the Elderly with 40 in patient beds and a day assessment and rehabilitation unit. Wards are now integrated with the therapy areas under one roof to provide the Milford Assessment and Rehabilitation Centre. The cheerful colour scheme ensures patients are received in bright and welcoming surroundings

while a covered corridor provides a link between the therapy areas and the wards. This environment lends itself to more cohesive working arrangements and closer partnerships within our multidisciplinary team allowing for more interaction and flexibility in the use of staff and thereby improved efficiency in patient care.  

Historical information produced in 1998 with the kind permission of

Maj A V LovelI·Knight, former Surrey County Councillor

© Milford Hospital, Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust
©2012 Paul Osborne

You can find a glimpse of what it was like to be a patient in the 1950’s in these patient photographs.

Addendum:    2014 – most of the 1930’s and original buildings, including the water tower, have been demolished. The majority of the site has been sold off to build 100 homes. 

Milford Hospital in 2021 – 106 homes. The old Superintendent’s house refurbished, and the admin and new geriatric wards remain.

The Birthplace of the British Sitcom

Milford has had some interesting patients. The famous comedy script-writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson met there in the late 40’s and formed a lifelong friendship. Their shared passion for comedy developed and together they wrote their first comedy radio scripts during their enforced stay in hospital.  Within 10 years they were the UK’s foremost comedy writers, famous for Hancock and Steptoe and the Peter Seller’s “Wrong Arm of the Law” character Pearly Gates.

Ray Galton outside F Ward where he spent many years as a TB patient ©Estate of Ray Galton

Galton and Simpson were instrumental in the building of the radio studio in a laundry cupboard on F Ward. From there they wrote and performed live radio shows – narrow-casted via cable to patients around the hospital site.   Their Milford comedy scripts were the shape of things to come – they were eventually discharged from Milford and went on to become one of the most successful comedy writing teams in Britain – most famous for Hancock and Steptoe.   Hancock was revolutionary for its time and arguably the first British situation comedy.

The Laundry Room converted to a studio ©Estate of Ray Galton
A patient’s view of the boys in the backroom.
The studio in 2009. This room was opposite to lounge in F Ward as described by Alan Simpson. Demolished in 2012 ©Paul Osborne
Radio Room ©Estate of Ray Galton

Armed with some floor plans, old photographs and a general description from Alan Simpson of the location of old laundry room, I set off to discover the lost radio studio in F Ward – perhaps the birthplace of the British sit-com.  It wasn’t easy to find – the ward was derelict, dark and strewn with debris.  The layout had been changed over the decades as the hospital had evolved in use from its original role as a TB hospital.  Many wards had been redeveloped into open plan layouts with structural alteration evident throughout.

Simpson and Galton in their heyday as TV and Film scriptwriters ©Estate of Ray Galton

Their famous Hancock’s Half Hour radio episode “The Sunday Afternoon” is a clever observation of the boredom that must have been repeated often during their many years treatment for TB.

In later decades the duo were invited back as guests of honour for fetes and events, and on occasion would bring Tony Hancock with them.

In 2013 “the boys” were invited back to unveil a blue plaque on the admin block.  The BBC were there (making a programme about Hancock), plus many notables from the world of comedy including Barry Cryer and Paul Merton.  Afterwards they retired to the Refectory Pub in nearby Milford village.   In the late 1940’s when Ray and Alan were patients, the Refectory was a Tea Room, and against nurses’ orders they would bunk off to the Tea Rooms.

There was an irony that they were looking at a plaque on the admin block, yet 100 yards away, hidden behind the barbed wire, was the derelict sluice room that was their former radio studio – arguably the birthplace of the UK Sit Com.   12 months later, in 2014, that room was bulldozered to make way for 100 homes.

As an interesting snapshot of what it was like to be a patient you’d be well directed to view a BBC2 sit-com from the 1997 “Get Well Soon” co-written by Ray Galton.   He drew upon his experience as a patient in Milford Hospital during the late 40’s and early 50’s.

The comedy starred Matthew Cottle and Eddie Marsan, Robert Bathurst and Anita Dobson.  The synopsis:  “One day in 1947, Roy Osborne (Matthew Cottle) is admitted to a TB sanatorium. He thinks he’ll only be there for a few weeks, then finds that it could be several years before he can leave.”

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Exterior shooting at Mundesley Hospital. A scene with Anita Dobson.

Here is a behind the scenes image of filming the series at Mundesley Hospital in Norfolk, a former hospital that doubled for Milford.  The interior scenes were studio sets that looked very much like wards at Milford and KGV Hospitals.

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Mundesley Hospital in Norfolk

Side Note:

In 1949 a real murder story made a big impression on staff and patients at Milford, so much so that 50 years later it formed the basis of the last episode of a BBC TV sit-com “Get Well Soon” – entitled “Poison Ivy” the programme told of a poisoned box of chocolates for Ivy Osborne (played by Anita Dobson).    The Sit-Com was co-written by Ray Galton and this particular episode has the familiar themes from his life at Milford – the radio studio in a laundry cupboard in F-Block, the confinement to bed, writing comedy for the hospital radio, the stage performances and the murder!   The actual murder case is detailed here:

1949 April: Murder of Margery Lilian Radford (Kite) at Milford


April 1949: Surrey County Sanatorium, Milford.

Returning from leave on a Saturday, medial Superintendant, Dr Allison ate a small portion of pie that had been left on his desk. He assumed it was a gift from a patient. The accompanying note was not seen as it was left in the incoming mail basket. He became violently ill. Unwell over the weekend he went into work on Monday and discovered the confidential letter outlining suspicions that one of his patients, Marjory Radford, was being poisoned by her husband. Mrs Radford had been in Milford Sanatorium for 5 months with TB. She had earlier expressed her suspicions to her visitor friend and insisted that the pie from her husband would likely be poisoned, and that Scotland Yard should be contacted and supplied the pie as evidence. Her friend was perplexed and thought better to send the pie to the Hospital Superintendant for analysis. Dr Allison’s reaction was swift and he contact the Police immediately.

Fred Radford and wife

DI Crowhurst from Godalming soon attended the hospital and the next day analysis from Scotland Yard showed there was arsenic, potassium arsenite containing three times the fatal minimum dose, in the pie. As the results came in Margery Radford died in Milford hospital. Keith Simpson, Forensic Pathologist carried out the post mortem and found 6.5 grains of arsenic; two would have been fatal. More telling was the discovery that arsenic found in the hair allowed for the calculation that she had been receiving the poison for three or four months.

On 15 April DI Crowhurst arrested the husband Fred Radford and took him to Detective Superintendent Tom Roberts at Godalming. Fred worked at the nearby St. Thomas’ Hospital as Lab Assistant He was released after a lengthy interview to come back the following day, 16th April, for the inquest on his wife at the police station. He did not turn up and he was found at his rooms at St. Thomas’ Hospital having committed suicide. He left a note denying any involvement in the poisoning.

I am just tired of being badgered about something I now nothing about. The stuff that has been found in my wife’s body is as much a mystery to me as to anyone else.  It has nothing to do with me, I don’t know anything about it.  I also know that things look black against me, but there you are, I have tried to do my duty, but apparently failed. All the best.

F.G. Radford.  Friday 15th April 1949

At the inquest it was found that the husband had poisoned what turned out not to be his wife as he was a bigamist, and then committed suicide. Records showed that he was married in 1936 to Mary Kite.

Extracted from:

Frederick Gordon Radford, age 46, Laboratry Assistant at St. Thomas’ Hospital Hydestile, died 16th April 1949 and was buried at Eashing Cemetry.

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Lynda Clark
Lynda Clark
5 years ago

Very interested in Dr Alison, his house did he live in the grounds, his work. In fact any more information on this remarkable man.

Chandnee Nagawah
Chandnee Nagawah
4 years ago

I worked at Milford Chest Hospital 1973-1975. I have fond memories, what a beautiful place it was. I had a good life and work experience there. It had impressive garden and orchard.

Kathleen Darlington
Kathleen Darlington
2 years ago

I was a patient at Milford July 1974-January 1975 my nMe was Kath Walman.

Fran Clayton
Fran Clayton
4 years ago

My father was Dr Joules and we lived at Alison house from 1950 to 1971. I remember meeting Tony Hancock when he opened a fete. My father always wore either a camellia or a rose in his lapel and always wore a three-piece suit to work every day. The hospital had a lovely warm atmosphere. I also remember my father had to inject the pigs. Are used to go and look at the pics as children

Honor Roberts
Honor Roberts
4 years ago
Reply to  Fran Clayton

Hello I remember your father and your family. My 2 sisters and I stayed with you briefly when we were children in the mid 60s. Our family name was Roberts, our parents worked at the hospital and we were homeless after a fire in our house. My father was a nurse tutor and my mother a night sister. We went on to live in a caravan and disused TB ward on the hospital grounds while our house was repaired. Do you remember? I have so many memories of that hospital. It was our playground! You may remember a scandal after… Read more »

Lynda Clark
Lynda Clark
4 years ago
Reply to  Fran Clayton

Thankyou so much for the fantastic information. Kindest regards . Tony Hancock was a patient at the surgery in Godstone which was my parents house. Kindest Regards Lynda

Carolyn Scott (Armstrong)
Carolyn Scott (Armstrong)
4 years ago
Reply to  Fran Clayton

Hello Fran, I’m Carolyn Scott (nee Armstrong), who was your sister Janet’s best friend at Milford Chest. We went to the Grammar School together and I played at Alison House nearly every day. The hospital was a wonderful place to grow up , with beautiful grounds and a close community of staff and their families. Your wonderful father gave me my reference when I applied to train as a physiotherapist at The Middlesex Hospital in London, which I believe, is where he had trained many years earlier. I’d love to get in touch with Janet again, please contact me on… Read more »

Erica Connor
Erica Connor
2 years ago
Reply to  Fran Clayton

Hi Fran. This is Erica (Taylor)! We of course lived next door to you for years and I remember fondly playing with you, Janet and your brother, Alan. I couldn’t believe it when I saw your comment. Such memories. In fact it was my dad who had the initial idea of the pig farm I believe. I don’t know if you remember? I did visit your mother years later in her house in Milford with my mother. Of course they remained in touch as I’m sure you’re aware. Sad that for some reason my father doesn’t get a mention in… Read more »

Richard Blackmore
Richard Blackmore
2 years ago

Do you know whether medical records still exist for the hospital, and if so where are they kept? My great-uncle died there on 21 January 1946 from TB after being wounded in the Western Desert during the war, and I’m trying to trace our family history

11 months ago
Reply to  Web master

London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R OHB. Has virtually all the surviving records for the Metropolitan Asylums Board (the King George V management authority ). Search their catalogue at Holdings include general and administrative papers (1915-1948). No patient records are thought to survive. Any patient records that might survive will probably be subject to a 100 year closure policy and not available to view.

David Gills
David Gills
2 years ago

I found this site fascinating as Milford is a place close to my heart. My mother (Pearl Edwards) and my father (Ronald Gills) both met and fell in love as young patients in Milford Sanitorium. Soon after they were discharged, they got married in 1955. They went on to have 2 boys (me in 1960 and my brother in 1964). Sadly Ron died just 3 months after my brother was born as Ron’s many operations had made him very weak (he had very little lung function left). He died at the young age of 35. Fortunately, Pearl went on to… Read more »

sally jean naden
sally jean naden
1 year ago

think my dad was here around 1947 . his name was ronald arthur tinker . he remembers being a friend of the writers galton and simpson.. he always told me that he was the first to ever have half his lung removed due to tb . he was there for about 2 years . would love to hear from any one who might remember him . he died 3 years ago at the grand old age of 88

Sally Carey
Sally Carey
1 year ago

My father went there as a 6yr old I believe. He contracted TB in his stomach from unpasteurised milk and was hospitalised for 6yrs.
His name was Peter Dummer, I know he had surgery on his stomach area as a child but he wouldn’t talk about it much.
He would have been admitted around 1942.
His family are from the Godalming area and I believe his aunt Edie Bennett may have worked there.
I would love to know more.

Iain Elsey
Iain Elsey
1 year ago

Does anyone know the remaining history of Radio Milford and when it closed? In the eighties there were plans for Radio Lion based at St Luke’s Hospital in Guildford to provide an amended service to their normal service to St Luke’s and the Royal Surrey County Hospitals, this service would have been broadcast to the neighbouring hospitals at Farnham Road, Haslemere and Milford. This never happened because of the cost of landlines, etc.