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History of Mission Care

The Bermondsey Medical Mission
The Bermondsey Medical Mission was established on Grange Road, Bermondsey, by Dr Selina Fox M.B.E. in 1904, to provide medical care for women and children living in Bermondsey, which at the time, was one of the poorest districts in the area.  Our founder and the principles and ethos upon which Mission Care was built continue to guide our work today. 
History Staff
Our founder
Selina Fox was born in Blackheath, five miles from Grange Road, on April 27th, 1871. Her father, Sir Francis Fox, was a renowned civil engineer.

Selina studied at the London School of Medicine and the General Infirmary, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, qualifying as a doctor in 1899.  She travelled to India in 1900 to work as an assistant medical officer for the Zenana Bible and Medical Mission, returning in 1901, as a result of her own ill health in the tropical climate.

Early beginnings
On her relocation to Bermondsey, Dr Fox worked at the Church Missionary Society’s medical centre.  When the centre closed, on recognition of the poverty and paucity of medical care available to women and children in the area, Dr Fox founded the Bermondsey Medical Mission in 1904.

The small clinic and 8 bed hospital provided medical and spiritual care to the most vulnerable women and children in the area.  Food was distributed alongside medicine and minor operations and midwifery services were available at the small hospital.  As Dr Fox’s work progressed, women and children were sent for convalescence to the country or the coast.

Providing through the Great War
History Visit from King and Queen
The hospital continued to provide care to the people of Bermondsey throughout World War I.  In 1925, Dr Fox reported a cumulative total of 261,849 hospital attendances, 105,450 surgical dressings, 64,331 home visits and 1,567 operations in the Mission’s first 21 years.

In 1929, HRH Duchess of York (the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) opened a new hospital at Grange Road, which included an outpatient hall, surgery, dispensary, consulting rooms, an operating theatre, twenty-bed ward and staff accommodation. 

The Mission in Downham
By 1935, Dr Fox had been joined by Dr Barbara Morton, another remarkable pioneer of the Mission.

As the reach of the Mission’s activities increased and new London County Council housing estates were built in the Downham area, in 1937, Dr Morton established the Brook Lane Medical Mission in Downham. 

The new clinic served the medical and spiritual needs of this growing community, populated in part by the many Bermondsey families transferred to Downham between the wars.  In 1938, the Mission’s work was extended once more and the Mottingham Medical Mission was opened to provide gynaecology, infant welfare, ophthalmology and physiotherapy services.

During the war
History Bermondsey Hospital
Throughout World War II, the Bermondsey hospital was commandeered by the War Office and the Mission’s doctors continued to support their local communities.

In Downham and Mottingham Dr Morton’s concerns turned to emergent, urgent needs, which included homes for the elderly, many of whom lived alone and with illnesses that restricted their ability to look after themselves.

A rest and convalescence home was established for 13 older people in Brighton, in 1944 and in 1945, Dr Morton purchased Dunoran, a house in Bromley, that provided nursing care for people living with chronic illnesses and those requiring terminal care.

Caring in Bromley
After the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948 and the provision of free, comprehensive healthcare for everyone, the Mission adapted to best suit the changing social needs of the communities it served.  The hospital at Grange Road and Dunoran were taken over by the Department of Health at this time but proceeds from their transfer enabled the purchase of Greenhill, Oaklands Road to continue the Mission’s care provision for older people in Bromley.

Throughout the 1950s, additional homes for older people were established throughout the Bromley area – Homefield, Bickley in 1950, Elmwood, Bickley in 1952 and Derwent House, Chislehurst in 1959.  In the mid-1950s a further convalescence facility was established, when the Mission purchased Foxholm on the sea front at Bognor Regis.

Witnessing the construction of the Coppice housing estate in Bromley, with no church or medical practice, Dr Kathleen Berger, a young member of the Brook Lane Medical Mission, grew the Coppice branch into a large practice and The Coppice Mission Church that ran a Sunday School attended by more than 200 local children.

A growing provision
History Child
When the original Bermondsey Medical Mission Hospital was purchased back from the NHS in 1958, it was reopened to provide a home for the elderly, a community centre and a social club for older people in the community.  The site was renamed Lena Fox House in honour of the Mission’s founder. Dr Selina Fox died in the hospital that she had founded in 1958.

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, care provision at all of the Mission’s site increased to serve a growing number of older people and the broader communities of South Bermondsey, Bromley, Brook Lane, Downham and Mottingham.

In 1982, the two Mission’ merged to form the Bermondsey and Brook Lane Medical Mission and the Mission’s collaboration with a local Housing Association saw the development of sheltered housing at the rear of Elmwood to support the intermediate care residents that Elmwood has always served.

In 1991, the Mission opened Morton House, a newly built home at Lewisham Park, to provide care for up to 25 older people in the Lewisham borough.

To better reflect the charity’s ongoing activities and the provision of social, rather than medical care, the organisation was renamed Mission Care in 1991.

A renewed focus
Mission Care has been guided throughout its history by a God-initiated response to needs, that presented in our local communities and were recognised by our pioneering founder and her colleagues and successors.

As in the early and mid part of the 20th century, this influence was clear in the 1990s in the approach to the charity’s centenary.  As national regulations rendered some of our properties unsuitable and our practices at Brook Lane and Mottingham became part of the NHS the Mission’s focus strengthened ever more on the provision of nursing care and residential care for older, vulnerable people. 

With great reluctance, Lena Fox House was closed in 1992, and our activities on the coast were ceased when Foxholm closed in 1993 (following the closure of the Brighton site in 1962).   

This refocus has since enabled a greater quality of provision at our remaining and subsequent homes.  A new nursing care wing increased care provision at Greenhill in 1993 when Homefield was reopened after the home was rebuilt to improve the quality of the facilities and environment.

One hundred years of care
History Waiting Room
By the time the Mission’s centenary was celebrated in 2004, our care provision had extended to include residential, rehabilitative care for 22 younger adults living with physical disabilities at Love Walk, Denmark Hill and specialist care for 35 older adults living with dementia at Willett House, Chislehurst.

Greenhill and Elmwood were rebuilt, reopening in 2003 and 2005 respectively, further improving quality of residential and nursing care and the care home environment for the residents that we are privileged to serve and increasing the numbers of people eligible and able to benefit from our care provision.

To mark the centenary and to celebrate the history of the Bermondsey Medical Mission, which served as a training centre for missionary nurses sent overseas to serve vulnerable people in less developed parts of the world, Mission Care International was established in 2004.

Find out more about Mission Care

Registered Charity No. 284967