Industrial Settlements were a group of high ranking army officers who recognised
the need for Preston Hall to continue in it’s current form. At the end of the First
World War 55,000 people were discharged from the service with TB, of those discharged
18,000 died as a result of returning to inner-city housing.
The government realised there was a need to set up sanatoria for the sole purpose
of treating men with TB. To this end, the government reviewed the issues under the
review of the War Pension Committee which resulted in a report being published in
1919. The report referred to an article in the War Pensions Gazette in October 1919
“Lord Queenborough also wrote on behalf of the Industrial Settlements for Disabled
Soldiers and Sailors making a proposal for securing Preston Hall, near Maidstone,
for a similar purpose.”
This was the foundation stone for the start of Preston Hall being set up as a sanatoria,
training colony and village settlement.
Industrial Settlements Incorporated purchased Preston Hall, estate and gardens from
Leeds Fireclay Company in 1919 for £30,000.
Industrial Settlements Incorporated was headed by Lord Queenborough. He was a
Member of Parliament until 1917 and an active industrialist. His Grandfather had
Commanded the British Cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The Industrial Settlements Executive Committee members were made up of various prominent
members of society including Mr G Reeves-Smith, Sir William Grey Wilson and Sir Edward
Smith amongst others.
One member of the committee was a Mr Thomas Mawton who had a vision prior to the
end of the war about planning villages for ex Servicemen to inhabit in order to
give them and their families a quality of life after risking their own lives to fight
for their country. Below is an extract from a publication he printed called “An Imperial
Obligation”. The settlement at Preston Hall fitted perfectly into his ideology of
the future for ex-Servicemen.
From the publication “An Imperial Obligation” by Mr Thomas Mawton 1917
In the minutes of the second AGM of Industrial Settlements held in May 1921 it was
noted that although Preston Hall had only come into actual operation in October 1920
it was already residence to 240 ex-servicemen who were engaged in some occupation
according to capacity, such as poultry and pig farming, horticulture, cabinet making
and boot making. In 90% of cases men had added to their weight and improved in general
It was also noted in these minutes that 15 bungalow cottages had been erected – this
was the beginning of Hermitage Lane as we know it – click on the “Interesting Facts”
page to find out how Hermitage Lane got it’s name.
The Prince of Wales visited the colony in 1921 to officially open it, as a result
of the impression he gained of the village he made a donation to the funds of the
institution. The amount of this sum remained undisclosed.
During 1921 a new dining hall with seating for 300 men was added.
It was noted in the AGM minutes for 1922 by Rt Hon Sir Arthur Stanley that he considered
the institution to be of immense value not just to the ex servicemen but to the community
at large and the work being carried out to treat and care for TB patients wasn’t
being done better anywhere else.
The laundry on the estate was closed in 1921 to make a saving of £1,000.
The cabinet factory had also been closed down as it was proving impossible to make
furniture to compete with other manufacturing firms. The pig and poultry appliances
department was by far the best performing department.
In 1923 at the AGM Col Sir Lionel Webb, on behalf of the Ministry of Pensions (who
had visited the colony) recommended that more cottages should be built and the colony
should provide shelter for tubercular men for life. It was also noted at this meeting
there was a falling off of patients, due to two causes, less eligible patients and
the fact that the government had set up vocational training centres similar to Preston
Hall and they absorbed most of the men.
The Chairman reported that with less than 300 men in the colony it would not be possible
to sustain itself and this was proving to be the case.
At this point it was suggested that some men should be kept on after their rehabilitation
from tuberculosis as tubercular civilians. If the Village Settlement Policy was preceded
with ‘all the men would be ex-servicemen’ the men would still received their government
pensions but there would be no capitation grant. There was enough accommodation for
single men but more married accommodation was needed.
It was mooted that the Policy of a Village Settlement was the only practical and
economic way of dealing with the problem of disabled ex-servicemen. The rehabilitation
of these men relied greatly on their mental condition and the village provided some
hope for them and their families. This motion was carried unanimously – the beginnings
of RBLV as we know it now.
Also in 1923 the ‘Empress Club Emergency Aid Committee’ of Dover Street, London (which
was a Ladies and Gentleman's Social Club) donated money for the building of the Post
Office and Shop and the first four houses to be built on Hermitage Lane. There are
plaques on the sides of all of these building to commemorate the donation which can
still be seen to this day.
The AGM of 1924 noted the fact that the continuation of the Village Settlement would
need more funding and more houses were needed. If the government could not come up
with the money they would need to appeal to the public.
The Vice President of Industrial Settlements Inc. reported at this meeting that the
Preston Hall Colony was approaching a critical stage in its existence. Since its
inception in 1920 1,294 men had been dealt with by the colony. The supply of ex-servicemen
was dwindling and the colony could not continue with less than 240 patients in residence.
It was considered to be a calamity if the Village Settlement be allowed to collapse.
The idea of the government taking it over was contemplated, the requirement was there
for another 30 cottages as well as the 25 already promised and they would need a
£10,000 grant to develop the industries.
At the 1925 AGM the number of patients at Preston Hall had dwindled greatly. It was
suggested that the running of the whole operation should be handed over to a larger
By this time the British Legion had been established for 4 years and it was thought
to be the best organisation to take over the colony. The British Legion had agreed
to the transfer of the colony to them as from the 1st April 1925.
Above is a letter from Mr Vincent of Industrial Settlements sending a copy of the
book “An Imperial Obligation” to Dr Varrier-Jones (Medical Director of Preston Hall
1925 - 1927)
When The British Legion took over the village in 1925 they originally wanted to call
it “Preston Manufacturing Company Incorporated”. However, this name was already in
use hence it became known as “Preston Hall Industries (Incorporated) Limited”.
The letter on the left from The British Legion to Dr Varrier-Jones confirms this.