Henry Radcliffe
Convalescent  Home
 Trevereux Hill, Oxted, Surrey RH8 0TL
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1896 - 1977

The Passmore Edwards Convalescent Home for Charing Cross Hospital was officially opened on 11th July 1896 by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), accompanied by the Princess of Wales and Princess Victoria.  One of the Treasurers at the Hospital, Mr George J. Drummond, had contributed £1,000 towards the cost of the 19-acre site abutting on Limpsfield Common, with a 300 acre wood nearby.  The cost of the building had been borne by the Cornish philanthropist, John Passmore Edwards (who had recently also financed the Caxton Convalescent Home nearby).  

Such homes had become popular for patients who still needed a modicum of nursing care; they could be sent to convalesce instead of being discharged home before they had fully recovered, thus freeing acute beds.  For the patients of Charing Cross Hospital, they had a 2 minute walk to the nearby railway station, then a 21-mile train ride, followed by a 3-mile drive to the Home.

The Home was 532 ft (160 metres) above sea-level and built almost entirely of greystone, quarried in the immediate neighbourhood.  Its red-tiled roof made a pleasant contrast to the stone walls.  Its water supply was collected from springs on the property, while the earth system was used for disposal of excreta.

It had 50 beds - 20 for men, 20 for women and 10 for children.  Its running costs were estimated to be some £2,000 a year.

In 1914 the drainage system had to be entirely remodelled at a cost of £940 as the original arrangements were considered out-of-date and even dangerous to the inmates.  Additionally, the exterior of the building had become so porous that the interior walls were affected; this had to be remedied at a cost of £270.

During WW1 it became an auxiliary military hospital with 100 beds, run by the Surrey/46 and /62 Voluntary Aid Detachments.  The Hospital had to update equipment in the Home at a cost of £200, in view of the wounded soldiers being sent there.

Because of financial strains, Charing Cross Hospital never reopened the Home after the war and it remained vacant until purchased by the shipping company owner, Henry Radcliffe, who offered it to the newly formed Merchant Seamen's War Memorial Society.

Henry Radcliffe had originally been approached in 1917 by the President of the National Sailors' and Firemen's Union, Joseph Havelock Wilson, who had proposed the establishment of such a Society.  Wilson had recognised the need to look after the interests and health of merchant seamen, who had managed to keep the shipping lanes open throughout the war (despite some 15,000 officers and men of the British Mercantile Marine killed).  Radcliffe supported the idea with great enthusiasm.

The Union undertook to transform the house into a well-equipped convalescent home, and it was duly opened as the Henry Radcliffe Convalescent Home by the Duke of York in July 1920.

The Home provided nursing care for seamen who had been injured or become ill while at sea.  It had 28 beds, four of which were set aside for stewardesses.  The comedian George Robey had raised funds for the Society and, in recognition of his efforts, a ward was named after him.

The usual length of stay at the Home was 3 to 4 weeks, although there was no limit as to how long a patient could remain (some 211 were accommodated in 1960).  Patients came from all over the country, with local branch officials of the National Union of Seamen making the arrangements.

In addition to the actual convalescent home, 15 places were set aside for permanent residents - all retired seafarers who had spent at least 25 years in the profession.  A small community of retired seafarers also lived with their wives as guests of the Home in 8 small bungalows near to the main house.

In 1963 the Home closed; all services were transferred to Springbok Farm in Alfold, Surrey (see below). 

Present status (March 2012)

The property was sold in 1967 to the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation for use as a research establishment.

The Marie Curie Research Institute closed in 2010 and the building sold to Millgate for redevelopment, due to be completed by early 2014.

Henry Radcliffe Convalescent Home
The Grade II listed building is
being  converted into apartments, but its facade will be preserved.

Henry Radcliffe Convalescent Home
New housing is being built alongside the former Home.


Following WW2, in 1947 the Society was able to establish a second home at Sachel Court in Alfold, Surrey, with £200,000 raised by the people of South Africa in gratitude to the merchant seamen who had continued to bring in supplies during the war.  Sachel Court was renamed Springbok.

Until 1993 disabled seamen were taught horticultural and agricultural skills in the 400-acre farm's training centre.

Today the Merchant Seamen's War Memorial Society is known as Care Ashore.

References (Accessed 30th June 2014)

(Author unstated) 1896 Opening of the Charing-Cross Convalescent Home at Limpsfield.  Lancet 148 (3803), 208.

(Author unstated) 1896 Charing Cross Hospital Convalescent Home.  British Medical Journal 2 (1855), 170.

(Author unstated) 1914 Summary of work since outbreak of war to date.  London, British Red Cross Society.

(Author unstated) 1917 List of the various hospitals treating military cases in the United Kingdom.  London, H.M.S.O.

(Author unstated) 1919 American tribute to British merchant seamen.  King Country Chronicle 12 (1269), 7

(Author unstated) 1962 Finding their feet on land. International Transport Workers' Journal 22, 110-112.

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