Convalescent Home in Ventnor


Memories of Harold Beck, 83 years later


I was about 4 years old when I was in a Convalescent Home in Ventnor which puts it around 1928.

I recall that the Home was high up overlooking the sea.  I probably arrived on Guy Fawkes night for I was taken to see fireworks some distance away, looking out over a large garden.  I have an image in my mind of watching the display standing by a huge stone bowl on a massive pedestal - though since I was quite small the garden ornament may actually have been of no great size.  I also remember that my father visited me once during my time there - he brought gifts, which were probably Christmas presents.  I imagine my mother was tied to the home in London during the run-up to the appearance of my next brother or subsequently.

In 2008, while on a holiday in Ventnor, I identified the Home as St. Catherine's and there is little doubt that I was accommodated in Elm Grove, a property high up on the hill overlooking Ventnor and with extensive grounds, which was acquired by St. Catherine's in 1923.

For many years the nursing of patients and the running of the Home had been placed in the hands of the Sisters of East Grinstead, an Anglican Order in Surrey.  At the time I was there a Sister Kathleen was in charge and she instituted a policy that the children in her care should remain at the Home full time, including holidays.  In essence the Home became a School as well as providing nursing care.  Apparently it was also Sister Kathleen's policy that the children should brave the elements when walking from Elm Grove to other buildings in the Home and School complex and in expeditions in and around Ventnor.


A Note on the History of St. Catherine's Home.

The climate of Ventnor was considered very beneficial for recovery from pulmonary conditions and in 1859 the Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest was was built on the Western outskirts of Ventnor close to sea level and with all rooms facing South.  The Hospital expanded rapidly and was especially used for the treatment of tuberculosis, which was rampant in all sections of the population at that time

Some 10 years later, on the initiative of the wife of the Vicar of St. Catherine's Anglican Church in Ventnor, a charity was established to provide care for people with pulmonary conditions, the idea being that treatment should be provided for the less well-off sufferers.

St. Catherine's Home expanded rapidly with properties being purchased and facilities provided as funds became available.  Soon after 1910 the Home took in children suffering from asthma and under nourishment and a little later came the policy that the children should remain at the Home full time, including holidays.  In essence the Home became a School as well as providing nursing care.  In 1923 Elm Grove was bought and in 1926 this became the place of residence for the youngest boys and girls.

What was St. Catherine's Home is now a residential Special School for children and young people with speech, language and communication impairments.

Harold Beck

August 2011