Toronto General Hospital

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A recent e-bay purchase has prompted this brief post. I was drawn to the attractive tinted postcard showing this monumental hospital complex, and tickled by the short statement the sender had written on the back:
‘This is all one hospital, grand don’t you think’.

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Former main building of Toronto General Hospital, now home to MaRS Discovery District. Photograph by Chjovans wikimedia commons  CC BY-SA 3.0

Much of the range fronting College Street survives, but was sold off by the hospital to the MaRS charitable trust around 2002. The impression from the postcard of gleaming white buildings turns out to be misleading, as they were built of a warm honey coloured brick with stone dressings. Perhaps the producer of the postcard, Valentine & Sons United Publishing Co. Ltd, was responding to contemporary comments on the choice of material – the brick came in for a good deal of criticism from ‘the man on the street’ while the buildings were going up. Valentine & Sons have corrected the error of the architect by painting the hospital white. [1]

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Toronto General Hospital c.1913. Courtesy of Toronto Public Library

The entire complex was designed by the Toronto architects Darling & Pearson, Frank Darling as executant architect. Darling had designed other hospitals, but was not the best-known hospital architect in Canada so the choice was not without controversy. However, from the time when the foundation stone was laid by Earl Grey, Governor General of Canada, on 11 April 1911 it took just two years to complete the buildings which opened in 1913.  The main range pictured above faced north on College Street with a frontage of around 620 feet, the administration block with its central domed tower was flanked by the medical and surgical sections (to the west and east respectively).

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Goad Fire Insurance plan from 1924, showing the extent of the hospital before expansion in the later 1920s. Reproduced by courtesy of Toronto City Archives

In all it was planned to accommodate nearly 700 patients. Three-storey ward pavilions extended southwards from the main range and had  24- and 16-bed wards on each floor as well as numerous smaller wards for different cases, at the south end were sun balconies or verandas. The separate blocks to the south included the square outpatients department and pathology department on the west side fronting University Avenue, and nurses’ home,  and obstetrics building on the west side.

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Toronto General Hospital medical ward pavilion to south of main range. From the James Salmon Collection, Fonds 1231, item 206. Reproduced by courtesy of City of Toronto Archives
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Toronto General Hospital,  Nurses’ Home. From the James Salmon Collection, Fonds 1231, item 205b. Reproduced by courtesy of City of Toronto Archives
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Toronto General Hospital view from the roof of Elizabeth Street School, across to the main building (right) with the Private Patients’ pavilion to the left. Reproduced courtesy of City of Toronto Archives. Fonds 200, Department of Public Works photographs
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The Private Patients’ Pavilion 1928-30. Courtesy of Toronto Public Library

A large and significant addition to the site was made in the late 1920s in the shape of the new pavilion for private patients. This giant T-plan building providing 321 private rooms, was erected on the south-east corner of the site. It was fitted up in the style of a well-appointed hotel, with soft furnishings unthinkable in a charity or municipal hospital. The aim was to attract patients whose fees would contribute not just to the pavilion but the entire hospital. [2]

References

  1. C. K. Clarke, A history of the Toronto General Hospital, 1913,  p.134
  2.  J.T.H. Connor, Doing Good: The Life of Toronto’s General Hospital, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000, pp.212-3.

A mysterious coded message from Midhurst Sanatorium

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Recently I bought this post-card of the chapel at the King Edward VII Sanatorium, Midhurst, and was both surprised and puzzled to find what I assume to be a coded message on the back. The postmark is Aldershot, 7 August 1912, another puzzle as it suggests that the postcard was not sent from the hospital. If anyone has any idea how to translate the code I would be very grateful for any clues or explanations.

The puzzling message on a 1912 postcard to Miss Goddard of Ufton Green from ‘J’. A search in the census found a Georgina Goddard, born about 1887, who grew up on her Grandfather’s farm at Ufton in Berkshire and was living at the farm with her parents in 1911.

I had no idea about the message when I bought the card, it was the photograph of the chapel that I was interested in. The former Midhurst Sanatorium is one of the finest examples of this type of hospital. It was designed by H. Percy Adams and Charles Holden and was opened by Edward VII in 1906. The King had founded, and funded, the sanatorium which was for paying patients suffering from tuberculosis not wealthy enough to seek treatment abroad. Edward VII had been impressed with sanatoria on the Continent and their open air regimes.

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Not the best snap, but it gives an idea of the unusual V-shaped plan which created two naves stretching out from a central chancel under the squat tower. At the centre is an open-air pulpit – seen more clearly in the photograph below.

In 1901 the King formed an advisory committee comprising eminent physicians and authorities on the treatment of tuberculosis. It was decided to hold a competition, not for the design of a sanatoria, but for an essay on the subject, and was aimed at members of the medical profession as much as, or even rather than architects. The competition was won by Dr Arthur Latham and the architect William West of London, Robert Weir Schultz gained an honourable mention, but the commission went to H. Percy Adams. Adams was able to consult the winning entry before drawing up his plans and also visited several sanatoria in Germany and Switzerland.

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Open-air pulpit at the Midhurst Sanatorium chapel, from which the chaplain could address a garden congregation. The arcade in front of the arched windows lighting the nave provided shade or shelter, as the windows originally were unglazed. 
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Looking across from one arcade to the other. The main sanatorium building can just be glimpsed to the right of the photograph.
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Looking down one of the arcades
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The entrance to the west nave, off-set from the nave behind. It has a commanding and solid presence, faced in stone with a chequerboard band below the parapet.

The idea of designing an open-air chapel did not come from Adams and Holden, it had been suggested by the Advisory Committee, but without any clear indication of what form it should take. The twin naves Adams and Holden designed allowed for the division of men from women, and the V-shaped or half-butterfly plan is common to sanatoria and some country houses as it produced a sun-trap.

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The tall arched openings leading out to the arcade were originally unglazed and open to the elements, so that even while attending a chapel service patients could continue their open-air regime. The glazing was added in 1957 designed by Brian Poulter, the hospital’s consulting architect.

In an open-air chapel, heating was important and here a system of under-floor heating was provided. It comprised steam pipes which warmed the stone floor, and was similar to that used at Eppendorf Hospital, Hamburg.

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The chancel is octagonal and domed, the pulpit, lectern and altar have carved teak and inlaid ebony detailing.
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Another view of the chancel. The walls of Bath stone are finely jointed ashlar and the floor is of York stone.

Sir John Brickwood, brewer of Portsmouth, provided the £25,000 to build the chapel, which opened at the same time as the hospital in 1906. His wife, Lady Jessie Brickwood, embroidered an intricate altar cloth that had a central figure of Christ flanked by the emblems of the four evangelists set against scrolling foliage. (There is a picture of the altar with its altar cloth on Brickwoods.co.uk, with much more information on the family)

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The rear of the chapel. Although the later extension to the right detracts a little from the impact of this elevation, the tower is still impressive with its graded stripes and patterns in the brickwork and the boldness of its composition, suggestive of the talents of Charles Holden.

Sources

RCHME Report on King Edward VII Hospital, NBR No. 101270, written by H. Richardson and C. Thom November 1992, for which the following sources were used:  Academy Architecture, 1903, ii, 116-9:  Allibone, F, typescript notes to collection of drawings by Adams, Holden & Pearson in RIBA Drawings Collection: The Builder, 23 May 1903, 531-2; 22 April 1905, 440; 23 June 1906, 707: Building News, 27 May 1904, 761: Kelly’s Directory of Sussex 1934, 1934, 243: Large, S E, 1986. King Edward VII Hospital Midhurst 1901-1986: Nairn, I & Pevsner, N, 1965. The Buildings of England: Sussex: Recent English Ecclesiastical Architecture, 2nd ed, 212-6

Hospitals for Incurables: the former Longmore Hospital, Edinburgh

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Historic Scotland Offices in the former Longmore Hospital which closed in 1991 ©Copyright kim traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Separate hospitals for incurables began to be established in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century and were welcomed by some, condemned by others. Andrew Reed, who founded the hospital for incurables in Putney in 1854 (which eventually became the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability) firmly believed in the need to offer relief to such unfortunates, and had a few years earlier founded Royal Earlswood Asylum, for those with incurable mental disorders. While the Poor Law provided care for those who had been rendered destitute by their chronic illness, there was little provision for those above the poverty line, whose physical or mental condition was often made worse by their living conditions. Cancer, tuberculosis, rheumatism, paralysis, deformity and spinal disease or injury, were chief amongst the illnesses that were unwelcome in general hospitals because of the length of time a patient suffering from chronic disease occupied a place on the ward. The Middlesex Hospital in London was rare in having a cancer ward, established in 1792.

The first specialist cancer hospital in Britain was in London, opening in 1852 in a converted house in Fulham Road. Its founder was William Marsden, and his Free Cancer Hospital became known as the Royal Marsden in 1954. Other early cancer hospitals were established in Leeds (around 1858), Liverpool (1862) and Manchester (1871), although these did not just treat cancer. The first specialist cancer hospital in Scotland opened in 1890 in Glasgow (later the Beatson Memorial Hospital). The discovery of X-rays, radioactivity and radium in the late nineteenth century introduced new treatments and radical surgery.

By the late nineteenth century hospitals for incurables had become an established type.  Henry Burdett, the great chronicler of hospital planning and design in this period,  provided advice on what form such hospitals should take, reproducing plans of the Jaffray Hospital in Birmingham by way of an exemplar. This was a distinct hospital plan type, more analogous to a convalescent home where patients similarly might not be confined to bed all day. Day-rooms, sitting-rooms, libraries and smoking-rooms, with easy access to the open air, whether a balcony, verandah or garden, were considered desirable in hospitals for incurables. Wide corridors to accommodate wheelchairs, and a lift to access upper floors helped patients get about, and, Burdett urged, there should be  ‘an absence of everything which will tend to promote waste of energy of every kind’

In Scotland the first hospital for incurables was founded in Aberdeen in 1857, opening in a private house in Morningfield the following year. In 1874 the Scottish National Institution for the Relief of Incurables was established and this lead to a number of hospitals being founded. That in Edinburgh first opened in 1875 with accommodation for 22 patients, the Edinburgh Association for Incurables having purchased a house for the purpose at 3 Salisbury Place which was enlarged and altered at a cost of £3,265 142d, plus another £300 or so for furniture and fittings. Within a year of its opening, the management committee was already hoping to add separate wards for cancer cases.

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Extract from the OS Large Scale Town Plans, 1877. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland. The Longmore Hospital is the building on the north side of Salisbury Place set furthest back from the road, with two rear wings. 

The inadequacy of the original house lead to the acquisition of adjoining properties and rebuilding on the site. The patients were evacuated to a house in Fisher Row until the new hospital was completed at the end of 1880. Most of the cost was met by the trustees of J. A. Longmore, and the name of the hospital changed to honour this generosity.

Efforts to expand continued, Nos 6 and 7 Salisbury Place were purchased and fitted up for patients in 1886.

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A visit from the Lord High Commissioner from RCAHMS

The Lord High Commissioner made more than one visit to the hospital, so it is hard to date the photograph. In May 1890 he paid a long visit with Lady Tweeddale, and in June 1894 The Lancet reported that the Lord High Commissioner and the Marchioness of Breadalbane had paid their ‘usual visits to the various hospitals in Edinburgh’ on which occasion the Marchioness opened a bazaar at the Longmore.

In 1891 plans for enlarging the hospital were approved which involved pulling down the old east wing of the building. This was to make way for a ‘more suitable wing’ which was intended to provide accommodation for 34 additional patients, with two 14-bed wards, nurses’ rooms, lavatories, kitchens, but no mention of where the other six patients were to be fitted in.

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Women’s ward from the ‘old East wing, now demolished’, from RCAHMS

The OS map below from 1893 shows how much the hospital had evolved in the relatively short time since it first opened.

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Extract from the OS Large Scale Town Plans, 1893. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Princess May and the Duke of York opened the new East Wing in 1891.

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Princess May Ward. From RCAHMS

The west wing was added in 1899, along with a new laundry, kitchen, chapel and mortuary, and electric lighting was installed. The new wing, of two storeys over a basement, was attached to the main building by a ‘wide corridor of iron and glass’. The ground floor was set apart for phthisical (TB) patients, the upper floor for cancer.

The map below from 1905 shows this later phase of the development.

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Extract from the 2nd edition OS map, revised 1905. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland. 

A series of photographs of the interior of the hospital has been preserved in the National Monuments Record of Scotland, and provide a glimpse of what life was like there for patients and staff. The photographs seem to have been taken in the 1890s as a record of the new additions to the hospital, though as we have seen, they include at least one photograph of older parts of the hospital prior to demolition.

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Interior of a ward for female cancer patients. The cancer wards along with the TB wards were probably in the 1899 addition which comprised a two-storey and basement wing connected to the main building by a broad glazed corridor. From RCAHMS
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And its counterpart for male cancer patients. From RCAHMS
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Interior of a ward for male TB patients, from RCAHMS
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A private ward, from RCAHMS
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It is particularly poignant to see children in hospital, but even more so in a hospital for incurables. From RCAHMS
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Not all patients were confined to bed, here is a ‘recreation room’ for male patients. From RCAHMS
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Probationer Nurses’ drawing room. From RCAHMS
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The main hospital kitchen, rebuilt in 1899. From RCAHMS
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A ward kitchen. From RCAHMS

References: H. C. Burdett, Hospitals and Asylums of the World, vol.3, 1893, pp.303-5: The Lancet, 4 July 1891, p.47; 6 Feb 1892, p.336, 9 June 1894, p.1476; 14 Jan 1899, pp.125-6: Edinburgh Evening News, 4 Feb 1876; 11 Nov 1880; 15 June 1886, p.2

see also: Lothian Health Services Archive blogspot and Building up our Health pp. 92-3

Humphreys’ Hospitals

This post takes another look at prefabs and temporary buildings, following on from those featuring Doecker and Ducker. Perhaps the most prolific supplier and manufacturer in England was Humphreys of Knightsbridge.  It was Humphreys’ firm which, in 1907,  provided the wood and iron hut for the British Antarctic Expedition led by Ernest Shackleton, that was assembled by the team in 1908 at Cape Royds, on the coast of the Antarctic continent. The hut was still  standing in 2009 when Henry Worsley and two descendants of that party retraced Shackleton’s steps, and stayed in the hut.

James Charlton Humphreys (1848-1932) ‘small in stature… big in business’. Humphreys’ activities in Knightsbridge were covered in the Survey of London’s  Knightsbridge volume. James’ father, also James, had been a corn dealer in the 1850s moving into iron and steel by the 60s. James Charlton Humphreys, was the youngest of the five sons listed in the 1851 census at their home in Smith Street, Chelsea. He started out as a dealer in iron before becoming an iron merchant and contractor. In the 1881 census he was employing 20 men and living at Albert Gate, Knightsbridge with his wife and two young daughters.

This is the most familiar form of corrugated-iron building to be seen today, a ‘tin tabernacle’. Corrugated-iron building at Snelsdon © Copyright Andrew Abbott and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The iron-buildings business at one time had occupied a former floorcloth factory in Hill Street (Trevor Place), but by the early twentieth century was largely carried on in Pimlico, the company’s offices and showrooms remaining at Albert Gate Mansions.  Humphreys himself became a well-known local figure, not only as an industrialist and property-owner but also as a member of the Westminster Vestry and a Volunteer officer. In the 1911 Census when James Humphreys was living in a large house in Haslemere, Surrey, he described himself as chairman of the firm, Humphreys Ltd ‘contractors for buildings of every description’.

In the 1922 edition of Henry Franklin Parsons’ book on isolation hospitals there is a chapter titled ‘Movable hospitals and hospitals of more or less perishable construction’ which illustrates some of Humphreys’ temporary hospital buildings and discusses their construction, merits and deficiencies. The one deficiency that they were unaware of at the time, sadly, was the health risk associated with asbestos. Fireproofing was a primary concern for this type of building which was essentially a large wooden shed heating by an iron coal or wood-burning stove. Lozenge-shaped asbestos-cement tiles in red, white or grey were often used in place of corrugated iron for the walls or roofs, internal lining of the huts was either the highly flammable match-boarding or asbestos-cement fireproof sheeting. As Parsons noted, match-board lining became very dry over time, and flames ran along the spaces between the timbers so that ‘buildings of this sort have in many instances been rapidly consumed, in some case with loss of life’. The danger point was where the flue of the stove passed through the roof or wall. As the buildings were so badly insulated, the stove was stoked up and the pipe overheated. Generally they were hot in summer, cold in winter and noisy in hail storms or heavy rain. (When I was a child, my family lived for a time in a house with a corrugate-iron roof, and I well remember waking up in terror the first time it rained as the noise was extraordinary – l thought it sounded like gunfire.)

The lightness of these buildings held further dangers: ‘Frame buildings covered with wood or iron have also been on several occasions blown over or wrecked during a storm, causing much hardship to the patients’. This seems something of an understatement. In Scotland a Deocker hospital hut put up in 1895 by the Lorn District Committee at Ellenabeich, Kilbrandon, was mostly blown into the sea and lost during a gale within a year of its erection.

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I don’t know where exactly the but was erected, but this is an extract from the first edition OS map showing Ellenabeich, Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland 

Humphreys’ patent iron hospitals were covered in Robert Taylor’s Hospitals Investigator issue no.8. He had come across an advertisement for their buildings in The Hospital, one of the most useful journals published in that period for information on hospital design. The advertisement, on p.429, volume 57 for 6 February 1915, gave a list of places where Humphreys’ iron hospitals had been erected.

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‘From the presence of names such as Thingoe it is clear that this is not simply a list of places where hospitasl were built, but includes an uncertain number of names of local authorities that are different from the locations of the buildings, an important difference when it comes to identifying the buildings. ‘Oxford’ clearly means the surviving hospital at Garsington, the Gosport and Portsmouth hospitals survived in the early 1990s, and the Wareham hospital was said to survive in use as a house. Netley was of course the Welsh Hospital. Many others are known to be demolished, including Eton, Hardingstone, Ipswich, Loewstoft, Plymouth, Slough, Stowmarket, and Thingoe. Of those that can be identified at present, a large proportion seem to be smallpox hospitals. The Bury St Edmunds example could be either the municipal smallpox hospital or a private tuberculosis sanatorium already known to be by Hmphrey; both are now gone.

The advertisement also gives the current prices for hospitals, but omits to say how much ground work has to be done by the client. The prices quoted range from £403 for a 12-bed hospital to more than twice that, £820, for 40 beds.

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The list of places in England is a long one:

Abingdon, Accrington, Amble, Ampthill, Annfield Plain, Ashby de la Zouch, Asylums Board, Barking, Barrow in Furness, Barton Regis, Beaconsfield, Bedford, Bedminster, Biddulph, Bideford, Bierley Hall, Birmingham, Bishops Castle, Blackpool, Blyth, Bolton, Bootle, Bournemouth, Boxmoor, Bracknell, Bradford, Bridgenorth, Brighton, Bristol, Buckingham, Bury, Bury St Edmunds, Canterbury, Castleford, Chatham, Charlton, Chester, Chester le Street, Chesterfield, Cleckheaton, Coalville, Crediton, Croydon, Dagenham, Darenth, Dartford, Devonport, Doncaster, Dorking, Dover, Durham, Easling, Eastbourne, East Ham, Eastry, Enfield, Eston, Eton, Finchley, Fulham, Gillingham, Gravesend, Grays, Great Yarmouth, Greenhithe, Gloucester, Godalming, Gosport, Guildford, Halifax, Hambledon, Hampstead Norris, Hanley Castle, Hants reformatory, Hardingstone, Harrogate, Hayes, Hebburn on Tyne, Hereford, Hertford, Hexham, Hitchin, Homerton, Houghton le Spring, Hungerford, Hythe, Ilkley, Ipswich, Jarrow, Keighley, Kendal, Keynsham, Kidderminster, Kingsholme, Kings Norton, Lambeth, Leeds, Leicester, Leigh (Essex), Leigh (Manchester), Leighton Buzzard, Lewes, Leyton, Liverpool, Liversedge and Mirfield, Lowestoft, Ludlow, Luton, Macclesfield, Maidenhead, Maidstone, Malvern Link, Manchester, Mansfield, Manson, Market Harborough, Melton Mowbray, Netley, New Quay, Northfleet, Northleach, Newcastle on Tyne, Oldham, Orsett, Otley, Oxford, Plymouth, Portland, Portsmouth, Ramsgate, Rawtenstall, Redcar, Redhill, Rochester, Rochford, Rushden, St Albans, Salford, Scarborough, Seacroft, Sedgefield, Shanklin, Sheffield, Shirehampton, Slough, Southampton, South Shields, South Stoneham, Stamford, Stannington, Stapleton, Stockwell, Stone, Stowmarket, Stratford upon Avon, Tadcaster, Taunton, Thingoe, Tonbridge, Tottenham, Tunbridge Wells, Tynemouth, Uppingham Upton on Severn, Uxbridge, Wakefield, Ware, Wareham, Warwick, Watford, Wellingborough, Welwyn, West Ham, Weston super Mare, Whatstandwell, Whitehaven, Whitwood, Wigan, Willesden, Willington Quay, Wimbledon, Windsor, Wolverhampton, Wombourne, Worcester

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Of these, further information can be given the following:

Bury St Edmunds: this is probably the Humphrey sanatorium built in 1910 for a private company as the Bury and West Suffolk Sanatorium.

Chesterfield: the Borough Council had a temporary 10-bed hospital in 1895, considered unsatisfactory by the LGB inspector (PP 1896 XXXVII, 723)

Durham: the Borough Council built an iron hospital in 1894 which the LGB considered unsatisfactory even before completed (PP 1896 XXXVII, 746).

Gosport: one building was extant in the early 1990s, collapsing but still in use, recognizable as Humphrey’s.

Hereford: the Borough Council erected a 16-bed hospital of corrugated iron lined with wood in 1893, considered unsatisfactory by the LGB inspector (PP 1896 XXXVII, 779)

Keighley: perhaps the ‘temporary’ smallpox hospital here in 1894 (PP 1896 XXXVII, 797)

Leigh (Manchester): Leigh Joint Hospital Board was constituted in 1894; a smallpox hospital at Astley consisted of two corrugated iron buildings, presumably Humphrey’s. One had 16 beds and a nurses’ bedroom, the other 12 beds and a nurses’ bedroom and a kitchen (PP 1909 XXVIII, 81).

Macclesfield: in 1887 a ‘Ducker temporary hospital’ was erected here for smallpox, this may have been replaced or supplemented by a Humphreys model about 1890 (PP 1890 XXXIV, 129).

Netley. The Welsh Military Hospital, built in 1914 to the designs of E. T. and E. S. Hall at a cost of between £6,500 and £7,000 as a gift from the people of Wales to the fighting forces. It was first erected on the parade ground at Netley Hospital, with the intention of moving it to France later.

Orsett: the Joint Hospital Board erected a Humphrey’s corrugated iron building at Thurrock in 1901 (PP ?1901, XXVI, 140)

Oxford: the borough smallpox hospital was in Garsington parish, with a building recognizable as Humphrey’s containing two wards, an administration building with a few characteristics, and a small mortuary, all surviving in the early 1990s.

Portsmouth: A recognizable Humphrey block with two wards survives as an addition of 1909 to the municipal infectious diseases hospital now (1992) St Mary’s Hospital; it is used as Medical Records.

Thingoe: Thingoe Rural District Council, Bury St Edmunds, built a ‘temporary’ wood and iron hospital for smallpox in 1902 for £606 (PP 1909 XXVIII, 57).

Windsor: the smallpox hospital here was a temporary corrugated iron building erected alongside the sewage farm in 1893 to cope with a smallpox epidemic (PP 1900 XXXIV 99).

See also the isolation hospital, Arne, Purbeck, Dorset. From Michael Russell Wood’s Dorset’s Legacy in Corrugated Iron, 2012. “Halfway between Wareham and Corfe Castle, just off Soldiers Road, Arne, stand the Isolation Hospital and Nurses’ Bungalow. They were put up in the early 1900s. This hospital is the finest remaining example of the type and, together with the bungalow, is listed grade II. These are the only listed iron buildings in Dorset.”

Repton Park, formerly Claybury Hospital

Claybury Mental hospital, or London County Lunatic Asylum, Ilfor
Aerial view of Claybury, undated. (posted on flickr by Jeroen Komen and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Repton Park at Woodford Bridge in Essex is a large housing estate that has been created on the site of the former Claybury Hospital, using many of the former hospital buildings and keeping the new buildings to a minimum, so as to retain the open southern aspect and the original south elevation of the main hospital complex. (The aerial photograph above shows the western half as it appears in 2015 on Bing.com) The hospital closed in 1997 and it was originally intended to build much denser housing on the site.

Claybury Hospital was recorded as part of the RCHME’s Hospitals project and was visited in August 1991 by three of the project team (myself included) together with our photographer, Derek Kendall, and a student who worked with us over the summer.

Claybury was built as the fourth County Pauper Lunatic Asylum for Middlesex. It was designed on an échelon plan by G. T. Hine in 1888 and built in 1889-93. The site included the modest country house, Claybury Hall, of c.1790, which was retained and extended for private patients. It was an extensive complex of largely two- and three-storey asylum buildings linked by single-storey enclosed corridors, constructed of red brick with terracotta ornament, dominated by the central water tower.

This view of Claybury Hall was photographed by Lil Shepherd in September 2010 and is licensed under  CC BY 2.0 There is a painting of the house in the Government Art Collection  painted c.1800 by Abraham Pether

A competition was held for the design in 1887 and Hine was selected from among seven specially invited architects. A notable and prolific designer of asylums, he had been responsible for planning the borough asylum for his native Nottingham (1877). It was following his success in the Claybury competition that Hine moved to London and subsequently was appointed consulting architect to the Commissioners in Lunacy for England. [The Builder, 5 May 1916, 331]

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Claybury Asylum, ground floor plan from H. C. Burdett, Hospitals and asylums of the world, 1891 image ref: L0023315

In 1888 the plans for the Asylum were approved by the Lunacy Commissioners and in June 1890 the memorial stone was laid over the principal entrance of the administration block by Lord Rosebery, the first Chairman of the London County Council (LCC). The asylum was formally opened on 17 June 1893.

L0023316 Claybury Asylum, first floor plan.
Claybury Asylum, first-floor plan from H. C. Burdett, Hospitals and asylums of the world, 1891 image ref: L0023316 

Whilst Claybury had been begun as the fourth County Pauper Lunatic Asylum for Middlesex, it was opened as the 5th LCC Pauper Lunatic Asylum, following the Local Government Act of 1888 and the inauguration of the LCC. The LCC took over Hanwell, Colney Hatch and Banstead Asylums from Middlesex, and Cane Hill from Surrey. In June 1889 the Asylums committee was authorised to provide a fifth asylum for London by completing Claybury and a new building contract was drawn up in the following October. The building contractor under the LCC was E. Gabbutt of Liverpool. George Wise, who had been appointed Clerk of Works by the Middlesex Justices, was retained, as was Hine. A tramway was constructed to link up with the Great Eastern Railway for transporting building materials. In 1891 Hine was obliged to modify his plans following a decision to install electric lighting. This involved providing three additional boilers.

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OS Map 1914 revision reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The site had been selected by the Middlesex Justices in 1886. It comprised the house and estate of Claybury Hall. The mansion of c.1790 was probably designed by Jesse Gibson (c.1748-1828), the District Surveyor of the eastern division of the City of London. [Essex Review, xxxvii, pp.99-108, cited in H. Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1978] The house was a relatively modest two-storey building. The principal façade, facing south, was symmetrical with a central bow flanked by two outer bays, slightly advanced and contained beneath a shallow pediment. The bow at ground floor level was further defined by a semi-circular portico with coupled columns. The grounds extended to 269 acres and were landscaped by Repton. Burdett gave a description of the site, although at the time of writing the asylum buildings had not yet been completed.

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Claybury Hall in 1991 (photograph © Colin Thom)

‘Part of the land is charmingly wooded, affording shaded walks for the patients. No better site could be found for such a building, and although only 1½ miles from Woodford Station, and 6½ miles from Tower Hamlets, from which district it is expected most of the patients will be sent, the asylum will be perfectly secluded, and comprise in its own grounds all the beauties of an English rural district’. [H. C. Burdett Hospitals and Asylums of the World, 1893, vol.iv, p.345).

The asylum was placed on the summit of the hill rising to the north of the mansion house. The hill was levelled to provide a plateau of 12 acres giving a largely uniform ground-floor level from which some of the outer main corridors sloped to the outside blocks. Hine emphasized the importance of a flat site arguing that the additional cost was justified compared with ‘the perpetual inconvenience and extra cost of working a building filled with feeble, irresponsible patients, which has numerous steps on the ground-floor, up and down which food trolleys as well as patients have constantly to be conveyed’. [G.T. Hine ‘Asylums and Asylum Planning’ in Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 23 Feb. 1901, p.16]

Claybury was designed on an échelon plan. This was a development from the pavilion-plan asylum which comprised a sequence of pavilions or blocks, each designated for a different class of patient. Each pavilion contained a combination of wards, single rooms and day rooms, together with provision for staff and sanitary arrangements. The pavilions were generally linked by single storey corridors, either enclosed or as covered ways. The échelon plan differed from the pavilion plan only in its general layout, which, as the term suggests, consisted of pavilions arranged in an arrow head or échelon formation. This allowed Hine to provide all the patient blocks with day-rooms that had a southern aspect and uninterrupted views.

At the heart of the asylum was the recreation hall. It was particularly finely ornamented, was 120 feet long, 60 feet wide, and 40 feet high, and was capable of seating 1,200 people. At one end there was a gallery supported on iron columns and at the other the stage, with an elaborate proscenium arch in Jacobethan style, topped by a bust of Shakespeare. The high quality of decoration in the hall was integral to the philosophy of asylum planning and design at this date, as The Builder noted:

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‘The modern treatment of lunacy demands also more provision for the embellishment of the asylum than is to be found in the barrack like interiors of our older institutions. Hence the interior of Claybury Asylum is almost palatial in its finishings, its pitch-pine joinery, marble and tile chimney pieces, and glazed brick dados, so much so that some of the visitors rather flippantly expressed a desire to become inmates. The recreation hall, for example, is lavishly decorated with an elliptical ceiling, richly ornamented with Jackson’s fibrous plaster work, while the walls are panelled in polished oak, and the floors are to be finished in a similar manner.’ [The Builder, 30 July 1892, p.88]

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The interior of the recreation hall in 1991 (photographs © Colin Thom)

It is notable, however, that the majority of the fine interior work was reserved for the more public areas, such as the recreation hall, the chapel and the administration block.

L0027370 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a dormitory. Photograph by
This photograph of one of the dormitories was taken around 1893 and shows a spartan interior, with the beds closely spaced. Note the fireproof construction of the ceiling. Photograph by the London &County Photographic Co. (c)Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027370 

Above is one of a series of photographs from the Wellcome Library which look to have been taken when the asylum was newly completed. It shows a large dormitory of the type provided for chronic cases. Acute cases were housed in small wards with a large allowance of single rooms.

L0027373 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a dining room (?). Photogr
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027373

This view of a dining hall, presumably for patients rather than staff, although it is not so easy to tell as some of the decorative elements, such as wallpaper, curtains, potted plants, pictures on the walls, a hearth rug and the bird cage might seem a little luxurious for a pauper institution. However, homeliness and comfortable surroundings were recognised as important factors in treating mental illness. There is an almost identical photograph in Historic England Archives collection taken in 1895 by Bedford Lemere.

L0027374 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a social room (?). Photogr
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c)Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027374

The photograph above is labelled as showing a ‘social room’. Wallpaper, pictures, rugs, and potted plants are all in evidence again along with the piano, and the shawls draped over the backs of the chairs might suggest that the patients have just stood up and moved out of view. The ceiling has the same fireproof vaulting  seen in the previous photograph. It creates a slightly less institutional feel to the room than the exposed iron beams in the dining hall.

L0027372 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a nurses' day-room (?). Ph
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027372

The caption for these two photographs (above and below) suggest they might have been a day rooms for the nurses. The one below looks more like a staff room perhaps, particularly with the stained glass in the end window.

L0027371 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a nurses' day-room (?). Ph
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027371

The snap above was taken in 1991, and shows similar stained glass, with the coats or arms of the local borough councils. It was in the administration block, in the main stair window. This block also contained the board and committee rooms and offices for staff as well as sitting and bedrooms for three assistant medical officers. The corridors were floored with mosaic tiling, and a faience panel marked the entrance to the board room, which had oak-panelled walls and an enriched plaster ceiling. Amongst the collection of photographs at the Wellcome Library are views of the service areas, the laundry and kitchens etc. These blocks, to the north of the water tower, have all been demolished, along with the blocks for the attendants and nurses which originally flanked the recreation hall.

L0027368 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a linen room. Photograph b
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027368

This shows the linen room, and below is the ironing room. The work was strictly segregated for men and women. At this date patients would have assisted with many of the duties involved in the daily running of the asylum.

Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027377
L0027369 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a kitchen. Photograph by t
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027369

While the women washed and ironed, the men worked in the kitchens. I think this might be my favourite of the photographs of the working side of the hospital. Except perhaps this last one. These must be some of the senior staff, I think, though they are not identified and look very young.

Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027376

More information and modern photographs of the site can be found here http://thetimechamber.co.uk/beta/sites/asylums/london-county-asylum-claybury