Hospitals Investigator 11 revised

In February 1993, Robert Taylor from the Cambridge team of the RCHME Hospitals Project, produced his eleventh newsletter. Here are snippets on prefabricated hospitals by Humphreys, early prison infirmaries, provision of accommodation for tuberculosis in workhouses, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, Portal Frames and Wimborne Cottage Hospital (with a few digressions from me).

More Humphreys’ Hospitals

Another advertisement for Humphreys’ Iron Hospitals lists places where hospitals have been provided, but this time of 1895. All but three of the hospitals are also on the list published in 1915. As Humprheys provided buildings for the Metropolitan Asylums Board, is there any chance that they made the iron buildings of about 1894 at Colney Hatch asylum that burnt with such dramatic effect in 1903?

The three mentioned on the earlier list but not on the later one were: New Calverley, Romney, and Nottingham. ‘London’ is also listed. There are 102 places listed altogether.

Howard and Prisons

That a shortened version of John Howard’s The State of the Prisons should have been considered a sufficient work of literature to be added to the Everyman Library in 1929 is almost as amazing as the record of cruelty and discomfort contained within the book. The Everyman edition is taken from the third edition of Howard’s book, published in 1784.

Gateway to the County Gaol at Southwark, from Survey of London vol.25

By 1784 few prisons had an infirmary. The impression gained from skipping through Howard is that there were normally two rooms, one for each sex, but that these rooms were commonly on an upper storey and that they were not very large. At the Manchester County Bridewell, built in 1774, there were two rooms 14ft by 12ft. The Chelmsford County Gaol, completed in about 1778, had only one room, described by Howard as ‘close’ and therefore not used. The two rooms at the recently built Southwark County Gaol were also described as close, with only one small window each, and they too appear to have been little used because of this unsuitability. Whether the infirmaries were on the upper floor to get superior ventilation above the noisome cells is not clear; it could be that they were less convenient and so devoted to a less important function.

Howard himself considered that dryness and ventilation should be the principal factors. Howard also paid attention to the extent to which building were lime-washed. This he regarded in keeping with contemporary theory, as the one remedy for both infectious diseases and ‘bugs’ (vermin). Lime-washing as often as twice a year would kill disease and infestation. Many years later, in 1832, lime-washing houses was often tried as a precaution against cholera.

The fourth edition of Howard’s book published in 1792 was illustrated, and included a model plan and elevations.

Howard listed the most important features of an infirmary or sick ward in a prison as:
1. It should be in an airy part of the court
2. It should be detached from the rest of the gaol
3. It should be raised on arcades
4. The centre of the ward floor should have a grating for ventilation, 12 to 14 inches square
5. Perhaps there should be hand ventiltors

Some of these features can be seen in his model plan for a county gaol published in the 1792 edition of the State of Prisons.

TB in the Workhouse

By the beginning of 1904 some 27 English Poor Law Unions admitted to having adapted wards in their workhouse for consumptive patients, so that they could be separated from the rest of the occupants. Until then consumptives were mixed indiscriminately with the rest of the inmates, and remained so mixed at other workhouses for some time. Just how little work this involved will only emerge from further investigation, but my suspicion is that a French window and a balcony was probably a generous amount of alteration. At that time, open-air treatment for tuberculosis at Sheffield Royal Infirmary consisted simply of leaving half of the windows in the ward permanently open, and it seems that many or most unions took the same approach.

The unions are as follows:
Chester – two rooms in the hospital block
Plymouth – wards (unidentified)
South Shields – 1 ward
Portsmouth – 2-storey south-facing wards adapted by insertion of French windows and balconies. Electric fans were installed but little used.
Southampton –wards (unidentified)
Bishops Stortford – 1 ward in infirmary
Medway –wards
Blackburn –men have 2nd storey of infirmary, women to have new wards then building
Prescot –ward for 20 men
Camberwell –infirmary wards
City of London –south block of infirmary
Fulham -2 infirmary wards
Hampstead – south facing wards
Kensington – 2 wards adapted
St Mary Islington –top floor of infirmary
Wandsworth –iron buildings at Tooting annex
Atcham –top ward of infirmary for 20 men
Axbridge -4 dayrooms and 4 bedrooms
Bath –two 10-bed wards adapted, windows altered, shelters and dining-room built
Frome –wards built
Stoke – 2 wards with balconies
Richmond (Surrey) -2 wards
Brighton – 3-bed ward and balcony for men; women under consideration
Stourbridge –wards with end verandas adapted
Ecclesall – wards
Sheffield –small 20-bed block being adapted

Source: L. A. Weatherley, ‘Boards of Guardians and the Crusade against Consumption’ in Tuberculosis, 3, 1904-6, p.66

L0060820 Photograph showing the roof garden<br /> Credit: The RAMC Muniment Collection in the care of the Wellcome Library. Wellcome Images<br /> images@wellcome.ac.uk<br /> http://wellcomeimages.org<br /> Photograph: "This is a picture of the sun roof showing the huts and St. Paul's church in the distant left corner"<br /> Credit: The RAMC Muniment Collection in the care of the Wellcome Library<br /> c. 1915 Royal Army Medical Corps Muniment Collection<br /> Album of photographs of the King George V Military Hospital, Stamford Street, London, First World War<br /> Published: c. 1915<br /> Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Photograph showing the roof garden c.1915 with revolving shelters, probably for convalescents rather than Tb patients. From the RAMC Muniment Collection in the care of the Wellcome Library. Reproduced under Creative Commons licence CC BY 4.0

(The mention of shelters at Bath put me in mind of this photograph of the King George V military hospital, for more on this hospital see the excellent Lost Hospitals of London website.)

Nurseries

A brief paragraph in Paul Davies’ book The Old Royal Surrey County Hospital tells us that ‘the Metropolitan Asylums Board designated King George V Hospital, Godalming, and two other of their hospitals as ‘plant propagation centres’. This is a change of use that does not appear in any of the directories, and suggests that the M. A. B. operated a very successful cover-up. Presumably they also ran a very successful and profitable business, far more profitable than curing Londoners of their physical and mental ills.

Portal Frames

Robert Taylor succinctly described the portal frame as ‘a modern version of a jointed cruck’ but was struggling to date this type of construction until stumbling over an article in The Builder from the 1940s.

Cruck Framed Barn on Aldford Village Green photographed in 2014. This thatched, oak cruck framed barn was built in 2013 in a joint project between the Eaton Estate and Chester Renaissance. The purpose was to keep heritage skills alive by using modern and old-style building materials and methods. The barn is used as a public shelter and has a brick barbecue built into the chimney. © Copyright Jeff Buck and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The Ministry of Works and Planning carried out experiments between 1939 and 1942 to design a cheap, quickly erected hut that was largely prefabricated, infinitely adaptable, and durable. By 1942 they had developed the M.O.W.P. Standard Hut with reinforced concrete jointed crucks (two bracketed posts bolted to a pair of rafters, for the benefit of readers who are not members of the Vernacular Architecture Group) as its main feature. The trusses at each end were different, having two posts carrying a tie-beam with a wooden frame above to which corrugated asbestos was nailed. The corner posts are of a distinctive shape, with a quarter-round hollow. The trusses are usually at 6-foot centres, and the building is just under 20 feet wide overall. Wall panels and roof covering are whatever is available.

These huts crop up on every type of hospital site, usually as ancillary buildings such as laboratories, if indeed any function can be ascribed to them. At Ipswich workhouse they were used to create an H-shaped addition to the infirmary with operating theatre in the central range. It seems therefore that they are unlikely to be earlier than 1942. How late this design, with concave corner posts, remained in use is not known.

This answers an old question, where the name portal frame came from. The minister of Works and Planning from 1942 to 1944 was Sir Wyndham Portal, 3rd baronet, created a baronet in 1935 and viscount in 1945. Like an earlier minister of transport he gave his name to something he did not invent, but unlike Mr Hore-Belisha’s beacon the invention took place before he became minister.

Whilst the idea that the Ministry of Works named its design after their minister, Sir Wyndham Portal, it has been gently pointed out to me that the term ‘portal frame’ was in use long before 1942. Indeed, a very quick search on the British Newspaper Archive provides evidence of its use in 1902. An article from Engineering News  reported on a novel suspension bridge constructed in Freiburg, Switzerland, designed by the Swiss engineer M. Grimaud. The bridge was supported on a timber portal frame. (Source: the article was covered in the Irish News & Belfast Morning News, 4 Oct 1902, p.6)

Operations

In 1892 the committee of Wimborne Cottage Hospital in Dorset discussed the propriety of treating pauper patients. One of the doctors said that they should not be admitted because the workhouse infirmary was better equipped to deal with operations.

Wimborne, Victoria Hospital, the original building photographed in 2015  © Copyright Mike Searle and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The hospital historian’s comment on this in 1948 was that as neither the cottage hospital or the workhouse infirmary had any equipment for operations, this probably meant that the workhouse had a bigger kitchen table. We should also remember that at this time the theatre doubled as a bathroom.

Mike Searle’s photograph above from Geograph.org.uk, is captioned with this brief account of the building’s history: 

The hospital was built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. The land was owned by Sir John Hanham of Deans Court who leased it at a peppercorn rent on condition that the poor would be treated there. Many local people donated money towards the cost of the building including Sir Richard Glyn of the Gaunt’s estate who gave £700. It opened initially with only thirty beds, and was limited to accepting local parishioners only, but as it grew, this was extended to outlying villages. It came under the authority of the NHS in 1947 when it ceased to be a voluntary hospital.

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.

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Shackleton’s hut, image from a southern migration posted January 2010 

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.

 

geograph-1826180-by-Andrew-Abbott

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.

180px-Im1895POLon-Hump‘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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Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 09.27.25The 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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Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 09.27.39Of 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.”