From Farm to Sanatorium

The Early Years (1800’s)

This early ordinance survey map from 1871 shows Cleveland Farm with a scattering of dwellings and buildings along Goddard’s Green Road. The map shows the Infant School but St Margaret’s Church has yet to be built. The school and the church (when built), were not part of Cleveland Farm but owned by another landowner and purchased much later.

Ordinance Survey Map c1871 (Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland –

Purchase of the Land

In January 1905, the area of land known as Cleveland Farm in the East End, Benenden was up for sale. Charles Garland and his colleague Mr Bunn approached the landowner Mr Thurston with a view to purchasing on behalf of the National Sanatorium Association. Documents in the archive suggest that following some negotiation the farm was purchased for the sum of £5,800.

The estate included 252 acres of land, a working farm and several cottages.

Building Our Sanatorium

Mr A W West, Architect was commissioned and work began to build our Sanatorium. Charles Garland described the costs of building such institutions in his book ‘The Conquest of Consumption’ in 1910:

‘Expensive sanatoriums, costing £600 and £700 and even £1,000 a bed are no longer required. The first models, which were erected upon the lines of a general hospital, have gradually given place to a much simpler plan and far less elaborate, without neglecting the essentials.’

‘It has become recognised that practically all that is required is simple sleeping apartments and dining-halls, with the necessary accommodation for staff.’

Demand for cheap sanatoriums increased and Garland turned his attention to finding a suitable solution. ‘I have adopted a system which is a combination of methods; First, a steel shell and then walls and floors in between the steel stanchions and joists of Frazzi – a hollow brick 3in. thick. It’s fireproof, permanent, thoroughly strong, the hollow space forming a vacuum that is warm in winter and cool in summer. The outside is cement roughcasted the inside plastered with rounded edges to reduce dust collection.’

‘The cost of the sanatorium at Benenden, including teak floors and doors, works out at 6d. a foot cube, complete, for a two-storied building; and for the general hospital just built in the same way at Windsor the cost is 83/4d. a cube foot for three stories. This system is therefore even cheaper than a wooden or corrugated iron building. It is therefore safe to say that a sanatorium can be built for £100 a bed.’

Preparing For Patients

Following the purchase of the land, an Organising Committee was set up to ensure the sanatorium was built and ready to accept patients. A book in the museum, contains hand written minutes of all the meetings held by this committee from 16 October 1905 through to 19 January 1909.

Organising Committee Minutes 1905-1909

The notes make fascinating reading and include;

  • The arrangements for sputum sampling at 2/- per pot
  • Blankets and sheets at £85 for 200
  • Crockery, that includes 150 sets of various sizes at 4/6 per dozen
  • 1,000 paper Japanese handkerchiefs as an experiment
  • Hiring of a maid at £14 a year (all in)
  • Cook employed at £26 a year
  • Housemaid at £20 a year

One note details a discussion about purchasing Telephonic Communication between the Sanatorium and Benenden Village. The Committee declined the proposal. They did agree to ban patients from visiting local public houses!

The Hiring of Clinical Staff

Note the details of the advert for Matron in 1906 and reference to the preferred age!

Minutes of Meeting 1906

On the 21 December 1906, the Committee agreed to hire Miss Musson as the first Matron and Dr Crossley as the Medical Superindent.

A later note in November 1907, details much debate about hiring a male nurse. How times have changed!

Patient Selection

Referee’s were established across the country. These were Physician’s who agreed to assess patient suitability for treatment at the Sanatorium. At this stage and causing much debate, they undertook the consultation with no remuneration.

Only sufferer’s at the earlier stage of disease would be deemed suitable for sanatorium care. If you were admitted and found to have developed disease and unable to benefit from the regime of care, you were considered a ‘bad case’ and would be discharged home.

Cleveland’s Cottage

Cleveland’s Cottage is a very old house. Part of the building is 650 years old. It is reputed to be one of the houses given by Henry VIII to Anne of Cleves during their divorce. In 1714 the house was owned by a man called Cleveland who is said to have lost the property along with his daughter in payment of a gambling debt.

Once the Sanatorium was open, the property was used as the residence of the Medical Superintendent. One resident reported seeing the ghost of a nun at the bottom of the stairs but Mr Mayer, who held the position of Medical Superintendent and lived in the property for 26 years, wrote that his family enjoyed every minute living in Cleveland’s.






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