In rural areas such as Edenbridge, cottage hospitals were often started in private houses, purchased for the purpose. The original Edenbridge Cottage Hospital was started in a house in the High Street. This is now the Presbytery of the Roman Catholic Church.
The operating theatre for the first hospital was completed and equipped to commemorate the work of the Kent Volunteer Aid Detachments during the Great War 1914-18. Parish records show that this hospital served a population of 5304 in Edenbridge and the surrounding district.
In January 1928, Mr and Mrs Mowbray Charrington offered the sum of £1,000 towards the cost of a purpose built hospital for Edenbridge and District if a campaign were started to raise a further £15,000 in a year.
A professional organiser, Miss Callender, was engaged and by June 1928 the Appeal Fund stood at £6506. Thus encouraged, the Hospital Committee decided to go forward and a mass meeting was held on 21st June 1929 at Mill Hill on the site which had been presented for the hospital by Mr Mason.
The Foundation Stone of the new hospital was laid by HRH Prince Arthur of Connaught, a grandson of Queen Victoria, on 10th May 1930.
Within two years of the proposal for a hospital, and with the target of £15,000 exceeded, the new Edenbridge and District War Memorial Hospital was completed.
On 20th June 1931 the hospital was opened by Lady Violet Astor, wife of Major J.J. Astor MP, president of the hospital. Lady Violet opened the front door with a silvergilt key presented to her by the architect, Mr H Read of Read and Macdonald.
The hospital was managed prior to the advent of the NHS by a House Committee and a Medical Committee composed of representatives of the local practices in Edenbridge, Lingfield, Dormansland and Westerham.
Voluntary help at the hospital was given by ladies of the Linen Guild who formed sewing parties and kept bed linen in good repair. Hospital facilities were available free to the local population if they belonged to one of the Contributory Schemes. One such scheme was payment of a weekly sum of three old pence (slightly more than lp) per family covering father, mother and all children of school age provided the family income did not exceed £6 per week.
In 1932, sun shelters were built at the extreme ends of both the male and female ward following a sizeable gift towards their construction by 'The Times' Emergency Fund, no doubt influenced by Major the Hon. J.J Astor who was associated with the paper and supported the hospital throughout his long presidency of the Hospital Committee.
The decision to start an Electrotherapy Department was taken in 1933. In 1935, the two storey extension was built. This housed a new clinic with the night nurses’ bedrooms above.
During the 1939-45 war years the Red Cross, VAD’s and St John Ambulance nurses helped in the hospital. At one time, 27 military cases were being looked after and emergency beds had to be used.
After the war ended, plans to extend the hospital to treble its existing size were considered but never came to fruition. In 1948 a Physiotherapy Department was set up in the out-patient hall, functioning three days a week in cramped conditions.
On 30th April 1948, the last Annual General Meeting of the Hospital Committee was held under the chairmanship of Col. the Hon. J.J. Astor. With the takeover of all hospitals by the NHS, the participants of the meeting had one proposal to make : “That the strongest possible objection should be taken to any proposal to reduce the facilities at present provided at the hospital and that these facilities should be largely extended at the first opportunity to meet an ever increasing waiting list.”
This was carried unanimously and today, nearly 60 years later, this resolution is still being implemented as the hospital increases in size and constantly updates its equipment and facilities. Anyone doubting the will of the people of Edenbridge to uphold this were seriously disabused when a rumours of closure of the Minor Injuries Unit resulted in a threatened mass march of protest in September 2002. Unfortunately, the earlier defense of the operating theatre was unsuccessful, due to the Hospital’s inability to meet new safety requirements. (Physicians and Surgeons from London’s teaching hospitals, including Lord McColl, previously enjoyed their regular visits and operating sessions at Edenbridge with local doctors administering the anaesthetics.
The Hospital was extended in 1965 when a new Out Patients Department which included an enlarged Physiotherapy Department, new Casualty Department, Consulting Room and General Office. It was further extended in 1979/1980 comprising two new examination rooms, a consulting room and an alteration to the general office. £45,000 was raised by the people of Edenbridge and district for this project.
The opening of the Minor Injuries Unit in 1996 was the last major enhancement of the Hospital before the recent refurbishment. It has proved its worth for many Edenbridge residents, school pupils and workers over the years who would otherwise have to travel miles and sometimes have to wait hours to have minor injuries and accidents dealt with elsewhere.