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Blackthorn Trust

Blackthorn Trust is a UK disability charity in Maidstone, Kent which offers medical care, specialist therapies and rehabilitation through work placements in the Blackthorn Garden. They offer help to people with mental or physical health difficulties or learning disabilities. The charity's work is based on the work of Rudolf Steiner (an Austrian philosopher, social reformer), and the charity aims to assist individuals to progress towards their full potential.

Blackthorn Trust
Formation 1986
Legal status Charity
Purpose Medical care and rehabilitation through work and community
Headquarters Maidstone
  • St Andrew’s Road
Coordinates 51°16′08″N 0°29′14″E / 51.2688°N 0.4873°E / 51.2688; 0.4873
Region served
Leader Charles Bicker (Director), Jan Prior - Chief Executive
£84,000 (1994)[1]
Website Blackthorn Trust
Remarks Company Limited by Guarantee No. 05964574, Charity No. 1117979



In 1983, Dr David McGavin was a GP in general practice in Maidstone. Through his work in the local community, he found out that conventional medicine was not able to help patients with chronic illness and were becoming increasingly passive and inactive, which was not helpful for their illness. He then met Hazel Adams (an art therapist) working on anthroposophical principles of Rudolf Steiner. As they worked on few of the Dr' McGavins most severe patients, several noted improvements were made. More therapists were brought into the small practise but this became impractial. So he decided to set up a new trust and a new medical centre.[2]

Blackthorn Medical CentreEdit

This is owned by the Blackthorn Trust and part of it rented to the Practice. It was built in 1991, designed by Camphill Architects (from the Camphill Movement) and opened in December.[2] As a result of the fundraising and hard work of patients, their families and friends, local and national industry, grant making trusts and the National Health Service. They may be prescribed anthroposophic or homeopathic medication and one of a number of anthroposophic therapies which are available on a one-to-one or group basis.[3] These include biographical counselling, eurythmy therapy, rhythmical massage (developed by Ita Wegman) or art therapy. Therapies are offered at the discretion of the doctor. The medical centre had (in 1991) four GP principals, a practice manager, six part-time receptionists, a practice nurse, two district nurses, an 'outreach co-ordinator,' a counsellor, an art therapist, a music therapist and a eurythmy therapist (the three therapists work part-time).[1]

It provides the usual family doctor services for around 7,200 people and is a GP training practice.[2] Blackthorn Trust rents its premises via the NHS to the primary care team and the complementary practitioners.

The centre and trust is partially funded by the NHS, but needs to raise an additional £100,000 per year to cover its running costs. This is achieved by grants, donations, bequests and fund raising activities (including selling produce from the garden). Patients, their families and friends are asked to help on all fronts to help achieve this task.

Blackthorn GardenEdit

On the site of the grounds of the former psychiatric hospital of Oakwood Hospital, it occupies 22 acres and is under the direction of the Trust Management Team. Founded in 1991 and funded by the Trust. It has a flower garden, greenhouse and lath house (a framework of treated lumber covered with plastic netting, giving shade and protection for young plants). The lath house is a relic from the mental asylum. There is also a very large vegetable garden, a craft room for art therapy, a Cafe and kitchen serving organic lunches.[2]

The garden has up to 60 people working in the garden per week.

In 1995, the garden and its therapies were evaluated by the Centre for Mental Health.[1]

The aims of the garden:[1]

  • To establish a place of rehabilitation through work for the mentally ill in the community.
  • To create a place of social integration and cultural activity in the Barming District of Maidstone.
  • To encourage the meeting and working together of the various disciplines concerned with mental health and community care.

The garden is opened, Monday to Saturday - 9:30am to 3:30pm. On Saturdays, workshops are open to the general public.

The garden also has a shop (run by a dedicated team of volunteers) selling second-hand clothes and other used items and you can buy products made in the workshops; herb oils, massage oils, herbal teas, crafts, stained glass, jams and chutneys, greetings cards etc.

The trust has various events during the year including Spring Fair, Summer Fair, Christmas Fairs. Selling local handmade crafts and specialist food stalls as well as the traditional stalls.[4]


The local community and the people of Kent, Abbey National Trust, Alchemy Trust, Aylesford Samaritan Benevolent Fund, Big Lottery Fund, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, European Social Fund, The Hambland Foundation, Hayward Foundation, Interreg IIIa, Smith's Charity, Invicta Community Care NHS Trust, Kent Social Services, Kimberly Clark PLC, Lankelly Chase, Lloyds TSB PLC, Mental Health Foundation, The Percy Bilton Charity, The Pilgrim Trust, Rochester Bridge Trust, Smith Kline Beecham PLC, South East Regional Health Authority, Tudor Trust, West Kent Health Authority and Wimpy PLC.


  • Evian Award for Science and Medicine 1991
  • Doctor of the Year - Mental Health and Overall Winner 1993
  • Smith Kline Beecham/King's Fund - Community IMPACT Award 1997
  • Kent Heartbeat Award 1999
  • Leisure and Outdoor Furniture Association (LOFA) Charity Award 1999 [5]
  • NHS Beacon Training Practise 1999/2000 [6]
  • Joint Winner HRH Prince of Wales Award for 'Good Practise in Integrated Health' 2001 and 2002 [7]
  • Finalist in 2003 NHS Health & Social Care Awards, patient-centred cancer care section [8]
  • Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP)/ Leonard Cheshire / RCGP 2009 Disability Care Award [9]



  1. ^ a b c d Nehring, Julia; Gareth Hill, Robert (1995). "The Blackthorn Garden Project, Community Care in the context of Primary Care" (PDF). Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Cooper Marcus, Clare; Barnes, Marni (7 July 1999). Healing Gardens: therapeutic benefits and design recommendations. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 288–293. ISBN 978-0471192039. 
  3. ^ "SERIOUS CLOWNING - Interview with Dr David McGavin". Autumn 2004. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Hurley, Gilly (24 November 2012). "Blackthorn Trust's Fair". Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c "Track Record of Blackthorn Medical Centre & Trust". 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "NHS Beacon Award Winners Announced". 26 May 1999. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "HRH visits the Blackthorn Medical Centre and the Grange in Kent". 10 November 2004. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "HEALTH & SOCIAL CARE AWARDS 2003 FINALISTS IN DHSC's". 2003. Archived from the original on 23 August 2004. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  9. ^ durham, neil (4 June 2009). "Practice offering sheltered working wins award". Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  10. ^ "Autumn/Winter 2012 Newsletter" (PDF). 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  11. ^ "Prince Charles' tour of Kent". 10 November 2004. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 

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