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St Augustine’s psychiatric hospital in Chartham closed its doors in 1993 – A few of the hospital buildings were retained and the rest was demolished

David Goran

St Augustine’s Hospital was thoughtfully conceived as a therapeutic environment for mentally ill patients from across Kent, built in 1875, on a 120-acre site in Chartham, Kent.

It was known by a number of names: Kent County Lunatic Asylum (1875-1920) and Kent County Mental Hospital (1920-1948). In 1948 the hospital became part of the National Health Service and was renamed St Augustine’s Hospital. Photos: Jason Rogers/Flickr

listed under the Canterbury Hospitals category and is located in Chartham Down Chartham, Canterbury, Kent.

It is listed under the Canterbury Hospitals category and is located in Chartham Down Chartham, Canterbury, Kent.

When it became clear in the early 1870s that the Kent County Asylum at Barming Heath, Maidstone, was no longer large enough to accommodate all the county’s pauper lunatics, a search began for a site for a second county asylum as the 1845 Lunacy Act had made it obligatory to provide asylums.

Often, St. Augustine's took patients from surrounding counties who could not be housed in local asylums.

Often, St. Augustine’s took patients from surrounding counties who could not be housed in local asylums.

A 120-acre (49 ha) site on Chartham Downs three miles south-west of Canterbury was chosen. It satisfied the requirements set down by the Commissioners in Lunacy.

A site on elevated ground with cheerful prospects and enough space to provide employment and recreation for inmates while preventing them being overlooked or disturbed by strangers. It was also conveniently close to a railway station and situated centrally in its catchment area and not too far from the nearest large town.

The hospital became a self-contained village, with its own farm, workshops, baker, butcher, fire-brigade, church, graveyard, gasworks, cricket team, band, etc.

The hospital became a self-contained village, with its own farm, workshops, baker, butcher, fire-brigade, church, graveyard, gasworks, cricket team, band, etc.

The buildings were designed by the London firm of architects Gough  and J. Giles, which was one of the most successful asylum architects, winning eight of the sixteen competitions he entered and coming second in four. The buildings were completed in 1876 at a total cost of £211,852.

Originally built to house 870 patients, the hospital gradually expanded and by 1948 had 300 acres, including a farm, and 73 staff residences, as well as new blocks and facilities for patients.

Eventually, there would be 2,000 patients. Among the new treatments used at the hospital at that time were electroconvulsive therapy and psychosurgery.

A Victorian asylum designed by the architects, Giles and Gough.

A Victorian asylum designed by the architects, Giles, and Gough.

During World War I, patients from a number of counties were transferred to Chartham as a result of their usual hospital being requisitioned by military authorities.

During World War I, patients from a number of counties were transferred to Chartham as a result of their usual hospital being requisitioned by military authorities.

During the first world war, the asylum took in patients from other parts of the country, when their hospitals were being used for military casualties. After the end of the war, they had a number of service patients (there were 37 in 1922), ex-servicemen who had special privileges. During the second world war, part of the hospital was taken over by the Emergency Medical Service for military use.

The hospital was also part of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) during World War II.

The hospital was also part of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) during World War II.

 

St Augustine's hospital closed in 1993.

St Augustine’s hospital closed in 1993.

 

A few of the hospital buildings were retained and the rest were demolished.

A few of the hospital buildings were retained and the rest were demolished.

St Augustine’s Hospital closed in 1993 and the site is now occupied by housing, although a few of the original hospital buildings remain. In 1997 development of the site for housing was begun. A few of the hospital buildings, including the administration block, the water tower, and the chapel, were retained but the rest were demolished.