RCH is unlike anywhere else. Steeped in history, RCH was purpose-built as a convalescent home in 1897 by Sir Henry Harben. RCH was originally designed as a place where men, irrespective of income and background, could get high quality convalescent care after an illness or accident and become fully active again. Today, welcoming both men and women, RCH is one of the few remaining places in the UK which specialises in dedicated short term convalescent care.
RCH was designed by architect Frederick Wheeler, FRIBA, and was officially opened on 20th March 1897 in a ceremony lead by the Bishop of Chichester. At the time Sir Henry was President of the Prudential Assurance Company and a previous Master of the Carpenter’s Company, an ancient guild of the City of London. When Sir Henry died in 1911, the Worshipful Company of Carpenters took over the management of the home. Today as Trustee, the Carpenters’ Company still plays a vital part in RCH’s success.
Help the war effort
RCH remained open during the First World War but was requisitioned and used during the Second World War as the headquarters of the Special Wireless Service in the days leading up to the D-Day landings. After the WWII it opened again as a men’s convalescent home but it was not until 1980 that women were welcomed too. By the 1900s the focus was again on post-operative guests and people in need of respite care.
Healthy sea air
In Victorian times, the urban areas were overcrowded, unsanitary and air quality was very poor. This led Sir Henry to choose a place by the sea to build the convalescent home in order to take advantage of the healing effects of the fresh sea air. At the time, Sir Henry paid over £50,000 for the nine-acre site which included a wide beach front and plenty of space to encourage his patients to exercise in the healthy environment. The healing effects of the fresh sea air are as contributing a factor to wellbeing today as they were in the Victorian times.
Continual assessment and action
RCH is hugely proud of its heritage but does not rely on its successful past to dictate its future. The staff have continuous assessments and training to ensure they are up to date with the most current and effective ways of helping guests get better. The building was extended slightly and improved immensely in 2020. The upgrades included more lifts, better accessibility for wheelchair users, some walk-in bathrooms, additional bedrooms and overall decorative enhancements. But the upgrades do not stop there as we undertake a rolling timetable of improvements to ensure all the technology and accommodation is to the highest standard.
Sir Henry’s vision lives on
Sir Henry’s original vision still lives on thanks to his generous endowment. The building is now Grade II listed, the gardens are still stunning, the beach views are magnificent and the care is still affordable, high quality and effective.
“In the 19th century, convalescence was considered to be very significant but tighter budgets and other restrictions have seen a demise in such places. Convalescent homes were not quite hospital, not quite holiday and not quite home. RCH today is one of a very few remaining places capturing that important spirit. What’s more, unlike many facilities, stays at RCH are subsidised by up to 50% through the Charity’s investment income. We welcome guests of all ages and from all walks of life.”
Dr Peter Povey, Chairman, RCH