Dartford Hospital Histories

Welcome by Francine Payne

This website is devoted to the history of Dartford’s hospitals. I have always been interested in history and my interest in the hospitals came when I was working in the library at Joyce Green; the hospital was due to close and there was a huge amount of archive material collected by Dr John Burne. As I sorted through the collection I made notes, took a few photocopies and eventually had enough material to write my first book ‘A History of the Darenth Hospitals’ which covers the smallpox camps, the Southern, Darenth Park and the Mabledon. I then wrote ‘Joyce Green and the River Hospitals’, covering the hospital ships, Long Reach, the Orchard and Joyce Green. ‘Stone House: the City of London Asylum’ was written after the Trust contacted me and asked me to write their history. All three books are available on Amazon.

My latest book is written with Rachael Hills and Bexley Young Archaeologists’ Club. We looked at the old war hospital sites and recorded them for the Home Front legacy project run by the Council for British Archaeology.

If you would like a copy please contact me.

Dartford has an interesting mix of hospitals, not all build for local people. West Hill has it origins from the workhouse. The changes made to the poor laws in the 1800’s compelled parishes to provide better care for their destitute sick and insane. These people would have been nursed in the workhouse in sick wards, their care was poor and nursing often provided by other inmates. The lack of separation for infectious sick meant epidemics were hard to control.

It was these same problems to which Florence Nightingale was devoting her time to in London. She was campaigning for the removal of infectious sick and the insane from the workhouses and for a single statutory body to over see the care of these peoples so that care could be standardised. She wanted everyone looked after by trained nurses.

London was separated into ‘the City’ (the area covered by the Corporation of London) and the metropolis (the area known as Greater London). The City needed an asylum and purchased land in Dartford at Stone, here it built ‘The City of London Pauper Lunatic Asylum’. In the metropolis the Metropolitan Asylums Board (MAB) was formed and smallpox patients were removed, from London workhouses and homes, by River Ambulance to ships moored at Long Reach, and later Long Reach, Orchard and Joyce Green hospitals were built. The MAB also build Gore Farm Hospital (later known as the Southern) for convalescence smallpox and fevers next to its ‘School for Imbecile Children’ in Darenth, later to become Darenth Park. These hospitals were built for the peoples of London although smallpox cases from Dartford were admitted the Dartford authorities were charged for their care.

During the Wars the hospitals were used by American and Australian forces and the Lower Southern became a German POW hospital. After WW2 with the inception of the NHS the hospitals changed again and became general hospitals for the people of Dartford.

Please look at the text under each hospital for more information about them and to see the photo galleries.

If you have a question or memories please add them in the forum section or email them to me.

I give talks to local groups please email me if you are interested.

Francine Payne.

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