PRINCESS CHRISTIAN’S HOSPITAL
1910 – 1981
The hospital from the beginning was envisaged as a Farm Community and can still be thought of as this, Great importance is attached to farm, poultry-keeping, gardening, etc., as Therapies together with more modern aids – and it is found that the peaceful surroundings and informal relaxed atmosphere has a marked effect on those who are in our care.
In 1846 Princess Helena Victoria, 5th daughter of Queen Victoria married Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, and took, as was the custom, not only her husband’s title but also his Christian name Princess Christian. She did not really fancy the idea of becoming a domesticated, placid Danish Matron. She made many visits to England and became especially interested in Mental Deficiency and formed a charity which bought properties and opened them up as homes for the Feebleminded. Parents of those admitted paid according to their means towards the upkeep and running of these homes. A Trust was formed in 1895 and was called the National Association for Promoting the Welfare of the Feebleminded.
It was in 1910 that the Princess formed a Committee consisting of herself, her sister Princess Marie Louise and four local residents Dr. Langdon Down (the man who described Mongolism as a syndrome and this is still taught today), his wife Ruth, his sister-in-law, Miss Evelyn Turnbull and Dr. Russel Brain. They bought from Lord Derby land on which already stood the Farm House, Farm Buildings, two labourers’ cottages, the Main Buildings and Oast House. It was envisaged that a Farming Community should be formed and named Princess Christian Farm Colony, that it should be for the most part self-supporting, growing vegetables, keeping cattle and poultry. The Princess opened the hospital in 1910. In the early days a milk round was started, operated by “the colonists” as they were called. This was done on foot. later a pony and milk float were bought and the round continued until 1935.
The girls did all the laundering for the hospital, using for coppers, wooden wash tubs and flat irons heated on special stoves. Apparently the coppers were used at Christmas for cooking the plum puddings. They were scrubbed out on Christmas Eve, the fires lighted very early on Christmas morning so that the puddings were cooked in time for dinner. It was not until 1950 that sinks and electric irons were installed.
The present Girl’s Home now called “Glenn House” was built in 1916. During the years between the two Wars much building and reconstruction went on which was done by the patients. In 1922 the two cottages known as the Hostel were reconstructed to take ten men and boys. The total number in the hospital was 68 females and 71 males.
1924-PITMAN HALL was built by the boys.
There was, at that time, a Lady Superintendent called Miss Pitman.
1935 – was JUBILEE YEAR. Princess Christian’s had been in existence for 25 years. There were great celebrations.
In 1937 ALEXANDER HOUSE was bought by the National Society from Dr. Langdon Down – to accommodate a girls home belonging to the Society. During the last War, Alexander House was occupied by the Army and did not re-open until 1952.
With the coming of the NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE in 1948, Princess Christian’s became a subsidiary of LEYBOURNE GRANGE and was absorbed into the National Health Service complex of hospitals. From-1948 all admissions were from the Regiona1 Board and were wholly Category “E” who were trainable – in those days quite a number of men and women were able to go out daily to work in nearby farms and gardens, and do domestic work.
In 1964 it was decided that in the future all vacancies at PCH should be filled by patients from Leybourne, having been medically assessed before being transferred.
There are now in PCH 110 males and 48 females who work and play together in all aspects of life here. For years the family atmosphere has been nurtured with both residents and staff. This has not only remained, but has been very much strengthened by this deeply human approach. The visitor will notice the informality and relaxed quality of the regime. It is a truly ‘open’ community and visitors are always welcome at any time. Many of the residents are able to go out on their own to shop in the village or town or go to football matches, etc., and are well able to look after themselves on buses and are always ready to help other people. The local community accept them in a friendly and neighbourly way, most people know them and talk quite normally with them.
During recent years, the hospital has organised bigger events in the Summer which have brought many hundreds of people inside the grounds, who would have never contemplated this even a few years ago. The results have been encouraging.The residents mix easily with everyone, which has been an ‘eye-opener’ to many who have been somewhat apprehensive of coming into this type of community and have shut their eyes to the fact that such places exist.
1972 – The introduction of a full-time School Teacher meant a number of residents were able to benefit from educational classes. Today, there are two part-time teachers who give daily classes and also on three evening a week for those unable to attend the daily classes because of outside employment or other activities. Also in 1972 the Multi-Disciplinary Assessment Team was formed with the initial assessment of many of the residents, the remainder being assessed the following year.
1973 – The completion and furnishing of two Bungalows. Five male residents occupy one and five female residents the other, living under family conditions. In preparation to take advantage of any future opportunity to live in the community. One such opportunity occurred a year later when the hospital was offered a Group Home in Tonbridge and four of the male residents moved in and are still there today.
1974 – Another Hut was purchased for the Occupational Therapy Department, and this gave more space and the means to increase the varied activities. Industrial Therapy was introduced, and with the acquisition of a spacious bathroom in the nearby building’ self help programmes were also possible. Around this time PCH acquired the services of a Psychologist on the team. Behaviour Modification programmes were introduced. including an intensive programme being tried, with a fair measure of success, on a small Hyper Kinetic group.
Over the next few years thanks to increased efforts in Fund raising activities the Residents own Social Club was built. This building has proved a great asset in many ways. In the good sized kitchen regular cookery classes are held by volunteers. The main area of the building is large enough for a social club and for various voluntary Group activities from which many residents benefit, Also the building houses the Library and provides room for classes and for Speech Therapy. It is a convenient place for various meetings and was for a short period an emergency Dormitory and more recently, for a period, a Staff Dining Room.
There is an increasing interest in residents welfare from outside.Voluntary Service Units from both Sevenoaks School and Tonbridge School come regularly and enjoy their work here. A number of the older residents belong to the Hildenborough Derby and Joan Club. The Club is invited to the Hospital for various amusements, some of the men belong to The Gateway Club in Tonbridge.
The League of Friends is an integral part of the community and not only because they provide and organise many entertainments and outings during the year – but they are interested in what goes on, especially as many have relatives here and like to take part in the life of the hospital.
Finally in 1980/81. There has been much building work and structural alterations taking place, and in the near future the Farm Villa residents will be rehoused in what was the Administration Block and the residents’ staff quarters.
Thanks to the generosity of a local person, the Oast House Villa now has it’s own Dining Room, the residents enjoying their first meal in it at lunch on Christmas Eve 1980. A new Dormitory is being built for the residents in Oast House.
All in all PCH is a busy little hospital where it all seems to be happening, yet still retaining it’s family atmosphere, peace and tranquillity. Who knows what it’s future prospects are?
The above history has been compiled by Mrs. M. K. Hume, local resident and past chairman of PCH House Committee, with up-to-date additions from Mr. R. Cooper – Senior Nursing Officer.
6 May 1981