Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards

Convalescent Homes


Next to the demand for hospitals I learnt that more convalescent home accommodation was necessary. This demand came especially from two quarters-from hospitals and great labour associations. The late Lord Derby, when presiding over the Triennial Festival of the Charing Cross Hospital in 1888, said "If a patient in a convalescent stage is kept in the hospital, he is occupying a bed which is wanted for a case of more severe suffering. If, on the other hand, he is sent half recovered to his home, which in many cases is a miserable one, and when the progress of convalescence is slow, much of the good done by the hospital is of no avail." This being so, it occurred to me that in supplying a convalescent home to or for a hospital I was, to that extent, virtually enlarging the hospital itself, or adding to it a new wing-a wing situated amid bluer skies, purer air, and serener surroundings than exist, or can exist, in London or other large towns.
Perranporth Convalescent Home, 1892 I have accordingly provided the convalescent home at Limpsfield for Charing Cross Hospital; the convalescent home at Cranbrook for the Metropolitan Hospital; the convalescent home at Perranporth for the Cornwall Royal Infirmary; the Caxton Convalescent Home for the printing and allied trades; the convalescent home at Herne Bay for the Friendly Societies; the convalescent home at Herne Bay for railwaymen; and the convalescent home for the Workmen's Club and Institute Union at Pegwell Bay, near Ramsgate.
It is gratifying to know and to record the fact that, in obedience to my suggestion, the workmen's homes mentioned are under the exclusive trusteeship and direction of workmen.
In proof of the difficulty of securing suitable sites for convalescent homes, and particularly in districts where rich people live in fine houses surrounded with picturesque grounds, I will record an experience in connection with the Charing Cross Home referred to. After the sub-committee appointed for the purpose had visited about twenty obtainable sites, one consisting of many acres near Reigate was selected, for which a preliminary agreement for purchase was made The  Workingmen's Club Institute Union Home at Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate
Certain local gentry, hearing what was proposed, conferred and combined together, brought social pressure on the selling landlord, and prevented the completion of the sale. This may be called Disappointment No. I. After additional inquiry, the sub-committee next selected a very suitable site, also consisting of many acres, near Sevenoaks. In due course another preliminary agreement was made, and the final negotiation was again defeated in a similar way by a similar combination of rich people. Disappointment No.2. The sub-committee, so far baffled and beaten, pursued their purpose, and, after more inquiry and delay, pitched on a preeminently good site at Limpsfield, near Oxted, in Surrey. In this case also a preliminary arrangement for sale was made; but, strange to say, as if determined by a fiat of fate, a few wealthy people in the Limpsfield district put their heads and their hearts together, and brought sufficient influence to bear on Mr. Leveson-Gower, the selling landlord, effectually to prevent the purchase. Disappointment No.3. I mention these facts to show that certain well-to-do people, with full command of the enjoyments of life, entertain an unconquerable objection to their poorer fellow-countrymen and women coming "between the wind and their nobility." Poor men and women are well enough in their places, and particularly when producing the wealth of the wealthy; but they are told, by such acts as I have described, that they must, when seeking health, keep out of sight and hearing of the privileged few, who fare sumptuously every day.
It happened that soon after disappointment No 3 an ideal property for convalescent purposes came into the market; it also happened to be at Limpsfield, and adjoining the property of Mr. Leveson-Gower referred to, and this was submitted for sale at Tokenhouse Yard. It was determined to secure this site, if it could be got at anything like a reasonable price. I had, however, to move with considerable caution, for fear that my object might be suspected and another combination formed to end in another disappointment. Caxton convalescent home
I attended the sale, and, fearing I might he known and my intention scented, I sat for two hours on the first seat immediately in front of the auctioneer, without moving or looking to the right or left. The lot, after a spirited bidding, was knocked down to me, and the property was afterwards transferred to the authorities of the Charing Cross Hospital; and on this magnificent site, with its immense stretch of landscape in front, its many hundred acres of public forests behind, and its unsurpassed salubrious surroundings, now stand in triumphant repose the Charing Cross Convalescent Home and the Caxton Convalescent Home.
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April 18, 2005
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© Dean Evans 2003