St. Augustine’s

St. Augustine's Hospital, Canterbury


Hospital Name: St. Augustine’s Hospital
Previous Names: East Kent or Chartham Downs Asylum, Chartham Mental Hospital
Location: Cockering Road, Chartham, Kent
Principal Architect: John Giles and Gough
Layout: Corridor-pavilion plan
Status: Mostly demolished
Opened: 5th April 1875
Closed: Autumn 1993


From 1833 to 1872 the County of Kent managed to provide accommodation for inmates at its lunatic asylum in Barming Heath near Maidstone, however it was becoming obvious by this point that despite various additions, a second asylum site would be required. It was determined by the visiting committee that the new asylum should be more convenient for the population of East Kent who were remote from the present site at Barming Heath and a suitable site at Chartham, near Canterbury, was selected.

The plan for the site was developed by the architectural firm, John Giles and Gough who were beginning to make their name in workhouse and asylum design.

The plan for the new asylum was to utilise the Corridor-Pavilion type layout which incorporated features of both the traditional corridor plan and the recently advocated pavilion principles. This combination took the form of a linear block running either side of the central services with male and female divisions located to the east and west respectively. Projecting north on either side of the administration block , stores, laundry and engineering department were two or three storey ward blocks enabling further segregation and categorisation of inmates. To the south of the main block stood the chapel, airing courts and gardens as well as a number of staff cottages located on the estate boundaries. The estate included a farm, sports grounds and cemetery with chapel of rest.

As the estate developed further additional ward blocks were constructed, gradually occupying the former open grounds to the south of the main building around the turn of the century and into the 1920?s. By this time the hospital was known as Chartham Mental Hospital. A new nurse?s home (Godfrey House) was constructed during 1931 between the female blocks and road south of the site to free space within the main building for patients and ease overcrowding, assisted by the construction of the new colony for Kent?s mental defectives at Leybourne Grange near Ryarsh, enabling people with what would now be termed learning disabilities to be moved to their own dedicated institution.. A new admission and treatment complex (Oak House) was constructed to the east of the main hospital site on what had been farmland and included two detached villas (Juniper and Redwood) for convalescent patients, one for each gender. The design was on very similar lines to that already constructed at North Down House, Barming Mental Hospital and the Leybourne Grange Colony.

With the intervention of World War II the new admissions unit was requisitioned for the military and never returned to its intended use, becoming a neurological unit. The main hospital was then approaching its most overcrowded having received additional patients from other mental hospitals required for war use. Under the NHS the hospital was renamed St. Augustine?s Hospital and developed closer links with the nearby St. Martin?s Hospital, Canterbury, resulting in a joint management committee and re-arrangement of bed utilisation across the two sites. St. Martin?s became the more acute site with longer stay chronic patients based at the more remote St. Augustine?s. A new special school, Beech House School was developed adjacent to the former convalescent villas and these were utilised for boarder?s accommodation.

As part of the process of discharging long stay psychiatric patients into community settings, St. Augustine?s was earmarked as one of the earlier closures. This was enabled by St. Martin?s already having taken on the acute role and avoiding the need to develop these services into new mental health units as at other mental hospitals.

At St. Augustine?s wards were gradually closed and services contracted towards the core of the site allowing outlying structures to be emptied and sealed. The stores department was merged with other hospitals in the area and relocated to the now vacated Oak house site. The hospital eventually closed during late 1993.

Since closure the majority of the buildings have been demolished within the main complex, only the administration block, chapel and water tower having survived. Numerous outlying residences and staff cottages remain in private occupation and the farm survives in a partially utilised state. Oak house, Juniper, Redwood and Beech House School survive in derelict condition but are likely to be redeveloped in the near future.

External Photos

Internal Photos



15 responses to “St. Augustine’s”

  1. Thanks for posting. I stayed at Redwood during 1984/85 and remember it well. Shame the whole site is in a ruin.

  2. My grandfather died here in 1983 and I am researching where he was buried. If anyone reading has any info about the burial grounds of the patients who died here I’d be very grateful, thanks.

  3. My Mother and I tried for many years to ascertain where my Great Uncle who spent the rest of his life in Chartham following WW1 was buried. I applied to the Archives at Maidstone for his records and I believe that is where I got a copy of the Register of Burials in the Burial Ground belonging to the Kent County Lunatic Asylum, Chartham. The page I have lists my Great Uncle and the grave number. He died in 1964. There is a Chapel of Rest which I found a picture on FindaGrave website site, It looks like the cemetary is in a clearing around the Chapel of Rest, it is in Cockering Road, Chartham and it does give a few memorials but there does not appear to have been one for my relative. I have not been up there since to see but will go at some point. When I originally drove around the grounds which is now a large housing estate the actual Hospital Chapel was fenced off but I believe now it is private housing. I was grateful that I found out more about his life and final resting place. Such a waste of what could have been a wonderful life had it not been for the war. He was discharged from the army in 1919 as not physically fir for war services and spent the rest of his life in Chartham.

    Hope this helps you find your Grandfather.

  4. My great grandfather was a nurse here , I have his certificate as qualifying and living at 2 staff cottages in 1922 . Does anyone know whether these were part of the hospital grounds and whether they have been demolished?

  5. I was at redwood house 1979 – 80 and whoud like to catch up with my friends from then my telephone number is 07704329684 my name is Russell Meech

  6. I was a social worker at St Augustine’s hospital from 1973-1975. Whilst working for Kent County Council I was involved in the closure of the hospital and re-locating patients in the community. I have completed a PhD thesis on mental health policy which in
    Includes a section on the history of St Augustines
    Linda Christian

    • Dear Linda – my Mother was sectioned twice when i was a little girl, I was born in ’67 but I believe she was there in the early 70’s. I wonder if you can help me try to sort out my memories of the place. Was there an oak staircase in the entrance? And, would I have seen people wandering around in straight jackets? My Mum went through ECT, we think (as she can’t remember) but putting the pieces together that she was treated for post natal depression but it wasn’t widely accepted then. Any help would be much appreciated. Best wishes Louise Matthews

      • I worked at St Augustine’s from 1970-75; I never saw a strait jacket in use, and even when they had been used, no-one would have been wandering around wearing them. They were part of the confinement, as were padded cells, in the ‘old days’.
        ECT was used a lot for depression in the early 70s, and one of the side effects is memory loss. But worth saying that many people with depression were not treated that way.

        • Hello, there. I was wondering if anyone here that worked there remembers my grandmother.. Mary Cox. She worked there from about 1950 until 1992.

  7. I was in oak house when first went there then juniper .rememeber when crowd of kids broke in to juniper from redwood got the pool ball through them all over the field behind got in through the rubish hatch .was there 80 82 ish

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