The group was formed in 1948 as a result of the National Health Act (1946) and comprised of various hospitals and hostels established for the care of mentally retarded people of both sexes and all ages which were formerly administered by the County Mental Deficiency Act Committee. Sandhill Park itself had been given to the county as a school for retarded children and was opened in 1925. In 1948 it became the administrative centre of the Group and remained so until the hospitals were dispersed to the appropriate area health authorities in 1972. Cambridge House, Flax Bourton was renamed Farleigh Hospital in 1956. West End House, Shepton Mallet became Norah Fry Hospital in 1958 when Weymouth House, Frome, was renamed Selwood Hospital. The three hospitals were probably built on the sites of or nearby the former workhouses of the unions of Long Ashton, Frome and Shepton Mallet.
|Administrative / biographical background:
SANDHILL PARK was bought with 140 acres in 1919 as a home for girls in need of care. In 1925, the mansion was opened as a hospital for the care of the mentally handicapped, and the Fry, Clark and Acland units were built between 1928 and 1930. From 1932 to the beginning of the Second World War, the hospital became known as a recognised Training School for mentally handicapped nursing.
The Hospital was commandeered by the War Office in 1940 for use as a military hospital and the residents were removed to other institutions. When the British removed to the Middle East in 1941 the Government leased Sandhill to the Americans, the hospital was enlarged to cater for 1000 patients, and hutted wards were built in the grounds. Patients were brought by rail via Bishops Lydeard station.
With the war in Europe over, the hospital returned to the County Council and patients returned to the mansion. Meanwhile, the acute housing shortage was alleviated by moving 145 families into the American-built wards. These were divided into three units and a nominal rent charged for each. By 1948, when the NHS came into being, land was sold off to the Council for proper homes to be built and the Hospital became the responsibility of the South Western Regional Health Board. As money became available, redevelopment took place at Sandhill Park.
In 1961, Newman, Kennedy, Calway and Farrant units were completed and, as more families were rehoused, the vacated buildings were taken over by the hospital for many uses. By 1965, there were 305 patients, two-thirds of them children.
In 1970, self-care flats were created; in 1978, Lee unit was formed, and, subsequent to this and before the closure in 1991/1992, the Chapel of Jesus was opened, and the good name of Sandhill Park had become a byword for the care of the handicapped in Somerset.