One of the early issues to deal with during WW1 was dealing with wounded soldiers. While there was some expansion of existing hospitals a large number of other buildings were used to provide temporary wartime hospitals. There was a large mixture of different types of building used including schools, halls and private houses. Some 352 auxiliary military hospitals were established in the London district, the current Borough of Bromley was ‘home’ to around 50 of these, perhaps because of the proximity rail routes into London.
The first major influx of wounded soldiers was in mid October 1914 were almost all were Belgian. The scene was described in Kent’s Care for the Wounded
Scene, Bromley South Station, midday on Wednesday, October 14th, 1914 — at the end of the up platform. Scores of motor-cars waiting along the “goods ” roadway; a grey oppressive sky overhead, but the rain holding off whilst the first trainload of wounded and dishevelled Belgian soldiers was being detrained with hasty tenderness by members of the Men’s Voluntary Aid Detachment. The nurses of the Women’s Detachments had already refreshed the valiant travellers with draughts of hot coffee and Bovril, the ministrations and sympathy of these quick-witted smiling angels upon earth being just what the poor warriors needed so sorely.
While some headed to existing hospitals many ended up in private homes, these included several Auxiliary Home Hospitals including four beds at 88 Hayes Road.
There were a further 12 beds at a house in Barnfield Wood Road
A further 8 were in the rather grander surroundings of Bromley Palace. It was built in 1777 for the Bishop of Rochester, replacing a building dating from 1184 which itself was built on the site of a Saxon manor house. Diocesan boundary changes in 1845 led to the Palace being sold to Coles Child, a wealthy coal merchant who subsequently extended the building. The Grade II listed house remained in the family until just after WW1 when it became a finishing school, then a teacher training college before becoming part of Bromley Civic Centre in 1982.
These homes along with others like them tended to be treated as annexes to larger institutions, but as capacity grew during the war they were phased out, with no new ones being accepted from April 1915. All the three examples here closed during 1915.
I’d pass by the first house and never suspect it served as a hospital years ago. To be honest, it’d be the last thing to cross my mind with any regular house/building.
I guess that is the point though, I have run past that first one dozens of time without thinking about it. But it was ordinary people volunteering to take wounded soldiers into their homes as part of the ‘war effort’ while better solutions were found, often doing some of the nursing themselves.