Cottage Hospital to Castlewood

Cottage Hospital
Woolwich, Plumstead and District Cottage Hospital

The hoardings around the former Cottage Hospital on Shooters Hill have come down, revealing a restored and spruced up Queen Anne style house where not so long ago there was a boarded-up, vandalised wreck. Like other nearby historic buildings such as the Police Station and the Royal Military Academy, the Cottage Hospital has been transformed into housing by combining a converted and restored old building with new houses and flats. The picture at the top shows how it looked in its heyday, and that at the bottom how it is now – post-restoration and conversion.

I love maps, especially old ones, so it was fascinating to see the history of the building illustrated in a sequence of 6 maps from 1869 to 1991 in a “map regression” presented by developers Turnhold in their Supporting Statement for the planning application. The maps clearly show the hospital develop from its original T shape with the addition of wings and annexes over the years. The statement also contains an interesting set of photographs of the building before it was restored. The early history of the hospital is described on the Lost Hospitals of London website:

The Woolwich, Plumstead & District Cottage Hospital was founded in 1888 by Mr. William Woodford, who remained its Honorary Secretary until 1912.

Memorial stone at Castlewood
Memorial stone at Castlewood

A half-acre site on Shooters Hill was leased from the Secretary of State for War in December 1888 and the foundation stone for the building was laid by the Duke of Cambridge in September 1889.

The Hospital opened in November 1890. The 3-storey building contained 12 beds, two of which were reserved for private patients.

By 1912 the Hospital had 12 beds and 2 cots. Schoolchildren referred by the LCC for removal of tonsils and adenoids accounted for a great number of admissions. The Hospital also undertook herniotomies and minor operations. Out-patients were also seen, although there was no formal Out-Patients Department.

The Cottage Hospital buildings stopped being a hospital in 1928 when patients were transferred to the newly opened War Memorial Hospital further up Shooters Hill.

English Heritage have recently released a draft of Volume 48, Woolwich, of their Survey of London. This is an excellent read for anyone interested in local history, and covers the story of  Woolwich in marvellous detail. It’s a pity it doesn’t cover more of Shooters Hill, but Chapter 10 does bring the story of the Cottage Hospital up to date:

The cottage hospital was adapted as a training school and home for nurses. After subsequent use as a carpenters’ workshop, in 1962 Bexley Hospital extended and reopened the premises as Castlewood Day Hospital. Final health-service use in the 1990s was as the Signpost Castlewood Centre, for the rehabilitation of teenage drug-users. Turnhold Properties acquired the disused hospital and, after a period of dereliction, the buildings were converted in 2011–12 for Family Mosaic, a housing association, with the Hill Partnership as developers and contractors. Forge Architects supplied designs, with details and subsequent work by Saunders Boston, architects. The result was Castlewood, a complex of five flats and six houses incorporating a new pale-brick terrace to the rear, of two and a half storeys.

So the building’s name is now Castlewood, presumably because it was once the Castlewood Day Hospital. Not to be confused with the mansion named Castlewood, shown on 1914 and earlier maps, which once stood in Castle Wood to the south of Severndroog castle, or another former mansion, Castle House,  home of Major Charles Phillips who donated the land for the War Memorial Hospital.

Former Cottage Hospital
Former Cottage Hospital today

Shooters Hill Shelter

Samuel Edmund Phillips memorial in Shooters Hill shelter
Samuel Edmund Phillips memorial in Shooters Hill shelter

I came across the name Samuel Edmund Phillips while reading about his son, Major Charles Edmund Stanley Phillips O.B.E., F.R.S.E., F.Inst.P., who used to ride his horse from Shooters Hill to his workplace at the Royal Marsden Hospital in South Kensington. I often walk up Shooters Hill past his memorial shelter near Christ Church School, and wonder about its place in local history. Samuel’s obituary in the Electrical Engineer records that he achieved a lot in his life of just 45 years:

It is with deep regret we have to record the death of Mr. Samuel Edmund Phillips, which occurred somewhat suddenly at his residence at Shooter’s Hill, Kent, on Saturday last. He had been in failing health for some years, and suffered greatly from an internal complaint which proved to be caused by an ulcer.

Mr. Phillips, when a boy, was brought into contact with telegraphy, his father being at that time engaged with Dr. Whitehouse in carrying out experimental work in connection with the first Atlantic cable. He subsequently accompanied his father in the first Malta and Alexandria cable expedition, and in 1863 he became a member of the staff which Colonel Patrick Stewart formed to go out with the Persian Gulf cable, remaining at Bushire as a junior clerk. At the end of three years’ service he returned to England, and obtained an appointment on the electrical staff of Messrs. Latimer Clark, Forde, and Co., leaving these gentlemen to become electrician to Mr. W. T. Henley, in whose service he remained for 10 years. At Mr. Henley’s works he was appointed manager of the cable department, and occasionally he accompanied cable expeditions as head of the electrical department. In 1875 he joined Mr. W. Claude Johnson in partnership, and a small works was established at Charlton. This formed the nucleus of the present extensive range of factories which are so well known to all connected with the electrical industry throughout the world.

As an inventor Mr. Phillips has given us the oil insulator, which has not only been largely adopted for telegraph lines in India, Egypt, and other countries, but has proved of immense value for overhead lines for electric lighting and the transmission of power in all quarters of the globe.

Mr. Phillips took the keenest interest in scientific matters generally, and to his good judgment and sound common sense may be attributed in a great measure the success of his undertakings. His genial manner and generous nature made him a universal favourite, and his loss will be deplored by a very wide circle of friends and acquaintances. It is not customary even in deploring the loss of an old and valued friend to abstain from the impersonal, yet we cannot help saying that the late Mr. Phillips was one of those quiet, unobtrusive men to whom England owes so much. He, in common with his surviving partner, was imbued with the view that it is necessary for a firm’s success to have a reputation for thoroughness, and together they built up a reputation for the firm’s work that gives it a foremost place among our manufacturers.

Postcard of Memorial Fountain from 1930s
Postcard of Memorial Fountain from 1930s

Samuel’s memorial has an eventful history. Originally a drinking fountain given in 1893, it was allowed to fall into disrepair, and was restored in 1957. Then in 1985, according to David Lloyd Bathe’s history of Shooters Hill, “Steeped In History”, it was reduced to a pile of rubble by a heavy vehicle, but was restored by the local council. The line “Write me as one that loves his fellow men” on the memorial comes from the poem Abou Ben Adhem by the poet and writer James Henry Leigh Hunt:

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

The Johnson & Phillips company that Samuel founded with Walter Claude Johnson was based at the Victoria Works in Victoria Way, Charlton, which was hit by one of the last V2 rockets to fall in Greenwich on 9th March 1945.

Castle House
Castle House, home of Samuel Edmund Phillips

The Phillips family lived in Castle House, which is shown on the 1866 ordnance survey map as being located just off to the east of the track that leads from Shooters Hill to Severndroog Castle.  Major Charles Phillips later sold the Telegraph Field, where the old semaphore had stood, to the War Memorial Hospital Committee for £3500 to form part of the site for the new hospital, along with the crown property Hazelwood and an adjacent strip of land.  He later donated the sum he had received for the Telegraph Field to the fund for building the new hospital. The place where Castle House once stood now appears to be a car park in the Memorial Hospital grounds.

What an interesting shelter!

As a technical aside: I had been trying, unsuccessfully, for some time to take the “panoramic” view of the memorial at the top of this post using the free Nokia Panorama software on my N8 mobile phone. It didn’t seem to be able to match up adjacent sections, despite the, to my eyes, abundant clues. Then I upgraded my phone to the Symbian Belle release, which included a free copy of Scalado’s Camera Lover Pack, saving myself a whole one pound and 50p. Scalado‘s software worked first time; I should have known those clever Swedes wouldn’t let me down!

It’s a great shame to see the end of the Symbian software that still drives the majority of the world’s smartphones despite its rapid decline over the last year following Nokia’s adoption of Windows Phone, but great that the Nokia Symbian engineers are going out with a bang with their 41MP camera phone the 808 PureView.

Samuel Edmund Phillips Memorial Shelter
Samuel Edmund Phillips Memorial Shelter

Shooters Hill the Painting


Shooters Hill Wood by Andrew Pepworth

Today I added a painting entitled Shooters Hill Wood, by Andrew Pepworth to the collection of header images on display, at first glance it appears to be a summertime scene. As for the location, I’d hazard a guess that the view is of somewhere in Castle Wood as the footpath seems to be quite narrow and steep…

Shooters Hill, The Poster

Poster from London Transport Museum

Whilst at the recent Severndroog Open House Event I was looking at the exhibition boards and a reproduction of an old poster advertising trams to castlewood back in the 1920’s really caught my attention.

It’s presumably painted from the point of view of the number 44/46 tram stop, wherever that was at the time, with a scene leading up towards the castle, and as it turns out, is available to buy from the London Transport Museum.