Fascinating blog brings Benenden’s history alive
When Leslie Carter entered the Benenden sanatorium in Kent with tuberculosis in the 1920s, he was told he had three months to live. Fifty three years later, Carter left the hospital for the last time – as a member of staff.
Although he recovered from TB two years after he was admitted, Carter was so grateful for the help that Benenden had given him he stayed on as a postmaster, shop manager and radiographer – eventually earning the British Empire Medal for services to the hospital.
Carter’s story is one of many fascinating snippets of history that are being highlighted in a new Benenden heritage blog. It’s the labour of love of Denise Telford, the Hospital Trust’s Business Development and Performance Director.
“I felt that there were lots of stories that had to be shared,” says Telford, who has been an employee at the hospital for nearly 30 years, since she started as a nurse. “So I decided to pull together some of these into the blog to tell our story”
Telford started the blog in May, in her spare time, after a wealth of artefacts, photographs and documents from the Benenden Hospital museum had been carefully catalogued by artist Hugh Turvey in preparation for the redevelopment. Although the museum has had to close due to the upgrade, Benenden’s 111-year history is being kept alive in the hospital’s new design.
Telford has been overseeing plans for the interior of the atrium, which will form the hospital’s new patient and visitor entrance. As part of this work, she and Turvey have been working to create an interactive display that will celebrate the hospital’s heritage.
“We’ve got an app that we are working on. Hugh has photographed all the items from the museum and we’re putting our heritage on a timeline which we’re aiming to make available on the website. As you come into the hospital atrium, there will also be some tablets on which people can see the app,” says Telford.
“People tend to like the stories that they can relate to,” she says. “I did one on the hospital’s old swimming pool, which has had more interest than any.”
She explains that the audience seems to be people who are either still involved with the hospital or who have memories of things they see on the blog.
Benenden member branches are also enjoying the connection, says Telford. “I was visited by two branch members this week. They value the heritage yet they understand that people no longer come to look around a museum, and this is a modern way of keeping the stories alive.”
Eventually, says Telford, the aim is for the blog to be up to date and have stories about people now working for Benenden.
“I’m also taking a stand to a Benenden society event in November in Manchester and to conference – as soon as you talk to branches about the artefacts and stories they want to see them,” adds Telford.
“I want to continue to develop the blog and a future timeline app and bring our story right up to date. Celebrating our achievements should help all those involved in the society develop a huge sense of pride. Being associated with this successful organisation is something to celebrate, and certainly something I am very proud of.”
To view Denise Telford’s blog visit: https://benendenheritageproject.wordpress.com/author/benendenheritageproject/