Ancestry UK

Catherine Gladstone Home, Woodford, Essex / Mitcham, Surrey

The Catherine Gladstone Convalescent Home had its origins in the cholera epidemic of 1886 when Catherine Gladstone, the wife of British statesman William Gladstone, launched a scheme to establish a convalescent home for children, many of them orphaned, who were recovering from the disease at the London Hospital. Initially, a house for the purpose was rented in Clapton, in East London. A public appeal for funds then raised £5,000, which was used to purchase Woodford Hall, a large Georgian mansion located on Woodford High Road, on the edge of Epping Forest in Essex, and the childhood home of the writer, artist and social reformer William Morris. The Woodford home was opened in 1869 and named the Catherine Gladstone Free Convalescent Home for the Poor — the only such establishmnet in England. It provided thirty beds for non-contagious and non-infectious women and children of the East End who were well enough to be discharged from the hospital, but still weak and likely to benefit from fresh air and a nourishing country diet. All applicants underwent a medical examination at the hospital, with Mrs Gladstone personally selecting those offered a place.

In 1900, the home moved to Ravensbury Park House in on Seddon Road, Mitcham, Surrey. It was a large mansion, built in 1864 and set in seven acres of grounds. After the move, Woodford Hall, which had become rather dilapidated, was demolished.

Catherine Gladstone Home, Mitcham, Surrey, c.1930s. © Peter Higginbotham

Catherine Gladstone Home, Mitcham, Surrey, c.1930s. © Peter Higginbotham

During the First World War, the Home became the Catherine Gladstone Relief Hospital, an auxiliary military hospital with 60 beds for wounded and sick servicemen. It was affiliated to the London Hospital, which had become a section of the Bethnal Green Military Hospital. In 1916 the Home celebrated the golden jubilee of its founding in 1866.

Following the war, Morden Hall, another auxiliary hospital affiliated to the London Hospital, became an annexe for the Home.

In 1922, the home experienced a financial crisis and was offered, with an endowment of £20,137, to the London Hospital for use as an annexe. However, the Hospital's own financial situation made it unable to accept the offer, which was then taken up by the Marie Celeste Samaritan Society, which had just closed its own home at Whipps Cross. The Society took over the running of the home, also paying for structural alterations and the installation of electric lighting and new furniture.

The Home was officially re-opened on 19 November 1923 by the Minister of Health, Sir William Joynson-Hicks. It provide convalescent facilities for the mothers of large families, especially from the East End referred by the London Hospital. The Home acquired a Lancia ambulance to transport the patients from the East End to Mitcham.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, the Home closed in 1940 and was subsequently demolished. Housing and a school now occupy the site.


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