The Orchard Hospital, exploring a lost ghost of the Dartford Marshes

by Ian Tokelove
A derelict, overgrown building, once part of the Orchard Hospital on Dartford Marshes

The Orchard Hospital was an isolation unit built on Dartford Marshes in the early 20th century. Bombing, fire and demolition have destroyed much of the hospital, but traces remain.

On Joyce Green Lane, just past Joyce Green Farm, several dirt bike trails lead from the road into the dense vegetation on the right. These lead to and around the hospital, built in 1902 on a former fruit orchard.

Nature flourishes amid the derelict remains of the Orchard Hospital on Dartford Marshes
Nature flourishes amid the remains of the Orchard Hospital

The Orchard was later used as a WW1 military hospital and in 1918, the complex housed more than one thousand Russian refugees, who had been in contact with smallpox.

The hospital was built as a temporary addition to the nearby Joyce Green Hospital, which has now been demolished and lost under recent housing development.

A derelict brick building in the overgrown remains of the Orchard on Dartford Marshes
A derelict brick building in the overgrown remains of the Orchard Hospital

Destruction of the Orchard Hospital

During WW2 the army made use of The Orchard, up until D-Day. Shortly after their departure in 1944, almost half of the wooden hospital buildings were destroyed by enemy bombing and fire. Some accounts say the damage was caused by an early V1 flying bomb.

About a dozen, single-storey brick buildings survived. These were subsequently reused as part of a pig farm, serving the nearby Joyce Green Hospital. These overgrown buildings are now deteriorating, and the entire site is naturally rewilding. 

A burnt out car amid the overgrown remains of the Orchard Hospital on Dartford Marshes

Although the hospital’s wooden, barrack-like huts are completely gone, their concrete foundations support lush growths of mosses, lichens and small plants. Trees and brambles have colonised the spaces between, creating tall barriers.

The hospital paths, including the line of a tramway, remain. They are mossy underfoot and hemmed in by nature.

Close-up of moss growing on a wide stretch of flat concrete

The Orchard Hospital – useful links

https://dartfordhospitalhistories.org.uk/orchard/orchard-introduction-2/

workhouses.org.uk/MAB-Orchard/

1915 map of Dartford Marshes showing Joyce Green Hospital and the Orchard. For full map see: https://maps.nls.uk/view/102342320
1915 map of Dartford Marshes showing the Orchard (top left) and Joyce Green Hospital. For full map see: https://maps.nls.uk/view/102342320
Google Satellite view of the overgrown Orchard Hospital
Google satellite view of the overgrown Orchard Hospital. Joyce Green Hospital is now a modern housing estate.

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