Written by Marion Edwards
The Beeches Hospital at Wray Lane, Reigate Hill, was founded in March 1916 by Mrs Agnes C Brown of Brokes Lodge, Reigate, as a convalescent home for sick and wounded servicemen, a fact appreciated by the county press which reported Beeches Hospital, that excellent institution in Wray-lane so efficiently conducted by Mrs Brown of Brokes Lodge, Reigate Hill … (Surrey Mirror, Tuesday 17 October 1916). Initially, the hospital was auxiliary to the 3rd London General Hospital, and comprised 20 beds; after local events to raise funds for its erection, a hut extension was built later in 1916 and resulted in the availability of 40 more beds.
The Surrey Mirror of Friday 29 September 1916 reported that A grand patriotic concert under the auspices of the Reigate Town Band was given at the Public Hall, Reigate, on Wednesday evening, in aid of … the extension of the Auxiliary War Hospital at The Beeches, Reigate Hill … ’
The nursing staff at the hospital comprised three sisters and ten members of the VAD. Mrs Brown’s daughter, Hilda Brown, was a volunteer nurse at The Beeches and in 2016 her grandson, Mr Philip Angier, presented her own photograph album of life at the hospital to the Surrey History Centre (SHC ref 9585/1). She appears in the album as ‘Nurse Hilda’ (back row, third from left), as does the founder ‘Mrs B’ (centre).
The patients were encouraged to undertake a variety of occupations, and the album shows the more able assisting with hay-making. However, for the not-so able, embroidery was an option and one that some were obviously very good at, to judge from this picture of a ship.
The patients were often entertained with local activities, as this report from the Surrey Mirror (Friday 23 February 1917) shows: Wounded Soldiers Entertained.— A party of … wounded soldiers from the Blechingley Red Cross Hospital and the Beeches Auxiliary Hospital, Reigate, were entertained at the Adult Schools, Garlands-road, Redhill, the 7th inst. The soldiers were obviously appreciative of such efforts: 500 soldiers who have passed through the auxiliary hospital at the Beeches, Reigate, many of whom have returned to the trenches, have in various ways expressed their thanks and appreciation for the many kindnesses they have received, during their stay (Surrey Mirror Friday 30 March 1917).
In 1918, the hospital was annexed to the Military Hospital, Lewisham, at which time it moved to larger premises at Fairfield, Beech Road, Reigate, where it was able to accommodate 50 patients. In that year, Mrs Beech (among other Surrey ladies similarly involved with war work) was honoured for her activities at the hospital. The Beeches closed in 1919.
Photographs of the interior of The Beeches have been reproduced from the book ‘Social scenes of yesterday, glimpses of Reigate and Redhill’ by Alan Ingram (1992), and remain in his copyright