From manor house to hospital - the varied history of Cawston Park

Cawston Park. Picture: EDP Library/submitted

Cawston Park. Picture: EDP Library/submitted

The Tudor-style building which houses Cawston Park hospital has a rich and fascinating history. 

The hospital, the closure of which was announced earlier this month, was built as a manor house by an American stockbroker called George Cawston in 1897 - apparently because he liked the fact that part of Norfolk already bore his name. 

He also built a water tower on the site, which was converted to a private residence in 2003 and later became one of Norfolk's quirkiest holiday homes - although it is not currently available to let.

The manor was used as a convalescent home for soldiers during the First World War, and in the following years hosted an annual 'gymkhana' games day followed by dancing on the lawn in the evening. 

Cawston Manor

Cawston Park Hospital from above. - Credit: Mike Page

The manor changed hands several times over the following decades, and in 1927 a small lake to the east of the building was made by the damming of the Mermaid stream. The lake still bears the name Stourton Water - after the owner of the manor at the time. 

During the Second World War, the manor housed disabled children from homes near the coast, and in 1964 it became Cawston College, which was initially for boys but later also admitted girls.


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Notable pupils included the heavyweight boxer Herbie Hide and Jacyn Heavens, an entrepreneur who founded the Norwich-based software company Epos Now. 

Cawston Park. Picture: EDP Library/submitted

Cawston Park. Picture: EDP Library/submitted

From the school's closure 1999 to 2003 the main school buildings were used by the International Foundation of Inspiration, Spirituality and Healing (IFISH) as a centre for psychic science and spiritual healing.

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After that closed the site became Cawston Park psychiatric hospital. Its non-executive chairman, former Tory MP David Prior, was among a number of people arrested in 2006 over fraud allegations.

Mr Prior was cleared of the charges the following year, but the hospital closed in the aftermath of the trial in 2009, after its owners, Chancellor Care, went into administration. 

The Jessal Group bought the site in 2010 and reopened it as a hospital for people with autism and learning disabilities. 

However, last week it was announced it was closing down, with the loss of 120 jobs in the process.


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