In a new book, the long-forgotten Sanatorium emerges from the shadows, shedding light on Folkestone’s vibrant past. The work delves into the intertwined fate of a town and its infectious disease hospital, revealing the heroines who risked everything to safeguard lives.

The heart of this narrative lies in the true story of how Folkestone’s fortunes became inextricably linked to the Sanatorium which played a pivotal role in the town’s history. But what drove its creation?

Folkestone, once an elite watering hole, faced a dire threat of a single outbreak of infectious disease which could tarnish its reputation irreversibly. The need for a place to isolate afflicted visitors became urgent and the Sanatorium stepped up to fill this crucial role.

At the heart of this saga are the unsung heroines—the Fever Nurses. These dedicated women risked their lives to save others. Initially tending to wealthy visitors, they later extended their care to the ordinary poor living in the town’s slums. Some perished at their posts, while others battled diseases or faced industrial accidents.

The book takes readers on a journey through key periods and issues including the town’s transformation from a humble fishing village to a fashionable resort.

  • Gentrification: Explore how Folkestone reinvented itself.
  • The Sanatorium as Insurance: Discover why the isolation hospital was a necessary safeguard.
  • World War I: Learn about the impact on Folkestone, including the involvement of Belgian and Canadian military personnel.
  • Early Rubbish Disposal: An unexpected aspect of the town’s history.
  • Depression-Era Eastern Slums: A glimpse into the struggles faced by residents.
  • World War II: The evacuation of London children to Folkestone and the subsequent evacuation of all local children, disabled individuals, pregnant women, and the blind.
  • Nazi Bombing Raids: The Sanatorium’s destruction during the first German raid on Folkestone.
  • Post-War Era: The 1945 General Election, the birth of the NHS, and the Sanatorium’s eventual closure.
  • Advancements in Medicine: How medical progress shaped the post-war landscape.
  • The book weaves together personal stories, historical events, and societal shifts, painting a vivid portrait of Folkestone’s past. As readers turn its pages, they’ll uncover forgotten tales and gain a deeper appreciation for the resilience of those who shaped this coastal town.

While it may have faded from memory, its legacy lives on in the pages of Sue Sheppard’s book. However, a living link to the Sanatorium remains, namely 92-year-old Pearl Donnelly nee Parker, who is Folkestone born and bred, and can recall her 9-week stay in the hospital in the mid-1930s! There’s even a photograph of young Pearl being visited by her grandparents.

The book includes colour and black and white photographs plus original artwork by talented local artist Lin Frank and is available from:

  • Folkestone Bookshop, Tontine Street, Folkestone Price: £12.00

Written by Susan Sheppard MA, ‘Infected Folkestone’ is raising funds for Folkestone and Ashford Hospital Charities

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By Ed

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