King George V Hospital History

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Built by the Metropolitan Asylums Board as a Tuberculosis Isolation Hospital in 1922 (originally known as Highdown Sanatorium), KGV was at the cutting edge of TB research and treatment for forty years. It was instrumental in pioneering development of drug therapy (streptomycin) to combat TB and the manufacture of Iron Lung equipment. KGV had a smaller sister hospital just 2 miles to the west: Milford Hospital ( formerly Milford Sanatorium )

Groves--smallThe King George V Hospital was constructed at an initial cost of £215,000 on an open field site surrounded by trees. The land was originally part of the Busbridge Hall estate. Chessums were the builders working under post-war pressure to complete on time and on budget. Original plans intended that the entrance would be from Hambledon Road, with a long drive approaching the star formation building layout. (The route is probably marked by a line of Poplar trees still in evidence between Hares Grove, the Superintendent’s house, and the road.

Cost cuts prevented this and the Salt Lane entrance remained the only way in with porter’s gatehouse. Buildings on site included many isolated wards connected by covered open sided paths in a star formation, canteen, chapel, kitchens, pharmacy, Library, X-ray and operating theatre (extended in 1950’s), nurses homes (1940 & 1960’s), admin block, greenhouses, patients leather workshops, snooker room, tuck shop, mortuary, engineering, boiler with chimney for the overhead piped heating.

KGV Tower then now

The tower and admin block: 1995 prior to demolition, and in 1947

Most buildings were brick built (pebble-dash rendered) with concrete floors (innovative in their day) under slate roofs. The majority of Wards were single storey with central corridors and glazed pavilion at the end. These were demolished in the 1970’s.
The hospital was only connected to mains drainage in the later years and originally sewage was discharged into the field to the SW of the crossroads (see ornate soil vent pipe at crossroads).

The hospital was also a significant horticultural site, the orchard, extensive range of trees and vegetation being laid out by the first medical superintendent Mr James Watt (an arboriculturist) in the 1920’s. A farm sited at Hydestile crossroads (now mostly demolished) was used for patient rehabilitation.
Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 16.03.03Many patients were from London and upto the late 50’s it was exclusively male. The long term nature of their incarceration and treatment meant that patients and staff built strong friendships. Most staff and patients speak of their time at Hydestile as being “the best of times”. Indeed many patients came back to work at the hospital.
The site expanded considerably in 1941 with the building of a hutted military hospital on adjacent farmland to the South East. This soon became the home for St. Thomas’ Hospital Lambeth, evacuated from their London site due to extensive bombing. St. Thomas’

The Hospital ceased to be for diseases of the chest in 1969 and adopted a variety of other roles and eventually closed in 1988. The buildings were demolished in 1997, leaving only the gatehouse, Hares Grove (former Superintendents house) and six staff cottages, all now refurbished. Other buildings in the area owned at some time by the Hospital included Ryecroft, Hunt Cottages and Wayside.

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The 52 acre site has now been redeveloped for housing – known as The Hydons, Salt Lane, Hydestile. Little trace remains of the KGV although one of the tennis courts has been refurbished and forms part of one garden. In the woods to the north of the new houses there are traces of the foundations of nurse and doctors accommodation, hidden in the undergrowth. Likewise the steps and footings of 1&2 Salt Lane remain close to the new footpath. These were temporary buildings used by the original builders of the Hospital. No. 1 was demolished after 1945 and number 2 (latterly a shop) in the 1970’s.

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Ray Galton as a TB Patient in Milford 1949

The hospital also benefited from celebrity support over the years from Leslie Phillips, James Robertson Justice and Terry Scott, who were regular visitors. 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 90’s “Get Well Soon” co-written by Ray Galton. He drew upon his experience as a patient in the nearby Milford Hospital (linked to KGV) during the late 40’s and early 50’s. He met his long time comedy writing partner Alan Simpson there 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. 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.

 

 

Gallery of images from 1920 – 1988:

This video was recorded in around 1995.   At the time I lived on site in one of the former nurses cottages.  The site had been stripped by vandals and used for paintball and general destruction.  After many planning battles the site was eventually destined for re-development. The diggers came in and flattened it all.   A sad day for the many who’s lives had been touched by their time at Hydestile.  I had recorded this on 8mm tape and stumbled upon the tape recently.  I dumped it to my Mac and ran a soundtrack underneath, so please excuse the rough quality.

 

Gallery of images from 1999:

 

The Story of KGV

By Dr. J.V. Hurford      As published in the KGV Gazette Summer 1963

My predecessor, Dr James Watt, wrote this article in 1954, (he retired in 1948). I modified it for the issue of August 1957, and here it is again, brought upto date.

The need for sanatoria for London patients was foreseen in 1914, when sufficient land for three hospitals was purchased. Building of King George V Sanatorium, the first of these, started after the First World War, and it was finished and opened in 1922.  The two huts still in use are reputed to have housed the workmen!  (1 & 2 Salt Lane? sic).  The new Hospital was to have been called Highdown Sanatorium, but by command of’ the King, who had been invited to attend the opening but was unable to be present, the name was changed to King George V Sanatorium.

kgv aerial from sw

It was administered by the Metropolitan Asylums Board (whose crest is over the entrance to the Administrative Block), until 1929, when the London County Council took over, only to give way in 1948 to the South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board, With local control vested in the Godalming, Milford and Liphook Group Hospital Management Committee. Recently, this Management Committee area became merged with that of’ Guildford, and the controlling body is now the Guildford and Godalming Hospital Management Committee.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 16.02.21When I wrote in 1957, my thoughts ranged back over the period from 1922 to that year, the period of the modern treatment of tuberculosis, as being mirrored in the story of K.G.V., there were so many changes.  Patients, and perhaps even doctors and nurses, entering in this “Anti-biotic Era” – when successful treatment is difficult enough, though usually achieved – know little or nothing of the strenuous methods of treating tuberculosis which preceded it.  Surgery played a great part.   The first surgeon was appointed in 1929, and the Theatre and X-Ray Department were built in 1934.  At one stage fifty per cent of tuberculosis patients had major surgery of the chest, usually very successful; now perhaps only five per cent require it.

The Hospital expanded over the years both staff and buildings.  Of the latter I have already mentioned the Theatre Block, the Canteen was built in 1936; an additional Wing to what is now the Nurses’ Home was added in 1945, the Theatre Annexe in 1953, the Respiratory Function Unit in 1955, a new Patients’ Library in 1958, a messroom exterior (now the Domestic Staff sitting room) in 1959, and Nurses’ Home No.3 in 1960.

1931 postcardAt one time, what is now the Staff Restaurant was a dining-room for perhaps a hundred up-patients. Gradually, the numbers of these shrank as methods of treatment changed, and patients were discharged earlier, until the present conversion was made two years ago.  In the immediate future it is planned to erect a large hut on the rising ground by the main car-park, to be used as a playroom for visitors’ children, and as a Staff’ club room.

KGVsmallStaffgroup'60sBut of course the most striking change is in the nature of’ the work carried out in the Hospital. From being a Sanatorium for the tuberculous, it came to treat also non-tuberculous chest conditions, hence the present name: King George V Hospital for Diseases of the Chest; and then some patients with other than chest diseases – a limited number of orthopaedic and geriatric cases – were admitted. There is a lot to be said for this departure from the restricted area of’ our disease, even were there now sufficient tuberculous patients to fill the beds, for variety is a stimulant to the interest and intelligence of doctors and nurses. ‘ It is odd perhaps that not many of our patients come from the immediate neighbourhood, which is catered for by Milford Chest Hospital “down the road”, but from beyond this area, from London, Aldershot and Farnham and sometimes as far away as the South Coast. We have the Respiratory Function (“Puff and Blow”) Unit for this Region, and are also part of the regional Chronic Bronchitic Unit.

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KGV and St. Thomas’ Hospitals in 1973

I wonder when another revision of this article will be called for, and if I shall write it. It is certain that “K.G.V. ” will go on for many years and probably it will change in many particulars as time goes by.  There has always been something human and genuine in the atmosphere of the Hospital; let us hope that nothing changes that!

KGV Gazette Summer 1963

HISTORICAL NOTE   By Dr. J.V. Hurford

As published in the last ever KGV Gazette Summer 1968 upon the closing of the Hospital


The Highdown Sanatorium which started at Hydestile in 1922 was soon, by gracious permission, allowed to take the name of “King George the Fifth”… However, it is told that his Majesty, when asked if he would condescend to come to the opening {in 1924) said: “Not on your life – visit a T. B. hospital – I might catch it ” – or words to that effect. These fears were felt by dwellers in the locality, even by their G. P. s, who met the choice of site with as much opposition as now would be offered to an aerodrome for jumbo jets.  Though the sanatorium was modern for the time (incorporating an early form of re-inforced concrete in its pavilion walls), the money which the authority {then the Metropolitan Asylums Board – crest over the entrance to the administrative block) was prepared to spend on it ran out before the plans could be fulfilled, so that the main entrance was from a narrow lane (Salt Lane) rather than by a more imposing approach from the Hambledon Road.

KGV Aerial 1928

There are aerial photographs which show the site in the early twenties. Though surrounded apparently by forest (the Hare’s Grove which gave a name to the Medical Superintendent’s house) the actual grounds were quite bare.  The beautiful limes and birches and ornamental trees and shrubs may be credited to Dr. James Watt – a canny gardener as well as a towering medical figure – and grew up during his reign. The hospital really was in the country (in 1935 when I first saw it as a member of a visiting D. P. H. class from London, I half wondered if we should ever find our way back) and in its building workmen were accommodated in wooden chalets, used for many years as staff quarters, and plans and materials stored in two wooden huts which still do service though very decrepit.

pavilion1930s copyIn 1949 the wards were still without heating, other than the thin pipes under the windows designed, so it was said, to reduce condensation – in itself unlikely since windows had to be kept open.  A few years later this was remedied, but the previous absence of heating was symptomatic of an age, the age of the “cure”, based on ‘Sanatorium principles’ of fresh air, good food, rest, graduated exercise.  This age lasted into the ‘antibiotic era’ and both were overlapped by that of minor and major surgery.  To those who know tuberculosis as a disease fairly easily treated by chemotherapy, the long periods which started perhaps with Hippocrates and died away in the fifties of this century cannot be imagined or fully understood. Artificial pneumothorax, pneumoperitoneum, thoracoplasty and so on seem almost bizarre in retrospect.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 16.03.03Yet the ‘cure’ and the surgery did save lives. And what seemed spartan routine was much more vital and engrossing.  Quite apart from the attentions of the doctors and nurses a patient’s week could be filled with: occupational therapy, art therapy, typing, learning a language, woodwork, printing, concerts and whist drives, inter-ward sports – shove-halfpenny, table skittles, croquet, billiards etc. There were a silver shield and two cups to be competed for. When Marcus Patterson devised “graduated exercise ” at Frimley he used baskets of stones of various weights. At K.G.V. there were walks increasing in length and then outdoor tasks. Many a patient must have acquired there a love for gardening or even pigs!  “Teebeeland” seemed to be regarded with a wry humour.  Perhaps the uni-sexual nature of the sanatorium (women patients came only in the late fifties) was a trial and the outlook of the authorities far too monastic – rather backward looking.

But in other respects, for many years we were in the van of sanatorium work.  With its first surgeon – Mr. J. E. H. Roberts, whom I always imagine operating with a Petit Caporal hanging to his lower lip – major surgery in anew theatre started in 1933.   K.G.V. took part in all the M.R. C. Trials of the new anti- tuberculous drugs from 1949 onwards. Whilst such units were still rare in the UK a respiratory function laboratory was inaugurated in 1954.The antibiotic era which came with the fifties for some years increased the use of surgery, largely because an umbrella was provided for lung or part-lung removal.

KGV 1928 Aerial darkIn 1955, of patients admitted with tuberculosis, 58% had a major operation; the figure for 1967 was 3%.  However, what was so amazing was the decline in tuberculosis due to anti- tuberculous drugs.  The great physicians of the past – Robert Philip, Trudeau, Marcus Patterson – could never have imagined it.  K.G.V., like other sanatoria (or Hospital for Diseases of the Chest as it became) began to admit patients with other complaints. Since these stayed a shorter time, the turnover accelerated.  In 1951 there were 401 admissions (354 tuberculous), in 1967, 1358 (135 tuberculous).

Starting under the rule of the M.A .B., the hospital became a jewel in the crown of the gargantuan London County Council in 1929, and in 1948 of course entered the National Health Service. These authorities appeared to differ in administrative approach, but of course this depended on other things – the changing conception of disease, uniformity and availability of finance over the country rather than a metropol is and so on.

The War did not alter things very much, -it saw the appearance of an E.M.S. hutted hospital, at first under the aegis of K. G. V., then of the Australian Army Medical Corps, and finally St. Thomas’s Hospital, Westminster.  The expatriate staff of the latter organised their lives with the ingenuity and cheerfulness of castaways on a South Sea Island, who know that sooner or later they are bound to be rescued.  Every year they expected this to happen and, finally, after twenty-three years, it did.

K.G.V. has seemed to be blessed by the numbers of sterling people who remained on the staff for very long periods, even at this present date in one or two instances going back to the twenties.  Perhaps other hospitals have been as fortunate, but I doubt it.  Inevitably, sad little ceremonies of farewell have sprinkled later years.  Till the middle-fifties a generous and mutually useful policy had meant the recruitment of many excellent nurses – who happened themselves to have had tuberculosis, and to whom a place on the staff was offered for re-habilitation. These were known for some reason as ‘trainees’, presumably because they could complete training in the B.T.A. certificate (though many already had an S.R.N.). In the later years of the hospital, a Pupil-Nurse training school was set up in conjunction with Haslemere General Hospital, and was successful. In our ‘middle period’ a number of decorative, charming and efficient young things were very much appreciated – these were the ‘Tommy Nurses’ seconded for three months at a time to explore the countryside on their bicycles.

The staff has tended to be cosmopolitan.  At one Christmas dinner some years ago, I counted nineteen different nationalities. There were cycles of  “foreigners”  (I refer to those who were not what St. Joan called the ‘Goddam English”): early on Scots and Irish, but mostly Irish, then Italian and Polish or Baltic, then Spanish and Yugo-Slav.  (It was touching to see girls from Northern Italy trying to understand the intrcacies of Scottish dancing!)   And of course, in the last ten years many men and girls from the Commonwealth, all very welcome.

There were no tremendous events in the history of K.G. V. and smaller happenings it is difficult to select any except at random. The tennis feuds with Milford in which for so long we had an edge. The farewell party to Miss Sheenan in which those still working with her and many who returned for the occasion filled the Large Hall and a large marquee. The annual pantomime devised and written by a select few and performed by a cast which could include a chaplain, a cook or a consultant surgeon, and in which anything might happen – and usually did. The re-union fetes on August Bank Holiday, to which ex-patients returned in large numbers I(Your name escapes me I’m afraid, but I clearly remember your x-ray!’). The weather station – that curious relic of more leisurely days. The night that the safe was stolen from the Hospital Secretary’s office, taken off on a porter’s trolley and abandoned -empty – on Hydon’s Ball. But why recall only these?

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 16.10.05Perhaps one of the more important landmarks was when a prefabricated building (The Cedar Hall) was added in 1964 and a thriving staff social club became possible. Swinging Hydestile~

Traditionally the hospital had its ties with London and in later years the link was with Aldershot and Farnham through the chest clinics. It was not wholly unregarded, however, in the immediate neighbourhood, and kind and ever present help was found in the W .V .S and its own League of Friends. Nor must we forget the ‘Not Forgotten’ Association, to which successive generations of patients owed much. And, of course, the Red Cross picture library, that opener of windows not made of glass.

I hope that I have recalled something of the forty seven years of a hospital and with little hint of any sadness that they are finished. And the story is not finished – neither of K.G.V. nor Hydestile. The sanatorium may have gone the way of Trudeau and Schatzalp and the National, Ventnor, and many others, but there is still work to be done of another kind.

Good luck to all who remain – or come – to do it in this very pleasant spot.

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KGV in 1994

 

 

Gallery of images donated by former staff and patients:

Gallery of scans of publications from staff and patients:

 

Obituary 1958: JAMES WATT, M.D., D.P.H.
James Watt, for many years medical superintendent
of King George V Sanatorium, Godalming, Surrey, and
chief medical officer of the London County Council’s
medical tuberculosis service, died at the country branch
of St. Thomas’s Hospital at Hydestile, Godalming, on
October 4. He was within two weeks of his 75th
birthday.

Dr. James Watt was born in Aberdeenshire on October 17,
1883, the son of William Watt, J.P., and was educated at
Robert Gordon’s College, Aberdeen, and at Aberdeen Uni-
versity, where he graduated M.B., Ch.B., with first-class
honours, in 1908. Outstandingly successful as a student, he
held the John Murray scholarship in 1908 and the Anderson
scholarship in 1909-10. He took the D.P.H. in 1911, and
proceeded to the M.D., with highest honours, five years later.
After graduation he was an assistant, first, in the department
of pathology, and then in the department of medical juris-
prudence in Aberdeen University. From 1912 to 1922 he
held a number of appointments in different parts of the
United Kingdom: as deputy medical officer of health for the
City of Aberdeen; senior resident medical officer at the
Royal National Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of
the Chest, Ventnor, Isle of Wight; medical superintendent
of the Bradford City Fever and Infectious Diseases
Hospital; and medical superintendent of the Downs
Sanatorium, Sutton, Surrey. From 1922 to 1948, when he
retired, he was medical superintendent of the King George
V Sanatorium, Godalming, and chief medical officer of the
medical tuberculosis service under the old Metropolitan
Asylums Board and subsequently under the London County
Council. Dr. Watt was president of the Society of Superin-
tendents of Tuberculosis Institutions in 1924 and 1925 and
of the Tuberculosis Society in 1926-7. A founder-member
of the Joint Tuberculosis Council, he later became its chair-
man. To his widow and family we tender our sympathy.

We are indebted to Dr. G. LIssant Cox for the following
appreciation: The old guard of the original tuberculosis
service is thinned again through the death of James Watt,
late superintendent of the King George V Sanatorium at
Godalming. He was of the pre-1914 vintage, big in body
and in mind, contemporary of Ernest Ward, Sir Henry
Gauvain, and Jane Walker. Lloyd George’s Insurance Act
of 1911, with its special financial arrangements for “sana-
torium benefit” and for Exchequer grants for sanatoria and
dispensaries, stimulated local authorities to provide buildings
and the medical staff to run them. Of those very early in
the service, James Watt was one. A brilliant student of the
Aberdeen school, he was on the high road to a distinguished
academic career when he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis.
Fortunately, he made a good recovery, and, like several other
medical men and women so affected, obtained, a junior post
in a sanatorium and finally emerged as the well-known head
of the large new London County Council sanatorium
which has been visited by nearly all who have come to
England in order to see some of the best work in tuber-
culosis. Watt had a clear, lucid, logical mind, and took a
prominent part in tuberculosis affairs. One of the two
remaining founder-members of the Joint Tuberculosis
Council, he later was one of its outstanding chairmen and
did valuable work in the chair and on many committees,
work both pioneer and advisory in the tuberculosis field.
He was a very keen horticulturist, and this hobby was a real
solace and interest in his retirement, especially after a
serious motor accident had left him grievously lame, though
still cheerful and uncomplaining when I last saw him in
London. He was the fortunate possessor of the three im-
portant qualities, a clear head, a warm heart, and a stiff
back, and he used them to the full.

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Hambledon’s 503 bus reprieved

Hambledon’s only bus service, the 503, is set to be reprieved by Surrey County Council, reversing a decision to scrap the route as a cost-cutting measure.

This is a victory for the campaign mounted by Hambledon Parish Council and local residents to save the service.

Following the SCC Local Transport Review earlier this year, aimed at finding savings on council-subsidised rural routes, the 503 was one of a number of services to be scrapped, subject to public consultation.

The parish council vociferously opposed the proposal and many villagers raised objections during the consultation process.  SCC has listened, and at a meeting of its Cabinet on May 24th, members are expected to endorse the review team’s recommendation that the 503 continue.

The parish council argued that it was wrong to withdraw the only bus route serving the village, leaving residents without any public transport. The 503 is a lifeline for a number of elderly or infirm residents who rely on the bus to get to shops, supermarkets, banks and surgeries in Milford, Godalming and beyond.

village bus

Agenda documents for the May 24th meeting, available on the Surrey County Council website, state that the council recognises “the important role that bus services play for our residents”, adding: “To address some of the concerns expressed during the public consultation exercise it has proven possible to recommend some enhancements to the original proposals.”

These include reversing the decision to scrap the 503. The 523 Milford hospital service from Godalming has also been reprieved.

Currently the 503 operates on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, twice in each direction, beginning and ending at Lane End. The recommendation is for the service to continue on at least Wednesdays and Fridays and possibly on another day to be determined.

The parish council has asked to meet with SCC planners to discuss ways of increasing passenger numbers, perhaps re-routing the service to take in new areas of development. In the documents the council states that it is “working to stimulate patronage on bus services and reduce the need for council funding.”

The 503 is operated by Stagecoach but subsidised by Surrey County Council. The transport review examined services across the county. Faced with cuts in Central Government funding, SCC is looking save £2 million on its transport budget by next year.

The recommendation to be voted on on May 24th will enable SCC to achieve the required savings needed from the review, documents state.

 

 

Plans on show for new homes on Hospital site

The developer appointed to build more than 100 new homes on redundant land around Milford Hospital is previewing its proposals at a public exhibition and online.

David Wilson Homes, part of the Barratt Group, is displaying the scheme to local residents between 2.30pm and 8pm tomorrow (Thursday 12th September) at Clock Barn Hall, Hambledon Road. It is available online at www.dwhmilfordhospital.co.uk

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Milford Hospital Unveils Plaque – Galton & Simpson

June 1st saw a significant event for the history of Milford Hospital.  Two former patients returned to see a plague unveiled to mark their meeting in 1948.  Ray Galton & Alan Simpson met as 19 year olds suffering from TB.  They stayed for many years receiving treatment – but their time was well spent.  The started to write comedy sketches together, which were performed on the rudemenatry hospital radio service.     They went on to become the foremost comedy scriptwriters – creating Hancock and Steptoe and Sons, and a huge catalogue of shows over the following decades.    The plaque was unveiled by their friend and performer Paul Merton.

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I had the privilege to meet the guys a few years ago, as part of my research for the Milford Hospital History Website.   They described to me in detail their years at Milford, and most interestingly, the location of the original laundry cupboard in which they built their radio studio – arguably the “Birthplace of the British Sit-Com.

Paul Osborne

You can find the story here.

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