Bandages and Benevolence, the NHS at 65

To mark the 65th Anniversary of the NHS, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust held a special event at Tunbridge Wells Hospital on Friday morning.

Planting new monkey puzzle tree at hospital

Richard Grasby, Lady De L'Isle, and Janet Grasby plant the new monkey puzzle tree.

The event was held at the old Victorian Workhouse chapel overlooking the new hospital with around 50 special guests attending.

In the magnificent surroundings of the chapel the morning began with speeches from Anthony Jones, Chairman of the local NHS Trust; John Weeks, NHS Trust Emergency Planning Manager; Baroness Emerton, now of the House of Lords but previously Chief Nursing Officer of the NHS and Commander of the St. John Ambulance; The Marquess of Abergavenny; Lady De L'Isle, President of the Friends at Pembury Hospital; and the hospital Chief Executive Glenn Douglas.

After the talks everyone moved outside into the sunshine for the first of the main events, the Marquess of Abergavenny unveiling the original stone tablet from the old Kent & Sussex Hospital. This giant one-tonne stone used to adorn a wall of one of the corridors of the old building and now that it has been cleaned up and laid into the lawn in front of the chapel it looked really rather marvellous. It was a very fitting occasion for the Marquess as the stone was originally given to the old hospital in 1948 by his family to mark the beginning of the NHS.

Bandages and Benevolence

The Marquess of Abergavenny with the 1948 stone tablet.

Shortly after, two monkey puzzle trees, donated by Bedgebury Pinetum, were planted beside the stone by Lady De L’Isle and members of the Grasby family. Dr Grasby was the last Medical Officer of the Workhouse here, and in 1935 his young daughter Janet helped plant a tree at Pembury Hospital to commemorate the Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary – she returned today to help plant the new trees, 78 years later. Sadly that original tree had to be removed to make way for the helipad at the new hospital.

The original foundation stone of the old Kent & Sussex Hospital had been transferred here too and now stands alongside one of the footpaths, it has also been cleaned up and looks tremendous in its new surroundings amongst the pretty wildflower beds. It used to contain a time capsule but this was unfortunately badly damaged by water and the contents ruined. A new time capsule was created which included copies of staff and patient magazines, drawings by local children, a copy of the Courier newspaper from the day the new hospital opened, and a new book on the history of local hospitals. Baroness Emerton placed the new time capsule into the stone.

Hang on, I hear you shout, what new book? Well this is the part of the morning that I have been looking forward to for over a year. John Weeks, officially launched his new book, Bandages & Benevolence - The History of the Tunbridge Wells Hospitals. John has spent the past five years researching material for the book, calling on the NHS Trust's archives as well as personal memories from staff that walked the wards. John tells the tale of the history of the hospitals all the way from its origins as a small High Street Dispensary in 1828 to the ultra-modern £250million site in Pembury today, and to think it all started when he found some old photographic slides in a skip.

Bandages and Benevolence

John Weeks with his new book.

I have only had a chance to start the book but I am unbelievably impressed already, especially by the terrific historical photographs and diagrams.

The book is available now from Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone Hospital (7am-7pm in the hospital restaurants), Amazon, Waterstones, or send a cheque for £10 (P&P free!) to:

Bandages & Benevolence Book
Emergency Planning Unit
Level 3
Tunbridge Wells Hospital
Tonbridge Road
Pembury, Kent

I urge you to give a copy a place in your Tunbridge Wells book collection.

Click to see a gallery of photos of today's event.

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  • I am a spritely 30-something living with my beautiful wife in the most fabulous town in the entire world, Royal Tunbridge Wells.

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