FOLLOWING the NHS's decision to strip some services from Heatherwood, UCL architecture student Natalie Carter has looked at the history of the Ascot hospital.

"AS THE future of Heatherwood Hospital is decided, few will be aware that the original hospital architecture lies hidden under years of NHS make do and mend.

Symbolic of the society that produced it and completed in 1922, the hospital was designed and built for the specialist treatment of surgical tuberculosis for the children of those who served in the 1914-1918 war.

The designing of a new tuberculosis sanatorium provided an opportunity to experiment with the combination of architecture and layout to provide optimum conditions for treatment, promoting the curative powers of sunlight, fresh air and cleanliness.

Evidence shows the location and design of the scheme was very comprehensively and carefully thought out, built from monies administered by the United Services' Fund, which consisted of considerable profits from the Army and Navy canteens. Heatherwood was one of the largest projects to come out of the fund, which included children's homes and servicemen's clubs.

After a large number of sites were inspected nationally, Ascot was chosen due to its elevation and its situation within pine woodland, both desirable features for a sanatorium at the time. Of course its proximity to London (where the fund was managed) would also have been an important factor.

The design and equipment of the hospital were planned and selected with great care. Sir Henry Guvain, the hospital surgeon, worked closely alongside the architect to provide a place where children could be rested, relaxed and returned to health through a period of separation from unhygienic living conditions and through care of their infected limbs, usually supported to offer full rest although sometimes requiring surgical intervention. The majority of patients stayed at Heatherwood for at least a year and on average two years.

Based on a pavilion plan, late 18th century in origin, the functions were separated to provide good light and ventilation to dispel foul air. The blocks were grouped formally around a central garden courtyard imitating a Georgian style.

The courtyard design provided space for formal functions and the architecture has a minimal simplicity. The entrances are connected by a glass-covered way, to expose the patients to the 'open-air' emitting the desirable elements along with rain, wind and snow. Architectural features were essential to the designing of sanatoria.

Along with curing the children, one of the main intentions was to prepare them for life on departure from the hospital, it was important that those who left at working age were equipped with the right skills. Provision was made for their educational work, and there are many photos showing children having lessons, writing and making baskets on the veranda.

The arrival of the Second World War changed the hospital admissions, taking in adult patients evacuated from London. The original Heather-wood shows a poignant glimpse into our past, which cannot be replicated. This hospital and its intentions once had national significance.

Regrettably, one is forced to ponder the contrast of the current wilful neglect of the buildings with the ethos of the hospital's original intent. The building has succumbed to sickness and bodily deterioration unlike those patients it strived to restore to health. Hopefully a cure is found for the hospital services and this carefully selected site remains to serve the local community."

- An exhibition showing Natalie's research, at UCL Slade Research Centre, Woburn Square, London WC1H 0NS, opens on Tuesday at 6.30pm.

It closes at 8pm on Friday, April 26.