Over One Hundred Years of Heritage “The King’s Sanatorium” was founded in 1901 to care for those suffering from tuberculosis and was officially opened on the 13th June 1906 by His Majesty King Edward VII, who gave assent for the institution to be called the King Edward VII Sanatorium.
At the time when the sanatorium was designed it was heralded as a significant advancement in the treatment of the sick, where the importance of rest, relaxation, fresh air and light were incorporated into the buildings and surroundings as these were seen as equally important to the treatment of patients as the medical intervention. After the eradication of tuberculosis the sanatorium was transformed into a modern hospital admitting NHS and private patients with all types of illnesses. It also specialised in cancer care, cardiology and facial reconstruction.
The hospital was designed by Charles Holden and Percy Adams. Charles Holden went on to become a leading English architect who is best known for his designs in the 1920s and 1930s of London Underground stations. He was also a highly regarded figure in the architectural community, with Charles Rennie Macintosh being one of the key figures he is known to have influenced. The hospital was highly acclaimed in the architectural press when completed. It was said to be ‘one of the three finest of the time’ in the Royal Commission survey of English Hospitals: 1660 to 1948, and was highly praised by Pevsner. Charles Holden could have been Sir Charles Holden, but he turned down the offer. Until the 1950’s the building fared well, with the necessary extensions being designed in a sensitive manner. However, from the 1960’s onward such sensitivity was put aside, with the practicalities of a hospital being the overriding influence. These unfortunate additions paid little regard to the historic architecture and landscape. Despite this much of the historic fabric and quality remains, and the upgrading to Grade II* listing in 2004 for the main building and chapel underline the importance of this collection of historic buildings.
The gardens themselves are also of considerable importance, with Gertrude Jekyll’s planting schemes. Gertrude Jekyll was a gardener of great influence to the early 20th Century with much of her work directly related to that of Sir Edward Lutyens. The gardens are Grade II listed to reflect their status. Over the years many areas of the gardens have been lost, with the exception being the south gardens which still maintain much of the original layout, some of the planting, and the original dry stone walls. Other areas also remain partially intact and therefore have the potential to be restored, especially as the original planting drawing schemes still survive.
Records from 1660 indicate that the site was originally open pastures with areas of heath land.
When the sanatorium was constructed plantation woodland had recently been established to large areas of the site. During the hurricane of 1987 significant areas of this woodland was destroyed and then subsequently replanted.
The site around the buildings and roads is currently a mix of amenity grass, coniferous pine plantation and more ecologically rich mature broad leaf and mixed woodlands. This habitat, together with the buildings, supports an extensive mix of wildlife, with a variety of bat species, badgers, reptiles, invertebrates and birds. Due to the poor maintenance of the landscape over the past ten years the ecological potential has been reduced. The heath land immediately to the west of the site know as Pound Common and Woolbeding Common are both internationally important in terms of ecology, with the wildlife rich heath land supporting many species of ground nesting birds. This importance is indicated by their status as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Sites of Nature Conservation Importance. The hospital site itself is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is due to become part of a new National Park.
Following a number of years of reduced investment in the buildings and landscape, in 2002 the 500,000 sq ft hospital went into liquidation and the Estate has subsequently had an unfortunate history. Despite planning approvals for various schemes since the hospital closed none have been viable meaning that these nationally important historic buildings and landscapes have now lain empty for over seven years. Failed plans, administration and receivership have put the restoration that this well-loved local landmark deserves on hold. Most recently the King Edward VII Estate has been repossessed by the bank, which has sought a development partner to find and deliver a long term and viable solution for this challenging and complex site.
City & Country is proud to have been chosen as the development partner based on the company’s long tradition of constructively and imaginatively finding solutions that fit sensitively with the important heritage and ecological aspects of complex and difficult sites. City & Country is a company that very much specialises in finding permanent and beneficial solutions to important historic buildings. Through the delivery of our projects, the company has built up good working relationships with local Conservation Officers, Planners and English Heritage in Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.