One of the last parts of the old Kent & Sussex Hospital site was being locked-up and prepared for demolition this week. I had just four hours to get there and photograph Burslem House before it was too late.
I arrived to a busy scene, porters were loading vans with furniture and trolleys full of unwanted possessions ready for the dump were being piled up outside. NHS staff were milling around inside making sure nothing was left behind. I didn't have much time before the keys were handed over to the demolition contractor so I quickly made my way in.
Not much was left inside. Aside from a scattering of old furniture, some worrying-looking stains, and a few dents in the carpet, it was pretty lifeless and looking very sorry for itself. Mind you I never got the chance to see it when it was full of people living there.
One of the many bedrooms on the upper floors.
The former nurse accommodation block was opened back in 1934 just a week after the official opening of the main hospital. It was opened by Robert Burslem who was the mayor of Tunbridge Wells from 1932 to 1934. He was a man who not only worked tirelessly to support the hospitals in the area but also to support the victims of war, he owned a stonemasons which specialised in the carving of names onto war memorials. After Mr Burslem died in 1960 the building was named in his honour.
The top three floors were dedicated to living accommodation whilst the ground floor housed treatment rooms, offices, and physical rehabilitation facilities. The bedrooms upstairs were small but seemed to have everything you'd need and each floor had communal kitchens, laundries, and bathrooms - some of these had definitely seen better days. There were also resident lounges scattered throughout the floors where doctors and nurses could watch television, play pool, and get up to all sorts of other recreations.
One of the cleaner baths I found.
Whilst I was up on the top floor I couldn't resist a quick panorama of the work currently underway at Royal Wells Park. You can see just how big the site is from this picture can't you.
Panorama of the Royal Wells Park building site from Burslem House. Click for larger.
So that looks like the last you'll see of the old site. Once Burslem House is gone the new offices and homes will start going up pretty quickly - in fact you can see from the photograph above that one block is halfway up already.
The main gymnasium.
I'd like to say a huge thank you to John Weeks for the very-early-morning email and subsequent permission to shoot inside, and in return I'd like to take this opportunity to quickly plug his book Bandages & Benevolence. It's a really terrific read on the history of the Tunbridge Wells Hospitals and contains loads of unique photography and material. The book is available from the hospital at Pembury (7am-7pm in the hospital restaurants), in Waterstones, or send a cheque for £10 (P&P free!) to: Bandages & Benevolence Book, Emergency Planning Unit, Level 3, Tunbridge Wells Hospital, Tonbridge Road, Pembury, Kent TN2 4QJ.
One of the few exterior details showing Pan, the god of shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music.
See lots more photos on our Tunbridge Wells Project.
I'd love to hear from you if lived inside Burslem, why not see if you can spot your room in the gallery (I think I got most of them, to be honest they all looked very similar after three hours) and let me know what it was like.