Trip to Parkwood Hall - thank you to all the staff of Parkwood Hall Cooperative Academy for making SHG members and friends welcome with a wonderful lunch and a tour around these historic buildings and grounds. See Gallery 10 for photos.
A very popular presentation by Esme Hodge, in May 2016, was followed up on 25 August by an enjoyable and informative visit by a group of members and friends of Swanley History Group to Parkwood Hall in Beechenlea Lane, Swanley.
During his welcome to us Nick White, Principal, told us that thanks to many supporters, including the late Shireen Richie – stepmother of Guy Richie the film maker - this impressive Victorian building narrowly avoided becoming luxury apartments. Instead Parkwood Hall Co-operative Academy, a state funded not-for- profit registered charity, was established in 2015, continuing to offer residential education for students from 7 to 19 with a range of special educational and/or medical needs including within the autism spectrum .
After a delicious lunch in the imposing dining hall we were taken on a tour of the building and grounds. A great amount of updating and maintenance is constantly required to meet the needs of the students, at the same time endeavouring to retain the integrity and period features of the buildings. Original stained glass windows are being incorporated into modern replacements. Former hospital wards have been converted into classrooms, bedrooms, relaxing spaces whilst retaining aspects of former uses. The chapel is now used for multiple purposes including a gymnasium and the more energetic of us, on such a hot day, climbed up inside one of the towers. The former Nurses Home in the grounds is now apartments for staff. Many trees were lost in the hurricane of 1987 but some fine specimens remain and new play equipment other facilities for students have been acquired with the help of lottery and other funding. We were intrigued to learn that in past times rain water was collected in pipes and stored in holding tanks under the currently unused laundry building and converted into steam by coal fired boilers.
Following our tour we returned to the dining hall for tea and biscuits and a chance to look at the displays of photographs and documents which, for some, prompted memories of personal connections to this fine building.
Christina Tyler, Programme Organiser