Tonbridge Cottage Hospital
When the time came to erect a memorial to Queen Victoria, Eyre Ievers was insistent that a Cottage Hospital would be ideal. The first of these had been founded at Cranleigh, Surrey by a local doctor, Albert Napper, in 1859. There had been opposition from the British Medical Association to Cottage Hospitals on the grounds that interesting patients and income would be kept from the existing voluntary hospitals and that general practitioners should not give their services for nothing. After much trouble in acquiring a site and raising funds, The Queen Victoria Cottage Hospital was opened in 1902. The building was on the junction of Quarry Hill and Baltic Road and survives to this day as a clinic.
Ievers was chairman of the managing committee which consisted of seven general practitioners, four clergyman and eleven of the local great and good. There were two male and two female beds looked after by a resident nurse–matron and a general servant. In the first year thirty-two cases were admitted. Thirteen suffered from trauma, three from ‘cancer’ and the rest had the sequelae of infection, such as tubercular glands, endocarditis and hepatic abscesses. The results of treatment were encouraging. One death, four relieved, twenty-three cured, two ‘recovery’ and one convalescent. Within a few years the beds were increased to six, and an operating theatre was added.
In 1907 Newton showed how well the Cottage Hospital was used, and what kind of operations general practitioners without any special training were undertaking. He examined a fit newly born baby who had a depression at the back of his skull. Thinking that this should be corrected, he took the baby to the Cottage Hospital and arranged for a partner to give the anaesthetic. He then opened the skull and evacuated a small amount of blood clot, before closing the wound and because the baby was being breast fed, sent it straight home. The baby recovered and developed normally. (British Medical Journal 1907:2:318).
By the early twentieth century the Cottage Hospital had outgrown its site. The small Victorian villa was not adequate. The old isolation hospital, set in woodland (now adjacent to the A21 roundabout in South Tonbridge), half a mile out of the town was pulled down. Land was leased from Sir H D’Avidgor Goldsmid for a peppercorn rent. A grand new 30-bedded unit was opened in 1936 complete with a modern operating suite and an X ray department. The local general practitioners staffed it. The 1930’s and 40’s were the high point of the general practitioner looking after you from cradle to grave, even if you had to be admitted to hospital.
X-ray and surgical facilities were withdrawn in the 1980’s. The future of the hospital appeared bleak. Another partner, David Goodridge led a campaign, funded by the League of Friends, to prevent its closure, which culminated in the High Court preventing the health authority from carrying through its plans. Since then the hospital has undergone a renaissance with a new ward block being built in 2000.