Foredown Isolation Hospital

Bleak and isolated

What a bleak day it was when these photos were taken shortly before Foredown Isolation Hospital was demolished in the late 1980’s.  Built in 1883, probably the patients also faced many a bleak day throughout its 100-year history, so isolated from their families and loved ones.

Infectious disease

In the nineteenth century death from infectious disease was very frequent, most vulnerable were children.  It should be remembered that at this time diseases like diphtheria, polio, smallpox and tuberculosis were common killers. It was thought that rest, fresh air, and of course isolation from others was the best form of treatment. 

1893 Isolation Hospitals Act

It seems that with much forethought Hove Corporation provided the hospital, prior to it becoming compulsory for local authorities to make available such facilities, with the passing of the 1893 Isolation Hospitals Act.  The facilities were improved in the early 1900’s with the addition and extension of buildings, and of course the water tower, which is still there today.

Closure in the 1970s

Improvements in sanitation, vaccination and the development of antibiotics, lead to the closure of many isolation hospitals, although Foredown survived into the early 1970s.  The housing estate bordered by, Fox Way, Foredown Road and the A293 now stand on the land once so deliberately isolated from the rest of Hove and Portslade.


Comments about this page

  • After being diagnosed with the dreaded Polio in Royal Alexandra hospital, I was transferred quickly to Foredown . This was a very traumatic time for a seven year old, but looking back the treatment given probably helped save my life. Think I was incarcerated there for about a year and was finally moved to Queen Mary’s Hospital, Carshalton.

    By Peter David Collings (27/04/2012)
  • Hi. I was admitted to Foredown Hospital in 1955 then transferred to Queen Mary’s Hospital, Carshalton. Is there anyone out there who was in the hospital at these times? I was 12 -13 years at that time. Many thanks Ray

    By Ray Cook (03/09/2012)
  • I grew up in nearby Southdown Road, and as a member of the local church choir can remember visiting the hospital to sing Christmas carols to the patients, including one polio victim in an iron lung. I was later admitted to the hospital myself, around 1960, with suspected meningitis. Fortunately all the tests were negative, and I was discharged several weeks later, only to come out in chicken pox the next day! Although the hospital was demolished, its water tower was retained and is open to the public as the ‘Foredown Tower’.

    By Steve Jepps (02/10/2012)
  • As a 3 year old, I was diagnosed with polio, and sent to Foredown hospital. I think I was there for about 6 weeks, but to a 3 year old this seemed like an eternity, not being able to see my parents, and new baby sister. I remember the nurses, and how they soon took the place of my Mum, and riding a little bike, outside in the area where the ambulances used to pull in, and rushing on to the grass as fast as I could on my bike, in case they run me over. When Mum and Dad collected me, (in my Uncle’s taxi), I remember being very shy, and really just wanting to stay at Foredown. I don’t know how serious I had polio, but don’t seem to have any effects from it now at the age of 65 (touch wood). Sandie

    By Sandie (03/10/2012)
  • I too was sent to Foredown Isolation Hosp. in 1950 aged 5 years old, after contracting Scarlet Fever. I was terrified and remember trying to tie myself to my bed with a big ball of wool so that the ambulance man could not take me. I was also there for six weeks with no visitors in a bleak Nov/Dec. so no playing outside for me. I could not take my favourite cuddly toy with me as I was told that it would have to be incinerated when I left. My parents used to send me Tiny Tim comics & little notes/post cards but it was all rather traumatic. I remember a Nurse Pale with lovely blond hair who was kind. I was taught to count up to ten in French by another little girl & was quite proud of that. Like you Sandie, when my Mum came to collect me I remember feeling quite shy and hanging on to the nurse’s hand. It just wouldn’t happen nowadays but as you say, we survived to tell the tale!

    By Elaine (21/03/2013)
  • I went to Foredown in 1947, aged 7, with suspected diptheria it must have been over Christmas time as I remember the nurses in their red cloaks with a lantern singing carols. I had been allowed to take my rag bodied dolly with me but told I couldn’t have her when leaving. I was told I screamed the place down. They put her in the ovens to cleanse her hoping her china head wouldn’t melt. It didn’t but she never had any clothes again, just her raggy body!

    By Joan Cumbers (21/03/2013)
  • I was in foredown for 5 weeks in 1966 I had mumps but must have been very infectious. It was in the winter and know we had quite heavy snow and still my parents visited me everyday. I don’t remember a lot but just being shut in this glass bowl 24/7 being really bored. I think I got so bored I started drawing on the bed sheets!

    By Graham Dale (22/03/2013)
  • I remember going to Foredown Hospital in the late ’60s, being transferred from the Royal Alexandra Hospital with yellow jaundice. I remember being in hospital for 4 weeks and I had trouble with going to no 2s and they gave me a laxative which I used to call blackjack ‘cos of the colour. I also remember one day my dad and my brother Barry came to see me and after they went they were peering in the window saying goodbye when this nurse came in with the blackjack and I was crying ‘cos it tasted horrible.

    By Stephen Raynsford (23/03/2013)
  • I was taken to Foredown Hospital with meningitis in August 1963. I was in isolation for several weeks. I lived near Guildford, Surrey at that time (as I still do) but had been staying with my great aunt in Brighton during the school holidays. My parents got there to see me most weekends but I remember feeling very lonely, although the nurses and doctors were all very nice. I don’t really know how long I was there but I do remember that I went there a few days after the Great Train Robbery and by the time I went home all the gang members had been caught!

    By Steve Dandridge (27/01/2014)
  • I was admitted to Foredown in the mid 60s with meningitis.  I have memories of family visiting, Mum and Dad were allowed in with masks on and my brothers and sisters had to stand outside the window.  I would like to know if there are any records of patients so that I can find out how long I was hospitalised.  I know it was for quite a while.

    By Sue Kelly (09/07/2014)
  • I too was here for some 3 months in 1955 when I was about 12 to 14 months old having caught salmonella from a cat. I needed to be isolated. I do not remember anything as I was so young but my Mother informs me that I was unable to be visited by my parents during my stay. They were allowed to ring up each day in the early evening when they would be provided with an update on any progress of my recovery I may have made, usually receiving the same report day after day. When I was eventually allowed out and home my parents arrived but I was reluctant to go with them having made a strong bond with my Nurse. Both my parents were upset as well so it was not a happy occasion for anyone and a tense journey back home to Blackboys.

    By Stephen Vango (06/03/2018)
  • I was hospitalised at Foredown in the spring of 1953 with measles and bronchial pneumonia. I was four and a half years old. I remember at night we were tightly tucked in bed, and not allowed to move. The nurse in charge was very strict, to the point where I was afraid to ask to go to the toilet.  My mother was not allowed to visit, but must have brought some toys in for me. Getting out of hospital a few weeks later was a palaver. Like a previous commentator, I had a tantrum at not being allowed to take home my toys. Eventually the nurses agreed that my celluloid doll could have a disinfectant bath, like me, before going into another room where my fresh clothes awaited me, then another room where my mother was waiting. She had borrowed a pushchair because I was so weak. From our home at 119, Hangleton Road, I looked across the golf links to the water tower at Foredown every day and remembered an unhappy stay at Foredown Hospital. Great to visit Foredown Tower in 2018 and see the camera obscura and fantastic views.

    By Sarah Burdett (nee Sheard) (29/07/2018)
  • I remember being at Foredown in February 1963 for a month when I was 6 and snow was thick on the ground for weeks. I had dysentery and was taken there after slipping into a coma one night, apparently the ambulance had chains on its wheels. I remember waking up in a strange place, bursting into tears and the nurse telling me off. Different times. I do remember a male nurse called Mr Gates who used to make me laugh. I also remember not being able to bring home any of the toys and books I’d been given apart from two little dolls that were washable.

    By Elaine Pumphrey (19/07/2019)
  • I was admitted to Foredown Hospital in 1952, aged 11, and spent 9 months in total in there, I was diagnosed with TB Meningitis and in isolation for Many weeks. I still remember the dreaded “lumber punctures”, and endless penicillin injections in alternative bottocks, that time has passed ,I have forgotten how many I did receive. I remember the name of Dr Snell, and also still have images of the matron, who was so gentle and calm to us children. I remember during my stay, which included my birthday in November, Christmas, and the Queens coronation, being given a set of coronation coins in a plastic wallet, which I still have to this day, plus a coronation mug and Orange. At this time, was Peter Bellchamber, who was in an Iron lung, dreadful machine and very frightening to us youngsters, unfortunately Peter did not make it, on waking one morning, the matching was quiet and empty. At 78, going on 79, I still well remember a few of the times and thankfully, I am here to remember them.

    By Tony Lago (12/08/2020)
  • In its last years (70s to late 80s?), Foredown Hospital was used as a home and school for handicapped children. My mother worked there for many years as a night nurse, and I worked there for a few months as a porter. The hospital has a wonderful location on the South Downs and was a small community. In the 80s, there was a big political move to close down older institutions for handicapped children and put the children into the community in small houses. Its hard to say if this was better for the children or not, no one seems to have followed up and asked how successful was this change, though it was felt by many that all was driven by cost cutting rather than by care concerns. Certainly not all new community houses worked out for all the children. Its a shame that Foredown Hospital, like so many cottage type hospitals were closed with little regard.

    By John Ward (02/01/2021)
  • My Mum Frances (now Garrard) who is in her early 80’s remembers nursing patients at Foredown hospital as part of her nurse training.
    She remembers the polio patients and TB sufferers as well as people with other infectious diseases.

    By Julie Garrard (28/04/2021)

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