St John's Home is a residential care home for the elderly and stands in the beautiful grounds of the Society of All Saints Sisters of the Poor in East Oxford. The society is a religious community and is the owner of the Home. It is a registered charity, number 228383.
The Home was started by the Reverend Father Benson, Founder and First Superior of the Society of St. John the Evangelist. The foundation stone for the first small building was laid by HRH Prince Leopold (son of Queen Victoria) on 6th May 1873, who was then studying at Christ Church. Leopold Street was formerly known as St. John’s Road but was renamed soon after this.
The idea of establishing a hospital originated with Miss Frances Sandford, who lived in London near St. Elizabeth’s Home founded by All Saints Sisters of the Poor (ASSP). She had previously discussed the idea with Father Benson, chaplain to the ASSP Community in Margaret Street. She had received one thousand pounds from a patient suffering from an incurable disease as a contribution towards funding a ‘National Hospital for Incurables’.
There was no National Health Service at this time, so there was limited care for poor, ill people, especially those with long term illness and elderly people. For many in these circumstances, the only residential place available was in the workhouse.
Father Benson had purchased four acres of land between Cowley Road and St. Mary’s Road, half of which was assigned for a graveyard and new church, and on the other half the hospital. The hospital was for very sick people in impoverished circumstances for whom workhouse conditions were considered unsuitable, and also for people who could contribute financially towards their own care. Miss Sandford was the lady superintendent when the hospital first opened in 1874.
In 1881 the Community of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor was invited to take charge of the hospital. Initially, the hospital took in male and female patients, but for a time it became a home for women only who were either ’incurable’ or needed a long period of treatment. It became a sanctuary for women with illness or disability, mostly elderly, who had a certain amount of financial means to contribute towards their care. Alongside these residents were some very wealthy women, some of whom brought their maids. For more than a hundred years the Sisters were responsible for the day to day running of the Home.
Since the 1980's however, this responsibility has been in the hands of the Head of the Home and her professional staff, although the Sisters live in an adjoining part of the building and maintain an active interest and involvement.