Sign 11 - Passmore Edwards Bay

Passmore Edwards Bay

In 1899 a large home was built on the then extremity of Marine Parade for the reception of delicate and ailing children.  More than half its cost was met by John Passmore Edwards, a Victorian philanthropist who established a foundation which funded a number of libraries and educational institutions in London, Cornwall and elsewhere, particularly for the benefit of the working classes.  He was born, the son of a carpenter, in1823 in Blackwater, between Redruth and Truro.  After an education at the village school he became a journalist and by the early 1840s was working as a free-lance writer in London.  During this time he became an activist and served on several committees which included such causes as the abolition of capital punishment, the suppression of the opium trade and the abolition of flogging in the services.  Passmore Edwards also helped direct the Political Reform Association.  From 1848 onwards he attended various peace conferences in Europe as a delegate from the London Peace Society.  He also published and edited various magazines, promoting such things as peace and temperance.  Over the following years he purchased several successful publications and in 1876 bought the "Echo", the first London daily halfpenny paper.  From 1880 to 1885 John Passmore Edwards was Liberal MP for Salisbury and later he began his philanthropic activities with some of his major beneficiaries being the Whitechapel Art Gallery and the London School of Economics.  He founded 24 libraries in London, the Home Counties and Cornwall, and, in a short period, more than 70 major buildings were established as a result of bequests from him; the Passmore Edwards Home at Clacton being just one of them.  He died in 1911 at the age of 88.

The Home in Clacton was originally maintained by the Sunday School Union, but as Clacton’s fame for its health-giving ozone and champagne air became nationally famous, Passmore Edwards was converted into a convalescent home for Tuberculosis (TB) patients.  The “TB visitors”, as they were known, would often sleep under an open arcade, so ensuring that they breathed in the curative air around the clock.  During the Second World War the building was taken over by the Royal Artillery as headquarters for the ack-ack gun sites stationed along the seafront.  After hostilities ended, and as medical science got the better of TB, so the building stood empty for a while.  But in 1950 it became a convalescent home of Black Notley Hospital, and nine years later the hospital board’s regional rehabilitation centre.  It was announced, in December 1959, that initially 38 patients would be accommodated and it was anticipated that after adaptation and redecoration had been completed the first patients would be received by the end of January 1960.  A second scheme for a new building to provide a gymnasium, physiotherapy, treatment room, occupational therapy and consulting rooms would be proceeded with in 1960-61. 

It was under the management of Dr. Bryn Millard, his wife Margaret, and a small team of dedicated specialists that the rehabilitation centre was set-up and proved to be a resounding success, and in June 1973 the Duchess of Kent flew in by helicopter to visit the centre and talk to staff and patients.

In March 1986 the doors of the rehabilitation centre were closed for the last time, having been home for more than 12,000 patients recovering from strokes, multiple injuries caused by road accidents, amputations and head injuries.  When the building was demolished, to make way for Knightsbridge, Westminster, and Heybridge Court, the contractor unearthed a time capsule – an earthenware jug containing publications of 1897 and 1898, including the Sunday School Chronicle and a draft report of a Sunday School Union review.

Last updated on: 03/09/2021 - 14:48