The First!

The first patients were admitted to the West Wing of the Sanatorium at Benenden on 4 March 1907. When Harry Moore, Walter Peris and Robert Coles arrived, all their details were recorded in a ledger that has survived for 110 years.

Harry Moore, age 36, a married Tinsmith from Grimsby was the first patient to be admitted. The notes suggest Harry hadn’t worked for 10 months and entered Bensan with a poor prognosis. Following a stay of 8 weeks and 3 days, Harry was discharged home.


Walter Peris, age 34,  a married upholsterer from Nottingham. Unlike Harry, Walter’s prognosis was good but he stayed at Bensan for 12 weeks. Having not worked for 7 months, he was able to return to work after discharge.


Robert Coles, age 24 a single gas company collector from Islington London. Robert’s prognosis was noted as ‘doubtful’ but he was discharged home after 21 weeks and was enjoying excellent health one year later.


Hearts of Oak

All three patients admitted on that first day, were members of the Hearts Of Oak Benefits Society. This Society was established in 1842 to provide a means for persons to save into a mutual fund that could draw upon and provide financial protection in times of sickness much like our own organisation today.

In 1992 the Society was renamed the Hearts of Oak Friendly Society Ltd and in 1997 relocated their office from Euston Road to Leicester. The Society was taken over by the Reliance & Mutual Insurance Society in 2007.
Reference:… (National Archives site with historical notes about the Hearts of Oak Benefit Society).


Keep it in the family!

A treatment for Rheumatism is recommended by Dr Balfour of Edinburgh, in the Medical Guide of 1824. He suggests the use of a tool to pommel and rub the affected part.

The picture of the gruesome tool shows a hook at the end for rubbing the toes (C and D), with a flat oval end for rubbing a broader body part. The tool should then be used like a hammer to pommel affected joints.

The fifth generation of Balfour Doctors, is working at Benenden Hospital. Thankfully, not using the gruesome tool, Alastair is one of our Consultant ENT Surgeons.


Walking Works!

In National Walking Month, I’m reminded that the benefits of walking have been known for a long time. Graded walking and exercise was part of the treatment regime for our TB patients at Benenden from 1907. We have photographs in the archive of our patients ‘walking the loop’. Now it’s our staff that enjoy the exercise in their lunch breaks.

Times have changed!

Some hand written ledgers from the archive remind us how times have changed. The hospital accounts for 1917 show us that more was spent on milk than on drugs, disinfectant and dressings. In the same year, 80% of patients were discharged from the Sanatorium having shown signs of recovery from TB. A wonderful record of healthcare history to share.



Message’s from the Palace

A selection of Telegram’s from the Palace from 1947

The first telegram was received in 1947 following the announcement of Princess Elizabeth’s engagement to Prince Philip.

The last telegram was sent in 1975 by the Queen Mother as Benenden’s Patron, wishing the organisation luck for its annual conference.

Another important document in our archive is a handwritten letter from Princess Helena in 1910. Princess Helena was the fifth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and the letter is written following the death of her brother King Edward VII. Note the black border around the letter.


100 Years of Progress

In 1917 Benenden Sanatorium admitted 255 patients suffering from TB. This year, we expect to care for 47,000 patients through our outpatient services and nearly 8,500 patients admitted for a surgical procedure.

The images below show our reception area in 1917, with an artist impression of the new reception due to open later this year.

In 1917, Miss Ferguson was Matron and Mr Robertson was Medical Superintendent. Today, we have three Matrons, Ali, Wendy and Dee and Dr John Giles is Medical Director.

Where most Sanatoria were left derelict by the 1970s, with some converted into homes, Benenden continues to care for members and other patients who choose us.