Charnwood Forest Convalescent Homes

As convalescent homes were not strictly speaking medical buildings, and most of the patients sent to convalescence were able to get up during the day, many were established in private houses which required little alteration to fit them to their purpose. If they proved popular and were well supported, they might be replaced by a purpose-built establishment. Location was important, somewhere where the patients could benefit from clean air away from the cities or towns where they were likely to have been living. Many general hospitals set up convalescent homes in the surrounding countryside or by the sea. Others were independent, but both types were run as charitable ventures, supported by donations, subscriptions and fund-raising events.

Old postcard of the Charnwood Forest Convalescent Home. © H. Martin

Charnwood Lodge, near Loughborough, is now a residential home for people with autism and complex behaviour run by Priory Adult Care, but it was originally built as a convalescent home. The foundation stone of was laid on 2 August 1893 by the Duchess of Rutland, and the home was designed by local Loughborough architect, George H. Barrowcliff.  A convalescent home for Loughborough patients had first been established in rented rooms in a cottage at Woodhouse Eaves in 1875. Its success led to the opening of a second convalescent home in 1879, intended for Leicester patients. The two homes were merged in 1883 from which time they were officially known as Charnwood Forest Convalescent Homes.

Extract from the 25-inch OS map revised in 1901. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The new building, pictured in the postcard and marked on the map above, was described in the Nottingham Evening Post when the foundation stone was laid in 1893:

The building is situated on the west side of the Buck Hill road, in the heart of Charnwood Forest, being midway between Nanpantan and Woodhouse, … It is sheltered by the Outwoods from the east, by the rough rising rocks known as Easom’s Piece from the west, and by the rising ground at the rear on the north. This site, selected by the committee after most careful consideration, contains an area of four acres, a part of which is covered by a spinney, and it is proposed that the remainder shall be laid out as ornamental grounds. The building, which is of a domestic character, is being erected of the local forest stone, and faced with red sand faced bricks to the doors, windows and corners, and with a brick lining on the inner side, all the external walls to the main building being erected with a two-inch cavity between the stonework and the inner lining. On the front of the building a verandah 7ft 6in wide runs the entire length. This is partly covered with glass, so as not to diminish the light in the rooms. The building will consist of ground, first and second floors, with a spacious corridor running the entire length of each. The entrance hall is approached from the centre of the verandah, and will be available as a committee-room or for the patients to receive their friends, and is divided from the men’s and women’s corridors by swing doors. The remainder of the front consists of three sitting rooms … and a matron’s room 16ft by 13ft. The back portion of the main building ground floor consists of dining hall, … capable of seating 56 persons; sitting room, … china and store rooms. Main staircases at either end lead to the men’s and women’s bedrooms. At the rear are kitchen … scullery, larder, and other offices opening into large paved yard, at the side of which a coach-house is being erected. Suitable lavatory accommodation, lined with white glazed bricks, and isolated from the main buildings, is provided for both sexes at either end of the building. The ventilation and sanitary arrangements are as perfect as can be attained. … The house is designed for 45 patients, and for the entire separation of the sexes except when taking meals, when they will meet in the common dining hall. The sitting and bedrooms will be heated by open fire grates, and the corridors and dining hall by hot water. … The architect after careful consideration has selected the Brindle tile for the roofs from Mr J. Peake, Tunstall bricks for facings from Messrs Tucker and Son of Loughborough, the stone from Messrs. Brabble & Co. Farley Darley Dale quarry. The cost of the structure complete including purchase of land, water supply furnishing etc will be about £6, 000, and the contract is being carried out by Messrs W. Moss & Son of Loughborough, under the direction of the architect, Mr George H. Barrowcliff, of Loughborough.

The home was formally opened by the Duke of Rutland in 1894, and in 1896 a lodge was added to accommodate the gardener who also acted as caretaker to the home while it was closed over the winter.

Detail of the postcard, showing a group of convalescents posing in front of the building. 

Although the bedrooms of the men and women were separated in the home, they were able to mix at meal times. Patients were allowed to entertain visitors, and musical entertainments were sometimes put on. There is a suggestion that early on some of the convalescents may have enjoyed their stay rather too much. At the annual meeting of the management committee one of the members, a Mrs Edwin de Lisle, moved that the rules of the home be amended to exclude ‘persons of intemperate habits’. She thought patients ought to be prevented from getting more intoxicating liquors than was sometimes good for them.

Following the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 the management committee offered the War Office the use of the home during the winter months for wounded soldiers, though whether the offer was taken up is not clear. Wounded soldiers were accommodated during the First World War, mostly transferred from larger war time hospitals – such as the 5th Northern Hospital at Leicester.

Extract from the 25-inch OS map revised in 1901. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

In 1900 a new building was erected as a children’s convalescent home to replace the small house in Maplewell Road at Woodhouse Eaves. This was entirely funded by the Revd W. H. Cooper of Burleigh Hall, Loughborough, in memory of his wife and was named the Cooper Memorial home for children. It was built on Brand Hill, at the upper corner of Hunger Hill Wood, at Woodhouse Eaves, a well wooded site with fine views on the estate of Mrs Perry Herrick.  The home, originally built to house 26 children, was designed by Barrowcliff and Allcock in conjunction with Alfred W. N. Burder. Moss & Sons of Loughborough were the building contractors, and the heating and ventilation were provided by Messenger & Co. Ltd. It provided two large day rooms, one a dining-room the other a play room, sitting rooms for the matron and nurses, and four wards upstairs for the children, one of which was arranged as an isolation ward with nurse’s bedroom attached. A brass memorial plaque was placed in the entrance hall commemorating the home’s benefactor and his late wife.

Both homes continued in use up until the 1950s, the independent charity continuing after the inception of the National Health Service. The Children’s home was sold to the Church of England Children’s  Society in 1987, and two years later was converted into a home for the elderly. It is now called Charnwood House, and has been converted into private flats.

[Sources: Leicester Chronicle, 26 April 1884 p.6; 16 Oct 1897, p.11; 24 March 1900, p.11; 27 Oct 1900, p.6: Nottingham Evening Post, 2 Aug 1893, p.4; 14 July 1894, p.2: Nottinghamshire Guardian, 24 Dec 1898, p.3: Nottingham Journal,  2 Dec 1899, p.8: Melton Mowbray Mercury and Oakham and Uppingham News, 14 July 1910, p.8; 1 Oct 1914, p.5; 31 Dec 1914, p.5: Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office, contract files for Messenger and Co. Ltd. : Childrenshomes.org.uk.]

The Hospitals Investigator 10

In January 1993 Robert Taylor wrote the tenth in his series of newsletters for the RCHME Hospitals Project team. The text below is primarily his, I have just updated the information in places and added the illustrations. At least two of the hospitals that he and Kathryn Morrison visited back then – Highfield Hospital, Droitwich and the Corbett Hospital, Stourbridge – have since been demolished. The ‘letter from Dorset’ is an account of the fieldwork undertaken in the county, further research was then carried out and reports of the sites written. These reports are deposited at Historic England’s Archives in Swindon. A list of the sites and their site record numbers is appended to the post, and I have added a brief note on their current status if they are no longer in use as a hospital or have been demolished.

Cruciform Observation Wards

During discussions with the Local Government Board in 1908-9 over the design for a new observation ward for the Croydon R.D.C. hospital, Christopher Chart of the firm of E. J. Chart of Croydon, came up with the idea of a cruciform block. His aim was to avoid structural problems met with in the design preferred by the L.G.B., with back-to-back wards, as well as to extend to hospitals the same principles that led to the prohibition of back-to-back houses. The resulting design was accepted, and the ward opened in 1911. It had a central octagonal duty room, and four arms each with three cubicles separated by plate-glass partitions and entered separately from external verandahs. The verandahs are against the East and West sides of the arms.

The Beddington Corner Hospital, near Croydon (later Wandle Valley Hospital). Plan of cruciform cubicle isolation block designed by Christopher Chart

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Extract from the OS map surveyed in 1953-4, the left-hand cruciform block was the one built in 1911, that to the right added later. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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Detail of the map above. The walls of the cubicles are shown, and the glass-roofed verandahs indicated by the cross-hatching. The entire hospital has been demolished and the site redeveloped for housing.

In 1913 Cambridge Borough Council inspected a number of isolation hospitals before enlarging their hospitals, and decided to adopt a cruciform observation block like that at Croydon. Perhaps this is why they employed the same architect. The Cambridge ward was begun in 1914 and opened in 1915. Like the Croydon hospital, it had three cubicles in each arm, and the verandahs faced East and West. Several improvements were introduced. In the angle of the arms is a small sanitary block, entered only from the verandah.

How many cruciform wards were designed by Chart is not known, but his firm was described in The Hospital of 29 May 1915, pp 179-80, as having ‘specialised in this design of isolation hospitals’.

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Portsmouth Isolation Hospital. Extract from the OS 25-inch map, revised in 1937-8. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

At Portsmouth two cruciform wards were built, one shortly before 1922 and the other probably completed in 1938. They have longer arms than the early wards, and the design is perhaps improved by having the verandahs on the south sides of the arms, and the sanitary blocks at the outer ends where they do not obscure the light.

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Extract from the 2nd-edition OS Map revised in 1896, showing the location of the isolation hospital over the road from the union workhouse. Kingston Prison and Cemetery were to the north-west. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

References: C. Chart, ‘Observation Wards in Isolation hospitals’ in The Hospital, 26 June 1915, pp 277-9: H. F. Parsons, ‘Report on Isolation Hospitals, Supplement to the Annual Report of the Medical Officer of the Local Government Board’ PP, 1912-13, XXXVI, pp 76-7.

Droitwich

Highfield Hospital, Droitwich was founded by the Birmingham Hospital Saturday Fund as a convalescent home in 1917 (see Best of Health for more information on the Birmingham Hospital Saturday Fund, and for an old postcard showing Highfield Hospital see robmcrorie’s flickr page). Following the construction of the new Worcestershire Royal Hospital (a PFI hospital which opened in 2002), Highfield closed and has since been demolished.

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Extract from the 6-inch OS Map, revised in 1902. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

In the early 1990s, a visit to the Highfield Hospital at Droitwich revealed some unexpected benefits enjoyed by the patients. The hospital then specialised in ‘rheumatic and locomotor disorders’ and patients who were used to hobbling around at home as best they could, had their movements more strictly controlled on the wards. Coded messages above the beds informed staff of the restrictions to be placed on the patients’ mobility: CTB = confined to bed; WTT = walk to toilet. Under these conditions the nurse who provided a messenger service between the wards and the local betting shop was doubtless maintaining a necessary service. Those patients who were mobile were allowed to walk in the meadow behind the hospital. One of the amenities of this field was the back door to a nearby public house.

Corbett Hospital

The original Corbett hospital in Stourbridge stood on top of a hill with a magnificent view that included the glass works and before it was turned into a hospital it had been the home of the glass manufacturer, George Mills. Mills, who suffered from mental illness, committed suicide in November 1885, and his house (The Hill) was acquired by John Corbett, a salt producer. Corbett converted the house into a hospital, which opened in 1893.

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Corbett Hospital  Gates, Lodge and Drive to the (former) Corbett Hospital, High Street Amblecote, Stourbridge, photographed in 2014 © Copyright Terry Robinson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Nearly a hundred years later, it was still functioning. At that time there was a cardiac recovery ward on the first floor of the main pavilion of the grand rebuilding scheme of 1931. The ground floor had been designed as the entrance to the hospital but had been put to other uses. Above the entrance porch was a sun room, then a ward, and the usual service section with bathroom and toilets, duty room, private ward and so on. The entrance had been moved to an insignificant position in the main corridor, and was difficult to find. The ironwork of the staircase was pleasant, but it was the ward itself that proved to be a surprise. Instead of the usual Nightingale-style room with windows on either side, a cross-wall divided the space into two, with the sixteen beds in the ward arranged parallel to the outside walls. This was the original arrangements, not a response to the high incidence of cardiac trouble in Stourbridge. It was an up-to-date arrangement at the time, though not one that Miss Nightingale would have approved of, nor would she have liked the small cubic space per patient, the result of low ceilings, or the bustle of a busy ward with much coming and going, and doctors on continuous duty. The sun room at the end of the ward was the only quiet place, as the patients weren’t well enough to be able to use it – and once they were well enough to do so, they were discharged.

The hospital was demolished in 2007, having been replaced in 2005 by a new building erected in the grounds. There are photographs and a full history of the site on the Amblecote History Society website.

 A letter from Dorset, January 1993

Dorset proved an attractive but disappointing county. The landscape was on a larger scale than expected, and the hospitals on a smaller scale than anticipated. Poole and Bournemouth provided an urban contrast to this rural county, but their major hospitals had been demolished or were being demolished a the time of our visit.

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Extract from Bartholomew’s half-inch maps of England and Wales, published in 1902, showing Poole harbour and Bournemouth. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Workhouses here in the 1830s did not have any physically separate infirmaries as did those further West, but had the infirm in the main building. Only at Poole did a separate infirmary seem to have been added, and that was all that remained of the workhouse. Wareham was the only workhouse where we know that an isolation block was built, and at Weymouth the V. D. block was the only building to have been demolished in what looked through the scaffolding like a very thorough remodelling. Perhaps the only pleasure came at Cerne where we saw the giant lying deep in the shadows of this grassy hillside.

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The old workhouse, Weymouth, built in 1836. Photographed in 2014. Redeveloped as private residences after years of dereliction © Copyright Neil Owen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 12.12.16Extract from the 2nd-edition OS map, surveyed in 1886 showing Poole Union Workhouse. The infirmary was added to the north in 1903 (see also workhouses.org). Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

As usual isolation hospitals were elusive, except at Poole. Weymouth had a large iron hospital of 1902 that had unfortunately been reclad in 1984, and the holiday camp at the same town was almost as bad. In its days as a hospital it had belonged to the Port Sanitary Authority but the wards had been given an extra storey with cantilevered balconies to house the holidaymakers, who had to try and sleep above the pool tables and other delights installed in the wards below.

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Weymouth isolation hospital, extract from the 2nd-edition OS map revised 1926-7. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

We managed to get the car completely covered in mud looking for the Sherborne hospitals, but sadly a farmer had beaten us to it and converted the site into a yard for vehicles that managed like us to get through the mud. The architects of the general hospitals appear to have been unusually keen to disguise their buildings and hide any wards. A classic pavilion hospital at Bournemouth was destroyed with a ball and chain as we watched, although another at the Naval Hospital at Portland survived our gaze. In contrast the county hospital at Dorchester was heavily disguised as a Jacobean country house, and its counterpart at Weymouth was taller and almost as inscrutable. Only a huge inscription told us what the building was.

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Old Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester, photographed in 2008. In Somerleigh Road off Princes Street, the old county hospital designed by Benjamin Ferrey FSA and built in Portland stone in 1841, has now been converted into flats which are very convenient being so near to the centre of town. Benjamin Ferrey (1810-1880) studied under Pugin and became Diocesan Architect to Bath and Wells. He was also commissioned in 1836 to design the area in Bournemouth known as Westover, including the Bath Hotel. © Copyright Sarah Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Most of the cottage hospitals were so small that it seemed that the architects did not bother to make them look like anything at all. By contrast the Yeatman Hospital at Sherborne was a magnificent exercise in Gothic, and the Westminster Hospital at Shaftesbury was fairly good, but neither looked much like a hospital to start with, and both were smothered in modern additions. Bridport had a pretty little hospital that looked like a hospital, was cottagey in scale, and ought to have been listed; it was a rare ray of sunlight. (The hospital has since been demolished, a housing development stands on the site, and a new community hospital has been built on the north side of Bridport.)

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The Royal Naval Hospital for infectious diseases, and the sick quarters, at Castletown, on the north side of Portland. Extract from the 2nd-edition OS Map, revised in 1901. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 15.36.23The Sick Quarters can be seen still under construction in the OS map surveyed in 1889. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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Extract from the 2nd-edition OS map revised in 1926-7. The sick quarters were extended and developed into a general hospital, the Royal Navy left in 1957 and it became an NHS hospital, and remains a part of the present Portland Community Hospital. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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To the east of the isolation hospital and sick quarters was an earlier naval hospital, by Balaclava Bay. It had been demolished by the 1920s. Extract from the 2nd-edition OS Map, revised in 1901. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Portland Naval Base gave us a first that we did not really appreciate at the time, an underground hospital. The presence of some subterranean installation was obvious from the clutch of old concrete vents and single small access ramp, but it was not apparently very large, and seemed to be something like an air-raid shelter serving the above-ground hospital. Drawings at Acton showed that it was in fact a small hospital, attached to the main institution. (There was an out-store for the National Monuments Record at Acton, these plans should now be at Historic England’s archives at Swindon. The  plans may have been part of the Common Services Agency collection. For photographs and more information on the underground hospital see the urbanexplorer.)

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Canford Cliffs, St Anne’s Hospital, south elevation photographed in 2012 © Copyright Mike Faherty and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Bournemouth was full of convalescent homes, and the problems of identification and investigation finally defeated us’ most were hardly worth chasing, and the difficulty of distinguishing between purpose-built and converted buildings made the exercise unfruitful. St Anne’s was the exception, a great curve overlooking the sea and designed by Weir Schultz for convalescing lunatics. (This was the seaside branch of the Holloway Sanatorium, built in 1909-12)

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Dorset County Asylum, later Herrison Hospital, now converted into private housing, named Charlton Down. Extract from the 2nd-edition OS Map revised 1900-1. The private wing (Herrison House) was built to the north-west of the main range, and the western half of the complex above was built first. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Dorset lunatics were first cared for at a house at Forston given to the county in the 18th century; it was in the bottom of a narrow valley, the sort of site that was never used for asylums or hospitals. In the middle of the 19th century a more conventional hilltop site not far way was bought, and the new asylum went through most of the usual processes of enlargement. This included about 1900 a large and separate block for paying patients. Although we did not get inside because it had since changed function, the entrance hall and the exterior appearance declared that this was not for the common or pauper madman, but for someone with more refined taste. The exterior was an elaborate riot of terracotta ornament, rather like Digby’s at Exeter, but here there were no workshops or laundries for toiling patients, and the whole resembled a country house set in its gardens.

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Charlton Down, Sherren Avenue, photographed in 2009 © Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

List of Hospitals in Dorset

Hospital sites recorded as part of the RCHME Hospitals Survey, with grid references and the National Buildings Record number. The files for these sites can be seen at Historic England Archives, Kemble Drive Swindon.

DORSET

ALLINGTON
Bridport Isolation Hospital In the 1960s this was North Allington Hospital for chest diseases. It has been demolished and a new community hospital built on the site SY 456 939: 100478

BLANDFORD FORUM
Blandford Community Hospital (Blandford Cottage Hospital) ST 884 069: 100466

BOURNEMOUTH
Herbert Hospital (Herbert Memorial Convalescent Home) SZ 065 903: 100452
Kings Park Community Hospital (Bournemouth Sanitary Hospital; Bournemouth Municipal Hospital) SZ 118 924: 100403
Royal National Hospital (Royal National Sanatorium for Consumption) Now a gated complex, providing ‘assisted living’ accommodation, or retirement apartments. SZ 083 914: 100243
Royal Victoria and West Hampshire Hospital, Shelley Road Branch (Boscombe Hospital; Royal Boscombe and West Hampshire Hospital) Demolished SZ 111 923: 100401
Royal Victoria and West Hampshire Hospital, Victoria Branch (Royal Victoria Hospital) Converted into flats – Royal Victoria Apartments, tile panels moved to the new Royal Bournemouth Hospital SZ 076 915: 100402

BRIDPORT
Bridport General Hospital demolished SY 459 932: 100419
Port Bredy Hospital (Bridport Union Workhouse) Converted into housing SY 469 931: 100477

CHARMINSTER
Herrison Hospital (Dorset County Asylum) Converted into housing SY 678 947: 100244

CHRISTCHURCH
Christchurch Hospital (Christchurch Union Workhouse Infirmary) The workhouse was latterly known as Fairmile Hospital The infirmary partly survives but the former workhouse buildings have been demolished.  SZ 148 939: 100461

CORFE CASTLE
Wareham Council Smallpox Hospital Converted into housing SY 941 843: 100670

DORCHESTER
Damers Hospital (Dorchester Union Workhouse) Original workhouse largely demolished, new district hospital built on land to the north in the 1970s-80s SY 687 903: 100475
Dorchester Isolation Hospital demolished, Winterbourne Hospital built on site in the 1980s-90s SY 689 891: 100418
Dorset County Hospital converted into flats SY 691 906: 100417
Royal Horse Artillery Barracks Hospital This may actually still be standing – or was in 2014, now within a trading estate SY 686 909: 100476

LYME REGIS
Lyme Regis Hospital Seemingly a nursing home in 2015 SY 336 921: 100422

POOLE
Alderney Hospital (Poole BC Isolation Hospital; Alderney Isolation Hospital) Most of the original ward blocks have been demolished SZ 042 943: 100465
Poole General Hospital (Cornelia Hospital; Cornelia and East Dorset Hospital) rebuilt in the 1960s-70s SZ 020 913: 100464
Poole Hospital (Poole Union Workhouse) rebuilt as the Harbour Hospital, the former workhouse infirmary incorporated into St Mary’s Maternity Hospital SZ 018 914: 100404
St Anne’s Hospital (St Anne’s Sanatorium) SZ 052 888: 100463

PORTLAND
Portland Hospital (Royal Naval Hospital) SY 685 741: 100481

SHAFTESBURY
Westminster Memorial Hospital (Westminster Memorial and Cottage Hospital) ST 860 228: 100487

SHERBORNE
Coldharbour Hospital demolished ST 643 176: 100066
Sherborne Isolation Hospital demolished ST 622 173: 100425
Sherborne School Sanatorium extended ST 635 166: 100424
Yeatman Memorial Hospital (Yeatman Hospital) extended ST 636 167: 100483

ST LEONARD’S AND ST IVES
St Leonard’s Hospital (104th US General Hospital) largely demolished, just a few or the EMS huts were extant in 2015 SU 102 020: 100468

STURMINSTER NEWTON
Sturminster Union Workhouse partly demolished – the front range survives with new buildings to the rear, used as a day centre and a centre for adults with learning disabilities ST 787 148: 100426

SWANAGE
Dorset Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital extended and converted into private housing  SZ 033 782: 100467
Swanage Cottage Hospital SZ 028 784: 100406

WAREHAM TOWN
Christmas Close Hospital (Wareham and Purbeck Union Workhouse) some of the ancillary buildings have been demolished, and it has been converted into housing – Robert Christmas House – with the hospital moved into the c.1960s block adjacent SY 918 874: 100407

WEYMOUTH
Portway Hospital (Weymouth Union Workhouse) converted into housing, some parts demolished SY 675 785: 100479
Westhaven Hospital (Weymouth Corporation Isolation Hospital) seems to have been completely rebuilt in about the 1980s SY 660 795: 100421
Weymouth and District Hospital (Princess Christian Hospital and Sanatorium) original buildings demolished, hospital largely redeveloped in about the 1960s SY 682 803: 100480
Weymouth and Dorset County Royal Eye Infirmary now a hospice SY 683 803: 100423
Weymouth Port Sanitary Authority Hospital the wards still extant in the midst of Chesil Beach Holiday Park SY 666 762: 100420

WIMBOURNE MINSTER
Victoria Hospital (Victoria Cottage Hospital) numerous additions and alterations, but still in use SU 004 002: 100405

Nairn Hospital

For some now unfathomable reason, I managed to lose my gazetteer entries for hospitals in Scotland beginning with ‘N’. One of the tasks, therefore, that I have set myself is to rediscover the missing hospitals. They include some important buildings, such as Nithbank Hospital – the second incarnation of Dumfries Royal Infirmary – and most of the hospital buildings in Nairn. Today I have been on a virtual tour of Nairn, and have begun updating the Highland page accordingly.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 14.38.29Extract of the 1st-edition OS map, surveyed 1868. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The earliest hospital in Nairn was the precursor of the present Town and County Hospital. It is now a private house (Craig Royston). It was designed by Thomas Mackenzie and was intended for fever cases. Building work began in 1846, the plans having been drawn up some two years earlier when the scheme was first mooted and the site purchased, but progress was slow.

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Detail of the above map, showing the tree-lined drive up to the hospital, a shelter belt of trees around the edge of the buildings as well as the retaining walls, and a circular drive on the west side. 

The design, however, was met with enthusiasm in the local press, where it was described as ‘beautiful and appropriate’.  A ball was held in Anderson’s Hall in September to raise funds towards the completion of the hospital, and there was much approval of a gift of £20 from the Earl of Cawdor. Originally it provided just twelve beds, though later a wing was built to the rear. The hospital continued to serve the town but by the early 1900s it had become out-dated.

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Extract of the 6-inch  OS map, revised 1938. The Town and County Hospital is just north of Larkfield House, to the left is the poorhouse built in 1860-2 (marked as a Public Assistance Institution, later this was known as Balblair Home, now demolished). Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

In 1903 the decision was taken to erect a new hospital. The scheme was boosted by the promised donation of £4,000 by a native of the town, Alexander Mann, then living in Guayaquil (Equador), South America. This sum largely covered the cost of construction, and he later also gifted £1,000 to purchase the site. The hospital was designed by William Mackintosh and built in 1904-6 (dated 1906 in the central pediment). John Gifford didn’t mince his words in the Pevsner Guide, describing the hospital as ‘small but stodgy Wrennaissance’.  The original building has been retained, used for dental services, as part of a larger complex including a new community hospital.

There was also the Northern Counties Convalescent Home on the outskirts of Nairn, built in 1892 to designs by Ross and Macbeth. It continued to operate throughout the twentieth century, though it was never transferred to the NHS. It finally closed in 2004. The building seems to survive, now a private house.

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Extract of the 2nd-edition OS map, surveyed 1904. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Any photographs of these buildings, or information on other missing hospitals beginning with ‘N’, would be most gratefully received. The Town and County Hospital can be seen from Google Street view, as can the diminutive former Northern Counties Convalescent Home. The original Nairn Hospital is hidden behind its garden wall.

For a full history of the hospitals of Nairn with many historic photographs of the buildings see J.C. & S. J. Leslie, Hospitals of Nairn2012.

(Sources: Inverness Courier, 7 Feb 1844, p.3; Nairnshire Mirror and General Advertiser, 11 July 1846, p.3:  John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland. Highlands and Islands, 1992: Aberdeen Journal, 29 July 1903, p.3; 16 Aug 1906, p.6: Inverness Courier, 28 June 1892)

Oldmill Military Hospital (now Woodend Hospital) Aberdeen

A Face in the Crowdhospitals102

Postcard of Woodend Hospital dating from the First World War when it had been taken over as a military hospital. The card shows a concert being given in front of the main entrance block.

Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen was constructed as a Poor Law Institution, designed by the local firm of Brown & Watt, it opened on 15 May 1907 and was one of the last poorhouses to be built in Scotland. During the First World War the institution was taken over as a Military Hospital (from 24th May 1915 to 1st June 1919). The postcard above shows a concert underway, there is no message written on the back to give a clue as to when exactly the concert took place. It may have been the one described in the Aberdeen Evening Express in September 1915 when the band and pipers of the Scots Guards visited Aberdeen. From 11am to 12 noon they entertained the wounded soldiers and a small party of ladies and gentlemen, there being about 500 persons present. The band arrived at the hospital in motor buses supplied by the Suburban Tramways Company, and on arrival set up near the front entrance in the quadrangle. Band and pipers played alternately, and there was a cornet solo of ‘The Rosary’ and from ‘Il Trovatore’  played from the veranda.

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Detail of the postcard, bottom right, showing some of the audience of the concert

One member of the audience was apparently more interested in the photographer than the concert. The local Aberdeen newspapers published during the First World War carry many mentions of Oldmill, most concern the numbers of wounded arriving by train in the city and thence out to the hospital. There were also appeals for wheeled chairs and books, and numerous accounts of entertainments and concerts laid on for the wounded men.

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A detail of the centre of the postcard showing the main entrance to Oldmill Hospital and the band performing in front

Zooming in on the centre of the postcard shows the band arranged in front of the main entrance, with patients and nurses looking on from open windows and the balconies. I don’t know whether the uniforms here are plausible as Scots Guards, they are perhaps too indistinct to be able to tell. The Gordon Highlanders also gave an open air concert, in September 1916.

Most of the concerts took place in the evening inside the large dining hall, some were small affairs with local folks performing a medley of songs, some were given by theatre companies. There were lectures (two on mountaineering), and in October 1915 a ‘talking machine entertainment’ comprising selections given on the Edison phonograph ‘greatly appreciated by all’. The Aberdeen Sailors’ Mission Choir gave the very first concert at Oldmill in July 1915, only weeks after the first patients arrived on 25 June. An ambulance train had arrived at Aberdeen Joint Station shortly after 4am with 100 wounded soldiers from the battlefields of France and Flanders, 83 of whom were transferred to Oldmill.

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Postcard of Oldmill Military Hospital, Aberdeen produced during the First World War

This is another postcard produced during the war – copies of it often surface on eBay. The institution was still relatively new when war was declared, and it was with reluctance that the parish council relinquished it to the military, but when the need for more hospital accommodation for the wounded became urgent the council yielded. Many of the poorhouse inmates were evacuated to Rosemount and Westfield schools, which had also been commandeered to take the war wounded, others were boarded out.

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Detail of the postcard, showing the bridge part way along the long entrance drive

The notice on the right gives the weight limit that the bridge could withstand at just over 3 tons. The map below shows the hospital complex in the 1920s, after it had been returned to the parochial authorities. The bridge pictured above crossed a roadway that provided access to two detached buildings in the grounds. I think these may have been the nurses’ home and the Governor’s house, but more research is needed to establish whether that is so or not. Although I am fairly confident that the left-hand building was the nurses’ home, a later map marks a tennis court next to it.

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Extract from the 2nd edition OS map, revised in 1924. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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Woodend Hospital photographed in 2014. © Copyright Bill Harrison and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The hospital continues in use by NHS Grampian though now its main entrance is on the North side from Eday Road. It is a handsome building, certainly a fine example of its type despite the parsimony of the parochial board. When the plans for the poorhouse were reported by the Aberdeen Daily Journal readers were assured that,

‘As the general view of the poorhouse to most people will be from the Skene Road, a few hundred yards away, it is not intended that any expense should be put upon fine masonry details, and the effect of a satisfactory composition will, therefore, be obtained by means of grouping of the various buildings and arranging them in such a fashion as to give a suitable yet dignified appearance to the whole.’ [Aberdeen Daily Journal, 22 Nov 1901, p.5]

Sources: Aberdeen Evening Express, 17 May 1915, p.5: Aberdeen Journal, 25 May 1915, p.4, 26 May 1915, p.4, 26 June 1915, p.2, 16 July 1915 p.6: Aberdeen Evening Express, 13 Sept 1915, 11 Oct 1915: Aberdeen Weekly Journal, 22 Sept 1916: site visited as part of the Scottish Hospitals Survey 1988-90