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 as I was working in the library at Joyce Green; the hospital was due to close and there was a huge amass 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 covered the smallpox camps, the Southern, Darenth Park and the Mabledon (this book is out of print now but may be available as a download later). I then wrote ‘Joyce Green and the River Hospitals’, covering the hospital ships, Long Reach, the Orchard and Joyce Green. My latest book ‘Stone House: the City of London Asylum’ was written after the Trust contacted me and asked me to write their history.

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 in London, 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.

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 Asylum’. In the metropolis the Metropolitan Asylums Board (MAB) was formed and smallpox patients were removed from London by River Ambulance to ships moored at Long Reach, and later Long Reach, Orchard and Joyce Green hospitals were built. The MAB also build 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 hospitals for the people of Dartford.

Please look at the text under each hospital for more information about them.

If you have a question or memories please add them in the forum section or email them to me. I can give talks to local groups please email me if you are interested.

Francine Payne.

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