This drawing of Bevendean Hospital was created by a young asthmatic patient Alan Morris in May 1968 and given to Ronald A. Stank as per the dedication in the top left hand corner of the picture. It was subsequently used as a Christmas Card for the Hospital.
In early 1881 the Master of the Workhouse at Elm Grove informed Brighton Corporation Sanitary Committee that there was a need for more accommodation for smallpox victims. There were only five places available at Elm Grove.
On 31 May 1881 the Sanitary Committee decided that the Borough Surveyor was to erect a temporary building to be used as a sanatorium on part of the land acquired by the council for this purpose off Bevendean Road.
This resolution called for the wards to be built for at least forty patients and also required the Medical Officer of Health to report on the staff that would be needed for the Sanatorium.
The site chosen was on the Downs adjacent to Bevendean Road and Bear Road with an area of 10 acres, 326 feet above sea level and sloping towards the west and south in the direction of the sea.
The land was purchased by the Corporation in 1881 for £5,000 subject to restrictions preventing the Corporation from erecting buildings for the infectious sick except on a limited portion of the site. These restrictions were removed in 1895 by a payment of £1,000.
A smallpox epidemic in London during the year 1881 caused Brighton Council to complete the project as quickly as possible.
Patching and Sons, were employed to build the hospital, and the Council borrowed £15,000 to pay for the work. The first stage of the project was for three main buildings of wooden construction with felt covered roofs. The 3 buildings consisted of an administration block and two wards. The work completed in ten weeks with the contractors charging an extra £100 for meeting the deadline date.
Council minutes from September 1881 had recorded a list of patients admitted and details of the staff appointed. The staff consisted of a medical officer, matron, porter, two day nurses, two night nurses and two maids. Initially the medical officer also worked at the Workhouse in Elm Grove.
The Master and Matron a Mr and Mrs Eden were employed on salaries of £2.10s per week with uniform and rations provided. The nurses were engaged at a salary of £1.10s per week with food provided. A cook is also mentioned at a salary of £25 per year.
In December 1881 the question of heating the buildings was considered with a water heating system being selected with 4 inch diameter hot water pipes fitted round the walls of the buildings and a boiler under the kitchen ward.
An ambulance for the hospital was requested in the winter of 1881 because the use of the ambulance from the Workhouse was not satisfactory.
Further improvements were made over the next two years, with a corrugated iron building, used for a Health Exhibition in Brighton in 1883, being erected at the hospital to be used as another ward. A building was obtained to use as a store room for linen and in 1883 a telephone line was laid between the Town hall and the hospital. The number of people listed as using the hospital was very small at this time.
Rain was coming through the roof in three of the wards in January 1885 and there was an increasing need for repair and refurbishment. The number of patients being treated had increased and a number of extensions and improvements had been made including a disinfecting station, a porter’s lodge, and a mortuary. By this time the total cost was just over £16,000, not much more than the original estimate of £15,000. The first phase of the hospital refurbishment was virtually complete by December 1886 with main drains for all the wards and the administration block which replaced the old cess pits. The gardens and roadways were laid out by the Parks Department and a perimeter wall and gates had been built.
A steam laundry was installed in 1890 at a cost of £1,843.
By October 1893 the need for many more repairs and the provision of more accommodation for the patients had become urgent. The Brighton Council then decided that the Borough Surveyor was to present plans for a new hospital as soon as possible.
There was a problem regarding the extension or rebuilding of the hospital on the site of Bevendean Road. A restrictive covenant on the land prevented the building of accommodation for the infectious sick except on a small part of the land. After looking for other sites for a new Sanatorium the council agreed to buy out the restrictive covenant on the site. On the 7 October 1894 Alderman Blaker wrote to the Town Clerk accepting the sum of £1,000 for the release of his interest in the restrictive covenant on the land.
He agreed to spend the money as follows:-
£400 for a clock & tower in the Blaker Park.
£600 for the laying out and improvement of the facilities in the park.
The Blaker Park covers almost four and a half acres between Preston Drove and Stanford Avenue in Brighton. It was given to the town by Sir John Blaker in 1893. The clock tower and the park still exist in 2020.
The three main buildings of the old Sanatorium were the Administrative Building and the north and south blocks, which were rapidly erected in 1881, when the Corporation was confronted by an outbreak of small-pox. They were all wooden buildings; the roofs being covered with felt and had seen useful service for 17 years.
The old Sanatorium also had a Disinfecting Station, Porter’s Lodge and Mortuary.
By October 1894 the Sanitary Committee approved plans for new buildings as follows:-
An administrative building
A one ward building
An isolation block
A discharge block
A porter’s lodge
By September 1896, the Sanitary Committee accepted a tender from Messrs Peters & Son of Horsham for the new building at a cost of £19,775, with work beginning in November 1896.
A contemporary drawing of the Bevendean Sanatorium shows the buildings which comprised the first phase, and the ground contours in 1898.
The natural slope of the land from east to west meant that the front of the administration building was over 12 ft. lower than the rear walls. The site also had a natural slope from north to south which necessitated a good deal of earth moving, resulting in the need to terrace the site.
The Brighton Evening Argus of 12 April 1989 stated that in 1897 there were 450 patients, 74 with typhoid, 103 with diphtheria and 265 with scarlet fever in the Bevendean Sanatorium housed in the wooden huts.
The original plans included the possible location of additional hospital wards, but the six on the right were not built as shown, only one ward was built south of the Administration block.