ROLLING BACK 162 YEARS OF HISTORY AT ST JOHN’S
Tucked away in the Lincolnshire village of Bracebridge Heath is the former St John’s Hospital. After closing down in 1989, the site is now being re-awakened as developers Mabec renovate its Grade II listed buildings into luxury homes.
St John’s, which was built in 1852, has a rich historical background. Used predominantly as a hospital, St John’s was also home to disadvantaged families who lived and worked on site.
Set over 120 acres, the development is possibly one of the largest such regeneration projects in the country at this time.
Steeped in history, the hospital was initially built at a cost of around £30,000 and designed by architects Hamilton and Thomas Percy.
Now empty for more than 24 years, developer Mabec is sympathetically renovating the site in line with its original age and architecture. St John’s will become St John’s Village, offering 106 luxury homes and apartments – including 77 new build houses in the grounds, as part of the £40 million project.
Many people from surrounding areas worked at the hospital or played in its sports teams and attended the St John’s Social Club.
Cllr Gill Harding-Hubbard, a member of Bracebridge Heath Parish Council, worked at St John’s as a matron maid before becoming a nurse.
She said St John’s held some of the best working years of her life: “I’m happy to hear St John’s is being re-developed. I was there for 20 years between 1969 up until it closed in 1989.
“I was 16 when I started and St John’s provided me with such happy memories – everyone was so friendly and the hospital itself was completely self-sufficient and contained.
“It has now been empty for so long and it’s been awful seeing it go to wreck and ruin. It’s an amazing building that I’m fond of and is an important part of Bracebridge Heath’s history. I can’t wait to see it once the renovation work is complete.”
At least 30 acres of the land was used as a farm which provided paid employment for many of the male patients. A good number of the female patients were employed in needlework.
Colin Shields, from Sleaford, also used to work at the hospital as a nurse between 1973 and 1981, with a short gap in between where he left to continue his training.
He said: “St John’s was a pleasant place to work. The staff were very supportive of one another and the patients. It was a thriving place to work and amazingly self-contained.
“After being left to ruin, now it is almost recognisable again with the regeneration work taking place and I am looking forward to seeing the end result.”
The hospital building is of an Italianate design in ‘blue’ limestone, with dressings of slate, hipped roofs and many stone stacks.
Lincolnshire’s premier estate agent, Pygott and Crone is marketing the site. Tim Downing, senior partner at Pygott and Crone, said: “St John’s Village is an incredible building that has a fascinating story and holds a special place in the hearts of the community surrounding it.
“This development is truly unique and by building into the existing architecture, the site will offer a stunning environment to live in and we are already seeing great interest in St John’s Village from people who want to be part of that history.”
Within St John’s there are still many reminders of earlier times including a Victorian theatre which played films from the period and expansive recreation grounds that were used by around 1,500 residents and staff.
Mark Elliott, director at Mabec, said: “I feel honoured to be able to bring St John’s back to life, it has such a charismatic heritage and being able to create something out of what had become an abandoned building will generate such a special place for people to live in for generations to come.
“The regeneration element of the build will offer new build houses and apartments, including some that will sit inside the shell of the former large theatre to the centre of the site.”
Expanded in 1889, at its height the hospital had 944 beds available for patients, almost four times the original size.
The Mabec team have over 50 years’ experience in property development, the last decade being dedicated to the regeneration of older buildings in the East Midlands.
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