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Hertfordshire Seaside Convalescent Home

The Beginnings

Founded by Canon F.A. Burnside of Hertingbury, the Hertfordshire Seaside Convalescent home admitted well over 50,000 patients during its 102 years of existance.

A subscriber could be an individual, a firm, a society, or any other body that made an annual subscription payment of a guinea, which entitled them to nominate one patient per year to a period of stay at the home. The patents themselves would also pay a small weekly fee towards their own maintenance.

Opened in May 1876 in what was described as "two houses of moderate rent" situated in Silchester Road in St Leonards. The committee would have preferred a location facing or nearer the sea but were not able to outlay the increase in rent involved with such a property.

Expansion, Relocation & Royal Connections

Due to its popularity expansion was soon needed and in 1880 an area of land was obtained that was on top of a cliff and facing the sea in West Hill Road (adjacent to what was then the Bo Peep Railway Station) in St Leonards. On this land a substantial two storey building was constructed to initially house 45 mixed male and female patients.

The Home was opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Augusta, who was received by the Earl of Chichester (Lord Lieutenant of Sussex) and the service of dedication was performed by the Bishop of St Albans. The ceremony was attended by the Marquis of Salisbury, the Earl of Lython and many people from the county of Hertfordshire.

HRH Princess Helena Augusta Victoria was the third daughter of Queen Victoria. She became the patron of the charity and was greatly appreciated by the Governers and subscribers alike.

A new wing was added to the building in 1898 which was the 16th year of Queen Victoria's reign and the 21st anniversary of the home itself.

By the turn of the century Hertfordshire Convalescent Home had admitted nearly 12,000 patients since opening, with a record 788 patients received in the year of 1899.

Childrens Convalescent Home Opens

In August 1888 the Childrens Hertfordshire Convalescent Home was opened in close proximity to the existing building after recommendation by the governers. This was run under seperate management to the existing adults only convalescent home and at the time of opening had eight beds with provisions for three more if required. By 1904 the capacity had increased to 20 beds and three cots.

The Childrens Home was passed in to the possession of the Adult Home in 1906 as it was decided that daily administration could be dealt with from next door.

Winter Shut Downs

Up until 1907 the convalescent homes were open all year round but this stopped from then onwards when the homes were closed for four weeks each winter to allow for ventilation, cleaning and repairs. Closure began on the 2nd Monday in January.

First World War

At the outbreak of war in 1917 both houses placed their beds at the disposal of The Incorporated Soldiers and Sailors Help Society for convalescent use by wounded soldiers. No beds were occupied for this purpose but the numbers of patients admitted and funds received reduced during the war due to deaths of subscribers and diffficulty obtaining new ones.

However, the fall of admissions was not too great as it was helped by a number of soldiers and sailors admitted by the Naval and Military War Pensions Committee.

Childrens Home Sold

In 1919 the Children's home was sold off to the Hertfordshire County Council to be used for maternity and child welfare purposes. This was continued until 1937 when the property was then passed on to the Chelsea Hospital for Women and was once again used as a convalescent home until 1980. The building still survives today, although now renamed Senlac House and divided in to several private residences.

World War Two

At the outbreak of World War 2 the beds at the home were held in reserve under the Hospital Emergency Scheme but were released at the end of October that year as there was no demand for their use. Hertfordshire patients continued to be admitted and 591 were recorded in 1939.

During 1940 the war conditions in the St Leonards area led the local authorities to prevent people from coming into the area for several months and as a result the home suffered with the lack of admission of new patients.

The home was re-opened in October 1942 and remained so to a limited degree until 1944 due to a lack of domestic staff.

Renovation and extension

In 1946 Barclays Bank became trustees for the home and in 1947 repairs and renovation following the war was started. It was also announced that the home would not be taken over by the National Health Service.

During the next few years the home was subject to an extensive improvement plan. This included a re-build of the whole South facing front of the building which now incorporated a sun lounge, new central heating system, bathrooms and lavatories. The home was now equipped to cater for 60 patients.

By 1956 the home was equiped with a television set, a new wireless installation, a telephone box in the hall for use by the patients and the Matron had started a small shop selling postcards, sweets and cigarettes etc.

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