Randolph Wemyss Memorial Hospital, Fife

Randolph Wemyss Memorial Hospital, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The cottage hospital at Buckhaven opened on 28 August 1909. It was designed by Alexander Tod of Kirkcaldy for Lady Eva Wemyss in memory of her husband, Randolph Gordon Erskine Wemyss, of Wemyss Castle. Randolph Wemyss had died in July 1908 aged just 50 after a long illness, but in his relatively short life he had made a considerable impact on the Wemyss estate, guided and inspired by his mother. He invested the profits from the coal mines on his land both to improve production – building a coaling dock at Methil, and a railway from there to Thornton – and also to improve the conditions of his tenants and workers. He was behind the development of the ‘New Town’ or ‘Garden Village’ of Denbeath, where he built over 200 cottage flats in 1904-5, and invested in the company that built a tramway from Kirkcaldy to Leven.

OS Map, 25-inch, revised in 1913. The Wemyss Memorial Hospital is here dwarfed by Denbeath School to its north-west. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The housing built by Wemyss at Denbeath was remarkable in many ways. The design of the cottage flats was unusual. Arranged in terraces of two storeys, with one flat per floor, the L-shaped flats interlocked with their entrances alternately on the north and south sides. The upper-floor flats were accessed by external stairs. They were also unusually large, giving a larger square footage of floor area than was recommended by the 1919 Housing Act, and built on a low density at 10 houses per acre, yet the rents kept affordable.  [see John Frew and David Adshead’s article, ‘”Model” Colliery Housing in Fife: Denbeath “Garden” Village 1904-8’ in Scottish Industrial History, X (1987) pp 45-59 for more on the housing.]

Wellesley Road. Detail of the cottage flats in Denbeath, photographed by Jerzy Morkis in 2010, © CC BY-SA 2.0, reproduced from Geograph

Designs for a cottage hospital to serve the new garden village may have been outlined around 1907 by Randolph Wemyss and Alexander Tod, the Wemyss Castle estate architect. However, they were seen through by Lady Eva Wemyss, with Tod, following her husband’s death. Lady Eva was Randolph’s  second wife (he had been divorced from his first wife in 1898), and the daughter of William Henry Wellesley, 2nd Earl Cowley, a great nephew of the Duke of Wellington. Both Lady Eva and Alexander Tod were said to have visited ‘some of the principal hospitals in the country’ before settling on the design, which embodied the ‘best features found in all of them’. [Dundee Courier, 31 March 1909, p.6]

Detail of ward wing, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

In March 1909 Lady Eva Wemyss laid the foundation stone, placing a sealed glass jar containing current coins and copies of the daily newspapers in a cavity on top of which the foundation stone was lowered into place. Building work proceeded rapidly, and at the end of August 1909 the hospital was officially opened by Lady Eva, the ceremony being presided over by Charles Carlow, the manager of the Fife Coal company. Carlow gifted the four-dial clock, which originally had Westminster chimes, and had the novel design of hands representing the miner’s pick and shovel.

Detail of the central tower. The hands of the clock are in the shape of picks and shovels. Photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The plan is of the standard central administration block flanked by ward blocks favoured at the time but it is dressed up with baronial details. Described as picturesque in the contemporary accounts in the local newspapers, the building has undoubted charm. Originally the harling was yellow, or ochre coloured rather than white.   There are circular stair turrets and corbelled bartizans at the angles of the wards. The somewhat eccentric entrance has a Doric portico fronting a circular tower, topped with a conical roof sporting the gabled clock faces.

Detail of the entrance to the Randolph Wemyss Memorial Hospital, with the coat-of-arms of the Wemyss family carved in red sandstone in the pediment. Photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

To the rear were the kitchen and laundry, with the ‘latest appliances for mechanical ironing of linen’, and at the east end of the site a small chapel and mortuary. Originally there were wrought-iron gates ‘of mediaeval design, with side railings of wrought iron’ – now long disappeared.

Rear of the hospital, showing the kitchen, laundry and boiler house, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The hospital was designed as a surgical hospital – accidents in the coal mines were not infrequent – and contained two main wards with six or seven beds in each, an emergency ward with two beds, operating theatre, X-ray room, doctor’s room, as well as accommodation for the matron and nurses and the usual stores and offices. Three ‘up-to-date’ bathrooms were installed, including, an ‘electric bath’.  It was to be lit by electricity, and heated by hot-water pipes and open fires.

Design for entrance hall floor, dated April 1909. © RCAHMS

Some of the original plans have were deposited in the National Monuments Record of Scotland (now part of Historic Environment Scotland), including a design for the entrance hall floor. It features the Wemyss family crest of a swan at the centre.

The Chapel and mortuary, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The grounds were laid out and planted with flowers and shrubs by the head gardener of Wemyss Castle, Charles Simpson. Originally the front of the hospital looked directly out over the Forth, but housing has since been built opposite. Along with the view, the hospital has lost a few of its original features – weather vanes formerly topped the turrets, a swan in the centre, a working miner with lamp and tools and a ship and colliery winding engine on the side turrets. On the whole, though, the building is little altered, except internally largely the result of a sizeable addition to the west built in the 1960s as a geriatric unit added by the South East Regional Hospital Board in the face of a pressing need for additional beds for the elderly in Fife.

Geriatric Unit, from the south, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

An extension of the hospital was first mooted late in 1954. At that stage it was hoped to add an out-patient and physiotherapy department. At much the same time the South East Regional Hospital Board had been considering its strategy for hospital provision for the ageing population, specifically in Fife. Early in 1955 sketch plans were drawn up, at this stage for a 44-bed unit with some physiotherapy and out-patient accommodation. Little progress having been made, in January 1957 the Regional Board appointed Dr Robert Rankine to develop and take charge of a hospital geriatric service for the county.  He produced a report in April endorsing the proposals to expand the Randolph Wemyss hospital. At this stage, however, there was no prospect of funds being available for such a building before 1960. In February 1959 the Regional Board approved the acquisition of additional land to the west of the hospital for a new building and the construction of a 60-bed geriatric unit, with limited facilities for physiotherapy, at an estimated cost of £120,000. [Fife Archives, H/EF/1/10-11, East Fife Hospital Board of Management Minutes.]

Geriatric Unit, from the west, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The new unit was built in 1962-3 and officially opened early in 1964. The architect in charge was Iain D. Haig, one of the team in the Regional Board’s architects department headed by John Holt. Although in marked contrast to the original hospital, its stylish design and respectful distance from the older building ensures that each can be equally appreciated. (Personally, I think they are both very handsome – in different ways.) Rather like the slightly earlier Phase One buildings at the Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, the geriatric unit blends modernism, in its construction and the concrete fins that form the building’s most distinctive feature, with elements of traditional Scottish vernacular building traditions, in the use of random-rubble stone as a facing on the ground storey.

Geriatric Unit, showing the low link-building, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The new range was designed with a reinforced concrete frame, aluminium sliding sash windows (since replaced), a central spine beam supporting floors and roof, and close-centred perimeter columns of precast concrete designed as projecting fins to create ‘sun baffles’ for the ward areas. Wards were on the upper two floors, designed on an adaptation of the Nuffield type with the bed bays on one side of a service corridor, and ancillary rooms, plus single-bed rooms, on the other.

Geriatric Unit, view towards entrance on west front, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

Each of the two ward floors accommodated thirty patients arranged in two nursing units per floor of sixteen and fourteen beds, with four 6-bed bays, one 3-bed bay and three single rooms. Nurses stations were in the service corridor area placed centrally between the 6-bed bays and with the single rooms close by. Glazed screens divided the bed bays to maintain a clear view for the nursing staff. A day room was placed at the centre, between the two 6-bed bays, and a passageway ran along the south-west side beside the windows, fitted with a handrail to assist ambulant patients to exercise, out of the way of the main circulation corridor on the other side of the wards. Perhaps in an echo of the original entrance hall floor, there was a patterned vinyl-tile floor, supplied by Nairn’s of Kirkcaldy in the new wing. The original colour scheme throughout was grey and white, with accents of stronger colour. [The Hospital, May 1965, pp.229-30]

In 2008 the hospital was re-opened by Nicola Sturgeon after modernisation. It currently operates as a community hospital run by NHS Fife, with various out-patient clinics, and the geriatric unit (now the Wellesley Unit) providing in-patient palliative and continuing care.

Two Highland Hospitals.

Only a few miles apart, there are two small hospital buildings both designed by W. C. Joass. Both hospitals are particularly fine examples of Victorian cottage hospital architecture in Scotland, typical of the diminutive scale of the earliest hospitals of this type.

W. C. Joass was the father of one of the great London Scots architects J. J. Joass. William Cumming Joass was born in Inverness in 1833. He may perhaps have trained with Alexander Ross, as he was later taken into partnership by him and placed in charge of the Dingwall office. From 1865 Joass was practising on his own account there. Most of his work was in the Highlands, much of it domestic or farm buildings, but also quite a few churches, some schools – notably during the 1870s, and police stations in the late 1880s and 90s (four of these were on the island of Lewis). In the year that he became a partner of Alexander Ross the poorhouse on Skye was one of the projects in hand, but the first hospital that Joass designed was the Ross Memorial in Dingwall.

Front elevation of the Ross Memorial Hospital, photographed in August 2019, © H. Richardson

Still functioning today, this hospital opened in 1873 as a memorial to Dr William Ross who died in 1869. Joass was also the architect for additions to the hospital carried out around 1879. That year he was also engaged to design the Spa Pavilion at Strathpeffer, having earlier designed two hotels in the small Spa town, the the Strathpeffer and the Ben Wyvis.

The 1st edition OS map, surveyed soon after the hospital was built in 1873, shows the isolated position of the hospital, well east of the town centre. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Ross Memorial treated both medical and surgical cases, and, if need arose, could accommodate infectious cases, due to the way in which it was designed with effective separation between the wards. Joass was advised by the local medical practitioner, Dr Bruce, as well as drawing on Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Hospitals. The medical and surgical sections were designed to function independently, minimising the risks of cross infection. Each comprised two small wards (with just two beds apiece), with their own kitchen, wash-room and WCs. The nurse’s room was placed between the wards, with inspection windows through which she could view the patients.

Plan, elevations and sections of the Ross Memorial Hospital, reproduced from H. C. Burdett, Cottage Hospitals: General, Fever, and Convalescent: Their Progress, Management and Work…, London, 1880 p. 274

Henry C. Burdett, the great social reformer and chronicler of hospital design in the late-nineteenth century, commended Joass’s plan in his book, Cottage Hospitals, published in 1880: ‘as, with the exception of the ventilation of the WCs, which should in all cases be entered by a lobby with cross ventilation, so that the escape of sewer gas into the passages may be avoided, we consider the arrangements very good indeed.’ Burdett’s description of the hospital suggests that in the short time since it opened  it had adapted to suit local needs and was treating surgical and accident cases on one side of the building, and infectious diseases on the other.

Old postcard of the Ross Memorial Hospital. © H. Richardson

The Inverness Courier, reporting on the opening of the hospital, found no fault with the building: ‘everything about the hospital is so arranged as to prevent the absorption of any poisonous matter’. The floors were ‘saturated with solid paraffin’, and non-absorbent matting used. The main decorative element seems to have been a set of engravings given by Lady Walden to cheer the rooms. An unusual detail given in the newspaper regarded the operating table, made of pitch pine donated by the owner of one of Inverness’s sawmills, Mr Walker. The table was made by Mr Lewis Macdonald, carpenter, but intriguingly, the legs were turned ‘by an amateur’.

OS 2nd edition of the 25-inch map, revised in 1904, shows the various additions to the hospital to this date. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The David Ross lodge, at the entrance to the hospital, was built in 1895-6 as a memorial to the Provost David Ross by the Wester Ross Farmers’ Club. In 1909 a new isolation hospital was built, with six wards, kitchens, nurses’ accommodation, bathrooms and ‘special pan cleaning apparatus’ (this may be the block to the west of the main building – later used as a nurses’ home). It also had a veranda for the open-air treatment of patients suffering from tuberculosis.  Further additions were made in 1938 by the local architects Mackenzie and MacDonald and X-ray apparatus was installed, gifted by William Peterkin, a well-know shorthorn breeder. Peterkin later gave £3,000 to build and furnish a maternity home on the site. This gift was announced mid-December in 1944, and only a week later he died suddenly (though he was 87 years old). When the new wing was opened in July 1946 it was named the William Peterkin Maternity Home in his honour. The ‘home’ provided 16 beds, varying from one-bedded to four-bedded, and a labour room. During that year around 200 babies were born in the hospital – the only such facility in the county of Ross-shire.

The large-scale OS map of 1964 shows the new out-patient department to the rear of the hospital. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Two years after the Maternity Home opened, the hospital passed to the Secretary of State for Scotland under the National Health Service. The change had not been welcomed by the Chairman of the managers, W. R. T. Middleton.

Outpatients’ Department, photographed in August 2019 © H. Richardson

Under the NHS a new out-patient department was built which opened in 1962. This was followed by new maternity and physiotherapy units in 1966. The design of the out-patient department was based on the standard plan devised within the Department of Health for Scotland, a copy of which was supplied in advance of publication to the Northern Regional Hospital Board. D. Polson Hall, the Architect to the Board, had to adapt the plan in order to provide additional space for orthodontics and eye specialities. Double-glazing was another modification, not unreasonably for a hospital in the Highlands. The standard plan was also applied to the out-patients’ departments at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, and the Lawson Memorial Hospital, Golspie, built around the same time.

View of the rear of the hospital, with the boiler house chimney to the right. Photographed in August 2019, © H. Richardson

The maternity unit contained 16 beds and labour suites, and the physiotherapy unit included treatment rooms and a gymnasium. Building costs for the maternity and physiotherapy units were not overly high, coming in at £111,136, below the limit of the region’s ordinary building programme and thus not centrally funded. This included the boiler house, which had to be put in to cope with the demands for heating and hot-water in the enlarged hospital.

Entrance to the back of the Out-Patients’ Department. Perhaps the original porch? Photographed in August 2019. © H. Richardson

The second, and last, hospital that Joass designed was the Nicolson Mackenzie Memorial Hospital in Strathpeffer which first opened its doors in 1896. It was established as a mineral water hospital, a partly charitable and partly self-funding small enterprise to treat those of limited means seeking treatment for rheumatism and other joint pains.

South front of the former Nicolson Mackenzie Hospital, photographed in August 2019 © H. Richardson

Built on the slopes above Strahpeffer, the Nicolson Mackenzie blends in with the neighbouring villas of this surprising spa. It is a buff-coloured, harled building with a tall slim central block of two storeys flanked by single-storey ward blocks. At a public meeting in Strathpeffer in October 1891 the first committee was appointed for promoting a hospital scheme, and a site was gifted by the Earl of Cromartie (at the rear of Mr Lunn’s posting establishment). In 1894, the committee was offered £1,000 from Miss Morison Duncan, on behalf of her mother, Mrs Morison Duncan of Naughton House, Fife, if the hospital was named after her uncle, Dr Nicolson Colin MacKenzie, who had been born in Strathpeffer but had lost his life in rescuing his fellow passengers from the wreck of the Fairy Queen  off the coast of Nova Scotia.


East front and main entrance to the former hospital, photographed in August 2019 © H. Richardson, and below the same view in the mid-1970s, © Crown Copyright: HES (List C Survey)

With this generous donation work was soon underway on the building, the foundation stone was laid in October 1895 by Miss Morrison Duncan herself. The local newspaper recorded the event, which took place on a fine, if chilly, day. The Mineral Water Home was heralded as a most beneficial institution at this fashionable resort that would greatly benefit the poorer class: ‘it will enable them to sojourn in search of rest and health without incurring anything like the expenditure they cannot at present avoid.’

OS 2nd edition, 25-inch map, revised in 1904, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The contractors who built the hospital were all from Dingwall or Strathpeffer: Mr Harrow, mason, and D. Ross, carpenter, both of Strathpeffer; R. Mackenzie & Son, plumber, D. Maclean, slater, and G. Mackay, plasterer, all of Dingwall. In August 1896 the building was completed and the opening ceremony performed by Lilian, Countess of Cromartie. Miss Morrison Duncan was there, along with the local dignitaries and visitors then staying at the Spa. A short notice of the opening appeared in the specialist journal The Hospital in September 1896 which described it as being a ‘pretty little building’. Its success was immediate, and the original provision of just ten beds soon raised to 12.

The Nicolson Mackenzie photographed in the 1970s, when the harling was painted white. © Crown Copyright: HES (List C Survey)

It was not the first hospital to be built in Strathpeffer, but there is a mystery surrounding the earlier hospital with just a few scraps of information having so far come to light. It is mentioned in the New Statistical Account for Scotland as having fifty beds – remarkably large for so small a place. It seems to have been established largely through the efforts of Captain James Edward Gordon, briefly M.P. for Dundalk. According to a later newspaper report, the hospital never opened, as Gordon did not appointed any trustees to run it, and the building was pulled down some twenty years after it had been built. This is not quite consistent with a report in the Inverness Courier of 8 August 1838 which mentions a hospital or dispensary at Strathpeffer, as a favourite project of Gordon’s, ‘the design of which is good’. At the time, Gordon was trying to divert funds from the Destitution in Shetland Fund to his Strathpeffer charity. There is also a notice which appeared in the Courier in August 1836, entitled ‘Strathpfeffer Infirmary’ about a bazaar that was to be held to raise money for this charitable institution ‘established for the relief of the destitute and suffering poor, who annually resort to the mineral waters from the surrounding counties.’ Perhaps the truth about this early hospital will emerge one day.

View from the north-west, the rear of one of the former ward blocks is in the foreground to the right, photographed in August 2019 © H. Richardson

Its successor survives, though no longer as a hospital. Its future was already under threat in the 1960s, when the rationalisation of services and development of Raigmore were in full swing. It held out until the early 1990s, and was subsequently converted to domestic use. Around that time the harling, which had been painted white, was repainted a buff colour. Renamed Mackenzie House, it became a guest-house, and more recently has been adapted for holiday rentals. I would like to thank the present owner who very kindly allowed me to take some photos of the former hospital.

Sources

Inverness Courier, 30 Oct 1873, p.7: H. C. Burdett, Cottage Hospitals, 1880: The Hospital, vol.58, no.7 July 1962, p.491: Ross-shire Journal, 21 October 1892, p.4: 25 October 1895, p.7; 28 August 1896, p.7: The Hospital, 19 sept 1896, p.406: Ross-shire Journal, 16 July 1897, p.7;  6 May 1910, p.7: The Scotsman, 13 Dec 1938, p.8: Aberdeen P&J, 15 Dec 1944, p.4: The Scotsman, 24 July 1946, p.3

Medical Officer for Health, Ross and Cromarty, Annual Reports1946 adn 1947

Annual Reports of the Department of Health for Scotland: Parliamentary Papers, Estimates Committee, Hospital Building in Great Britain, Minutues of Evidence, Session 1969-70

Inverness Courier, 24 August 1836, p.1, 8 August 1838 p.3: The New Statistical Account of Scotland. V.14 (Inverness, Ross, Cromarty) Edinburgh W. Blackwood and sons, 1845, p.250

see also the Ross-shire Journal 8 Sept 2018

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.

geograph-3848994-by-Terry-Robinson

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.

geograph-4224194-by-Neil-Owen

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.

geograph-922910-by-Sarah-Smith

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