The Architecture of Isolation

Recently I wrote a short post on this topic for the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain for their website. This is a slightly revised and extended version of that piece.

Interior view of NHS Nightingale, London. Photographed on 27 March 2020 by No.10  Reproduced under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The conversion of exhibition centres to temporary hospitals in our major cities mimics earlier measures to cope with hospitals overwhelmed by cases of infectious disease. Though nothing on quite that scale, as far as I am aware. The last major pandemic that occurred in Britain, the ‘flu that ran rife after the First World War, completely overwhelmed the systems in place to deal with infectious diseases which included a nationwide network of isolation hospitals. These hospitals had been built in response to a series of earlier epidemics, which had given rise to a sequence of Public Health Acts, variously aimed at improving environmental health, preventing the spread of disease, and containment when disease did occur.

Old leper Hospital of St. Bartholomew, OxfordWellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Some of the earliest hospitals were provided for the purpose of isolating those with infectious diseases. Colonies for lepers were established on the outskirts of settlements from the late 11th century to the early 13th. When the Black Death arrived in England in 1348 land was set aside for cemeteries in which to bury plague victims. Later epidemics led to the establishment of Pest Houses – these were mostly isolated dwellings for those who could not be isolated in their own homes. By the 17th century these were commonly administered by the local parish, a nurse would be employed to occupy the house and care for patients sent there.

The Bills of Mortality from 1664. Reproduced from Paul K. BibliOdyssey Bogspot

In London, the course of the Great Plague was documented by those who lived through it, most notably Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. Statistics which charted the rise and fall of epidemics began in the late 16th Century with the Bills of Mortality, printed and published weekly giving the numbers and causes of deaths. Isolation remained the main way of dealing with contagion.

Aerial photograph of the Lazaretto Vecchio, from Chris 73 Reproduced under Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 3.0

Ports were the vulnerable points for introducing infectious disease – and most had some form of quarantine station. Lazarettos, or Lazar house, close to a harbour or on an island were more often permanent and purpose built. The Venetians were perhaps the most efficient at setting up a network of lazarettos to protect their trade interests throughout their territories. The Lazzaretto Vecchio on Santa Maria di Nazareth, an island in the Venetian Lagoon, was established in the early 15th century for both plague victims and as a leper colony. These hospitals were maintained and continued to serve their original purpose for centuries.

The Fortress of Clissa, from Les bords de L’Adriatique et le Monténégro, Charles Yriate 1878

In 1757 when Robert Adam journeyed to Spalatro (modern day Split, then a Venetian territory) to explore and record the Roman antiquities of Dalmatia, he was initially put up at the governor’s residence in the lazaretto by the harbour. He recorded how traders bringing goods from Bosnia and the neighbouring parts of Turkey were escorted by soldiers from the Fortress of Clissa (now Klis) to Spalatro to prevent them from ‘Scattering or Mixing with the People’  until their goods had been purified in the magazines of the Lazaretto and the traders themselves spent time in quarantine there. [National Records of Scotland, Clerk of Penicuik Papers, GD18/4953.]

Edward Jenner vaccinating patients against smallpox. Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Although various remedies were experimented with to treat disease, medicine was first used successfully in the realm of prevention, with inoculation and vaccination against smallpox. Inoculation was introduced to England in the 1720s from Turkey, and vaccination discovered by Edward Jenner at the end of the century. Despite the success of the vaccine, public uptake was not sufficient to prevent further epidemics. The first purpose-built smallpox hospital in England was in Cold Bath Fields, Clerkenwell, built around 1753. At that time three such hospitals were in existence in London: one in Islington was for those convalescing from the disease, one in Shoreditch was for those who had smallpox although they had been inoculated, and so had a milder form of the disease, while that in Clerkenwell was for the severest cases – those who had never been inoculated.

View of the Coldbath Fields smallpox hospital in 1823, by which time it had been replaced by a new hospital in St Pancras. The redundant hospital was subsequently used as a distillery. Reproduced from the Survey of London, volume 47 original in Islington Local History Centre

As the onus on action was placed at local level, and legislation advised on measures that could be taken, rather than dictating what must be done, responses to epidemics varied across the country and often took too long to be truly effective. With inadequate existing hospital accommodation, outbreaks of smallpox and cholera saw houses, factories and barracks commandeered. In Aberdeen a disused match factory was turned into a temporary hospital by the City Corporation after an outbreak of smallpox in the early 1870s. In most cases once the outbreak subsided the temporary hospitals closed and any plans to build permanent isolation hospitals were abandoned. But at Aberdeen a permanent hospital was begun in 1874, designed by the City Architect, William Smith II, and unusually constructed of concrete. This was chosen on the principle that the wards could be hosed down and disinfected after use. Even the floors were of concrete. Later, timber floors and panelling were inserted to soften the rather prison-like interiors.

View of one of the ward blocks at the City Hospital, as altered and enlarged to designs by John Rust in the 1890s https://canmore.org.uk/file/image/1374923

Detail of a plan of the City of Aberdeen from the Post Office Directory of 1879, showing the ‘Epidemic Hospital’ on the outskirts of the city. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Until about the 1860s there was no consensus regarding ideal hospital design. Of the few purpose-built fever hospitals erected in the 18th and early 19th centuries, some had small wards arranged on either side of a corridor with the idea that smaller groups of patients limited the risk of cross-infection, others large open wards with twenty or more beds. The presence of such a hospital – often optimistically dubbed a ‘house of recovery’ – on one’s doorstep was understandably unpopular. When one was set up in a house off Gray’s Inn Lane the neighbours threatened legal action to have it closed. It decamped northwards, and eventually became the London Fever Hospital, designed by Charles Fowler and built in 1848-9 on Liverpool Road, Islington. Here a mix of small, large and back-to-back wards seems evidence of a lack of confidence in any one system.

Coloured engraving of the main front of the London Fever Hospital. Reproduced from the Wellcome Collection https://wellcomecollection.org/works/pspzgh6a

Plan from The Builder, 12 August 1848, p.391

General hospitals also took in infectious cases, sometimes against their own regulations, but needs must. The London Hospital and University College Hospital both set aside wards for contagious cases in the 1830s and 40s. Other hospitals built separate fever blocks, one of the largest was at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, built in 1828-9

The west front of the Fever block, probably photographed around 1910. From the Wellcome Collection CC-BY-4.0.

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, and its counterparts in Ireland of 1838 and Scotland of 1845,  not only saw a network of workhouse built across Britain but also of associated infirmaries and fever blocks. A small single-storey fever hospital was built as early as 1836 at Stow-on-the Wold workhouse in Gloucestershire.

The first cholera epidemic in Britain erupted in 1831 and claimed around 22,000 lives. Yet there was scant progress in providing hospitals for its victims. A Cholera Prevention Act of 1832 had little effect. The worst epidemic came in 1848-9, in which about 50,000 lost their lives in England and Wales. This was particularly devastating, coming just a decade after a smallpox epidemic that claimed the lives of around 42,000. Legislation continued to encourage the provision of isolation hospitals, but hospitals were expensive to build, and raising the money from local rates to pay for them as unpopular. In the midst of each succeeding epidemic local authorities accepted that available hospitals accommodation was disastrously inadequate, but had seldom gone farther than proposing to take action before the epidemic subsided and the initiative was lost. The cholera epidemic of 1866 for example prompted the erection of only a few hospitals although the provisions of the Sanitary Act of 1866 gave town councils and local boards of health the power to provide either temporary or permanent hospitals and justices of the peace the power to remove patients to them.

Aerial photograph of the Brook Fever Hospital, Shooter’s Hill, London built by the Metropolitan Asylums Board and opened in 1896.  Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0

In London the Metropolitan Poor Law Amendment Act of 1867 resulted, eventually, in a comprehensive network of fever hospitals around London, linked by an efficient horse-ambulance service. Public fear remained strong. The building of a large smallpox hospital in Hampstead was considerably delayed by local opposition. Most isolation hospitals were built well away from the denser urban areas, and floating hospitals served by river ambulance operated from wharves at Fulham, Blackwall and Rotherhithe.

Outside London, from the 1870s the construction of isolation hospitals was overseen by the Local Government Board, and following the 1875 Public Health Act loans were made available to build them. Low cost solutions widely adopted were the purchase of a tent that could be put up and used in emergencies, or the erection of temporary, pre-fabricated hospitals. Hospital huts of timber and corrugated iron were supplied by various companies: Humphreys of Knightsbridge; Boulton and Paul of Norwich; Speirs and Company of Glasgow being three of the largest and most enduring. The corrugated iron block near Hempsted, to the south-west of Gloucester, may have been supplied by Humphreys – Gloucester was listed as one of the places supplied by the firm. A smallpox epidemic in 1874-5 had raised talk of erecting a temporary iron hospital. An even worse epidemic struck the city in 1895-6. Dr Sidney Coupland prepared a lengthy report, attempting to assess why this epidemic had been so much worse than the previous one, and to what extent re-vaccination had contributed to its rather abrupt cessation. Some of his observations strike a chord today: ‘It is possible that the hope was entertained that by an attempt to isolate every case as it arose the epidemic might be checked, but this attempt only resulted in filling the hospital beyond its capacity and over-burdening a too-restricted staff.’

Hempsted Smallpox Hospital, Gloucester, photographed by H.C.F. in 1896 Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Where permanent buildings were erected, they were usually based on standard plans drawn up by the Local Government Board and issued between 1876 and 1924 in a series of memoranda. The model plans adopted the pavilion principles of planning, validated by Florence Nightingale, with open wards, windows placed opposite each other to create cross-ventilation, and W.C.s placed away from the ward, separated from it by a cross-ventilated lobby at the very least. These were intentionally draughty places. Currents of air were drawn through the wards through open windows, ventilation grilles and ducts. Drainage too, became increasingly important to keep infected waste out of the water supply. The new isolation hospital for Hemel Hempstead, built in 1914-15 at Bennet’s End, is a typical example. It was designed by John Saxon Snell and Stanley M. Spoor and comprised two single-storey ward blocks, an observation block, a service building housing the laundry, with steam disinfector, mortuary, and ambulance garage, and an administration block with nurses’ accommodation. The wards were intended for the most prevalent diseases at that time, diphtheria and scarlet fever, with the observation block for the undiagnosed.

A ward block built at the Hemel Hempstead Infectious Diseases Hospital at Bennet’s End, based on the model plans issued by the Local Government Board. LGB model plan B, 1900 and 1902-21 versions. The Bennet’s End ward has elements of both. Ward block photographed in May 1992 as part of the RCHME Hospitals survey. © H. Richardson

LGB model plans from Local Government Board On the Provision of Isolation Hospital Accommodation by Local Authorities August 1900, and reissued in 1902. 

Research interest in bacteriology from the late 19th century saw the rise of laboratories, in Glasgow a laboratory was set up to deal with the bacteriology of epidemics. This research helped the medical officers of health to control epidemics through isolation, supervision of carriers and contacts, tracing the source of infection and the pathways by which it spread. The present test, trace and track strategy has its roots in this late-Victorian public health policy. Then as now it was widely recognised as the most effective means of controlling epidemics. One historical method of interrupting the spread of disease was to provide a ‘reception house’ to take families who had been in contact with infected persons, such as that opened on Baird Street in Glasgow in 1906.

Baird Street Reception House, from the 1906 Medical Officer of Health for Glasgow’s Annual Report.

Ground and First-Floor plans of the Reception House.

Progress in medical knowledge was reflected in hospital design. A better understanding of the transmission of diseases and the discovery of bacteria were factors behind the development of the cubicle isolation block. This first appeared in the early twentieth century. One was built at Walthamstow which consisted of rows of single rooms reached from an external veranda. This allowed patients suffering from different diseases, or who were yet to be diagnosed, to occupy one building. Glazed partitions between the rooms allowed nursing staff to supervise the patients, as well as allowing patients to see each other. By about 1940 almost every isolation hospital in the country had at least one cubicle block. At Twickenham the former South West Middlesex Hospital was originally built in 1898 to designs by W. J. Ancell comprising four ward blocks and the usual service buildings. Two cubicle isolation blocks were added in 1937 as part of a major extension of the hospital. Following the Local Government Act of 1929, provision for infectious diseases passed from the myriad of small local urban and rural sanitary authorities to county and borough councils, this also led to many of the smaller hospitals being replaced by larger more centralised hospitals.

Cubicle isolation block built at the South West Middlesex Hospital, exterior and interior views. Photographed in November 1991 © H. Richardson

Wide-ranging public health measures to improve living conditions were the first effective weapons in lessening the impact of infectious diseases. Improved housing, sanitation, and street cleaning, regulation of lodging houses and factories, testing for food adulteration, were all vital preventive measures. Local Medical officers of health had a wide network of resources from laboratory research to morbidity and mortality statistics, to help them control epidemics through isolation, supervision of carriers and contacts, tracing the source of infection and the pathways by which it spread, and interrupting these by whatever means were available. Vaccines, inoculations, and effective treatments, for the most part, came after the Second World War. Since then we have been in a period of epidemiological transition, shifting from an age of receding pandemics and into an age of degenerative and so-called man-made diseases (those associated with lifestyle, such as heart disease, or lung cancer from smoking).

Infectious diseases were not wiped out, but could be treated within a general hospital. Post-war general hospital design included a higher proportion of single rooms in ward units to allow patients to be isolated for a variety of reasons, cross-infection being one of them. An experimental ward unit built at Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride, in the 1960s, was used to study ways of reducing cross-infection, but one of its findings was that human error remained a major culprit. Medical, nursing and domestic procedures could be one source, but also misuse of the engineering services. They found ventilation diffusors and exhaust grilles blocked up by the medical staff.

Photographs of the interior of NHS Nightingale show the huge open warehouse being fitted up with cubicles – here to facilitate laying on all the necessary services for each patient rather than isolating one from another. A dedicated hospital for infectious diseases is an old solution, but it is still a valid one, provided the infrastructure, the equipment and staffing are also in place – along with the necessary training in how to operate the appliances and services. As history shows, to tackle epidemics of infectious disease isolation hospitals need to be backed up by systems of quarantine, testing, tracing and tracking.

Brechin Infirmary and St Drostan’s House

Prospect of Brechin (detail), by John Slezer from Theatrum Scotiae, 1693. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

On a gloriously sunny day in April I visited Brechin, primarily to see the cathedral with its extraordinary round tower, but while there walked over to Infirmary Street to see what remains of a group of buildings that for so many years took care of the health and welfare of the city: the now-closed Brechin Infirmary, largely of the 1860s, a 1970s Health Centre, the former poorhouse (built in the 1870s) and the remnants of the former infectious diseases hospital (late 1890s). Tucked in behind is a post-war hospital block, added to the site in the early 1960s, and sheltered housing built in the 2000s. This group also lies conveniently between the railway station to the south, and the cemetery to the north.

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Extract from the second edition OS map, revised in 1901, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Brechin Infirmary opened as a general voluntary hospital in 1869, but the sick poor in the city had earlier been served by a dispensary, established in about 1824 following a bequest of £50 from a Mrs Speid of Ardovie. The dispensary supplied medicine and medical attendance to the poor for free, and by the mid-1840s was said to be in a prosperous state. But the new Poor Law had placed all sick paupers under superintendence of the local Parochial Board, which had appointed a surgeon to carry out that task. As a result, ‘only some six or eight patients remain upon the dispensary lists’.[1] Over the years the dispensary’s work diminished, until it closed altogether.

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Extract from the OS Town Plan of Brechin, 1852. The Poorhouse is on City Road near the corner with Damacre Road. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The first poor law institution in Brechin was opened in 1853 in City Road, locally usually known either as the almshouse, poor’s house, or parochial lodging house. It was in a large converted tenement which the Board purchased for £300 in 1852 from a Mr Thomson, writer, of Montrose. A later report suggested that the building had originally been built as a cotton factory, but that when this business failed it was sold to Mr Thomas who converted it into a dwelling house. [2]

In July 1864 plans for a hospital were first made public, after the late James Don, Esquire, of Bearhill, bequeathed £1,000 for the purpose of establishing a hospital or infirmary and dispensary in Brechin on condition that a further £1,000 was raised within 18 months by the local community. Subscriptions to the cause quickly mounted to more than £3,000, including £100 from Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, 2nd Baronet, and his brother, the Hon. R. J. Jejeebhoy. (Perhaps they were approached by someone local, the Jejeebhoys wealth and generous philanthropy, and associations with Britain, were well known.)  The Earl of Dalhousie (Fox Maule-Ramsay, the 11th Earl) offered the site – considered open healthy and with convenient access by three different roads –  at an annual feu-duty of £4 per acre.

Main front of Brechin Infirmary, photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

The hospital was designed by William Fettis or Fetties, and construction was carried out by local builders and craftsmen: Mr Alexander Crabb, mason; Messrs W. Black & Sons, carpenter work; John Lindsay & Son, slaters; J. & J. Thomson, plasterers; and C. Middleton & Sons, plumbers. Their tenders for the work amounted to just over £1,500. [3]

The foundation stone was laid with full Masonic honours in May 1867 when building work was already well underway, and the first storey all but completed. The infirmary building was described at the time as ‘of the plainest description, being wholly formed of rubble work’ apart from the front wall which was ashlar. The plainness of the building was to be alleviated by the garden in front, which was to be finely laid out as pleasure grounds studded with shrubs. A kitchen garden was destined for the rear half of the garden. [4]

West elevation of the infirmary, with later day room in the foreground, photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

In May 1869 the new infirmary was formally opened by the Earl of Dalhousie. The 1901 map shows the infirmary before it was enlarged in the 1920s, with its principal front facing west, and indicating that the garden had been laid out on that side. (The garden was later built over for the present health centre.) Four wards occupied the long north-south wing, two on each floor on either side of the central entrance and with up-to-date cross-ventilated W.C.s, suggesting an awareness of the relatively recent developments in pavilion-plan hospitals on the lines recommended by Florence Nightingale. Two wards were for accidents and two for fever patients.

View of the infirmary looking west to the rear of the earliest part of the building. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

A major renovation, alterations and additions were carried out in 1928-9, for which the architect was David Wishart Galloway. During the work the patients were moved out to Maulesden House. The cost was largely met by a donation of £10,650 from the trustees of the late Sir James Duncan of Kinnettles. Plans were submitted to the Dean of Guild Court in September 1928. It was at this time that the new main entrance was formed, set in the gabled bay, treated as a pediment with oculus and framed by giant pilasters. The new accommodation included four private wards. The contractors were: joiners, Messrs W. Black & Son, Ltd, Brechin; plumbers, Mr J. Davidson; plasterwork, Messrs Burness Montrose; mason, Mr Rennie Brechin; slater, Mr D. Scott, Brechin. In December 1929, following the death of the architect David Galloway in a motorcycle accident, the infirmary directors appointed Maclaren, Soutar & Salmond, who had taken over Galloway’s practice, to see through the reconstruction. [5]

On the vacant land to the east of the infirmary a new poorhouse was built in 1879-80 to designs by James Baxter, architect, Brechin, to accommodate about 80 paupers, 51 being transferred from the old building but the Parochial Board intended also to move most of those receiving outdoor relief into the poorhouse.

South elevation of St Drostan’s House, the former Brechin poorhouse. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

It is in a similarly plain style to the infirmary, although the Brechin Advertiser was curiously impressed with its appearance, describing it as a ‘magnificent building’ that was an ornament and a credit to the town. The article continued:

Poor-houses have too frequently been poor in every sense of the term – poor in architecture, poor in conveniences, poor in comfort. It will be seen, however, … that the new Poor-house of Brechin possesses not only the external appearance, but all the internal appliances of a modern mansion-house. [6]

According to the same article, the architect’s plan for the poorhouse had been commended for its simplicity of design and conveniences and comfort in its internal arrangements. These comprised a room on either side of the entrance door for the Matron, and beyond these separate stairs to the upper floor.  A corridor ran the length of the building on both floors. On the ground floor, on the north side of the central corridor, were two large sick rooms and two sitting rooms, and on the south side a spacious dining hall. Store rooms and bathrooms were placed at either end, a large kitchens was at the east end of the dining room. On the upper floor were the sleeping wards, and here the corridor had a glazed partition half way along separating the males from the females.

Rear view of St Drostan’s House, looking west, behind is the eastern end of Brechin Infirmary. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

The out buildings included a probationary ward, washing-houses, ash pits, and coal cellars. Once the new poorhouse had been completed and the inmates moved from the old building in City Road, the latter was put up for sale. It was bought by Mr J. L. Gordon, the Town Clerk, for £541, on behalf of the Town Council, with the intention of converting it into a model lodging house. [7]

Block to the rear of St Drostan’s House, one of the original out-buildings. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

A further report in the Brechin Advertiser following the opening of the new poorhouse, continued the enthusiastic spirit of the previous account, noting the ‘tasteful and imposing appearance’ of the main frontage, and approving of the introduction of mullioned windows  to relieve the ‘baldness that might otherwise have characterise the house’. The garden had been laid out under the superintendence of Mr Annandale of the nearby Den Nursery, and the contractors were listed as: Mr J. Cribb, mason; Messrs Black & Son, joiners; Mr Masson, plasterer; Messrs Kinnear & Son, plumbers; Mr W. Bruce, painter; and Mr J. Davidson, slater – all of Brechin. [8]

South front of the former poorhouse or Parochial Lodging House, with the mullioned windows on the upper floor in the gabled bays. The bay windows on the ground floor are post-war additions. When new sheltered housing was built to the rear in the early 2000s the  former poorhouse was converted to offices, but is currently empty. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

The next development of the medical services in Brechin was the establishment of an isolation hospital in the 1890s. Infectious cases, or ‘fever patients’ had up until then been cared for in the infirmary, but in times of epidemic there was insufficient accommodation there. In February 1893 an outbreak of smallpox at the Forfar and Brechin Railway huts at a time when the fever ward in the infirmary was already full prompted the Police Commission in Brechin – responsible for public health – to meet with the directors of the Infirmary to consider providing either a permanent or temporary hospital for infectious diseases. In 1895 the Brechin Police Commissioners joined forces with the District Committee and were on the search for a site. They discussed commissioning plans and estimates for a new hospital. The site must have been acquired by the end of August 1897 when an advertisement was placed in the Dundee Evening Telegraph for ‘Bricklayers (a Few Good) wanted. Apply New Hospital, Brechin’. [9]

Detail from the 25-inch OS map revised in 1922, showing the infectious diseases hospital to the north-west of the Infirmary. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The plans were drawn up by T. Martin Cappon, architect, Dundee. A caretaker was appointed in 1898, the building work probably completed by then. The hospital comprised three detached blocks, probably the administrative building, which would also have contained some staff accommodation, and two ward blocks.

Probably a block from the former isolation hospital, to the rear of Brechin Infirmary, photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

Another building on its own to the north (pictured above and below), may have been the service block containing disinfecting chambers, with boilers and disinfectors, wash-house, mortuary and stores. Thomas Martin Cappon went on to design the Forfar County Hospital in 1899. [10] 

Surviving building from the former infectious diseases hospital. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

Post-War Changes

By 1940 the infectious diseases hospital had been converted into accommodation for the aged and infirm, but by 1950 it had been closed. The Eastern Regional Hospital Board recommended retaining the buildings for accommodation for nurses and for storage, releasing a hut at the infirmary which might be used for 30 chronic sick patients. [11]

Extract from the 1:1,250 OS map revised in 1965. This shows the 1920s extension to the infirmary, and the large post-war addition pictured below. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

At the infirmary itself the largest addition since the 1920s was made in 1958-60, when the large wing to the north was added. A bequest of nearly £14,000 from Mrs Agnes Pederson, a Brechin woman in America, was used to provide new kitchen premises, out-patients’ and physiotherapy departments, alterations to staff quarters and a day room for geriatric patients between the new accommodation blocks. [12]

A spliced photo showing the south-east front of the post-war hospital extension. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

The health centre was built in about 1971, and was the first to be built in Angus.[13]

See also RCAHMS, National Monuments Record of Scotland, drawings collection, for the infectious diseases hospital and  www.workhouses.org for St Drostan’s House.

  1. Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review; and Forfar and Kincardineshire advertiser, 13 Feb 1846, p.5
  2. Brechin Advertiser, 14 Sept 1852, p.2: 2 March 1880, p.2
  3. Dundee Courier, 23 Aug 1864, p.4; 12 Dec 1865, p.4; 19 Dec 1866, p.4: Dundee Advertiser, 29 Dec 1864, p.3
  4. Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin review; and Forfar and Kincardineshire advertiser, 19 April 1867, p.4: Dundee Courier, 6 May 1867, p.4
  5. Brechin Advertiser, 5 June 1928, p.5: Aberdeen Press & Journal, 20 Sept 1928, p.5: Dundee Courier, 10 Oct 1928, p.5; 11 Dec 1929, p.6Dundee Evening Telegraph, 11 Dec 1929, p.10
  6. Brechin Advertiser, 2 March 1880, p.2
  7. Brechin Advertiser,  16 March 1880, p.2
  8. Brechin Advertiser, 16 March 1880, p.3
  9. Dundee Courier, 1 Feb 1893, p.3: Aberdeen Press & Journal, 12 April 1893, p.5; 19 Aug 1896, p.6Dundee Advertiser, 10 April 1895, p.2; 23 Oct 1896, p.2Dundee Evening Telegraph, 25 Aug 1897, p.3
  10. Dundee Courier, 6 July 1897, p.3; 4 Oct 1899, p.4: Peterhead Sentinel and General Advertiser for Buchan District, 28 Aug 1898, p.4
  11. Dundee Courier, 26 Jan 1950, p.4
  12. Brechin Advertiser, 2 Dec 1958, p.5
  13. Aberdeen P&J, 16 Feb 1971, p.31

 

The late Glen o’Dee Hospital, Banchory

On 13 October 2016 the former Glen o’Dee Hospital was destroyed by fire. A few days later two 13-year-old boys were charged by the police in connection with the blaze.

canmore_image_SC00813181-3Glen-o-Dee Hospital photographed in 1990 by  RCHAMS

Glen o’Dee was quite possibly the historic hospital that I most admired. The memory of stumbling across it, without knowing what to expect, has never quite lost its charm. Its future had for long been uncertain and the building lain empty since at least 1998, steadily deteriorating.

geograph-3241798-by-alan-findlay

The former Glen o’Dee hospital, photographed in 2012 © Copyright Alan Findlay and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

A new community hospital was built behind it in the 1990s, complicating plans for re-using the original building. Planning permission was granted in 2010 for redevelopment as housing, but nothing was done, and it remained on the register of Buildings at Risk in Scotland.

canmore_image_SC01166274-2Glen-o-Dee hospital photographed in 1990 by RCAHMS. The contrast with the photograph taken in 2012 is marked.

Glen o’Dee was the first Sanatorium to be built in Scotland on the fresh‑air principle. It was designed by George Coutts of Aberdeen and opened in 1900. It was constructed mainly of timber with a central tower of Hill of Fare granite. Balconies and verandas were provided for all the rooms, facing south across the Dee, and access corridors ran along the north side. The recreation pavilion added to the south‑east below the dining‑hall was built in the same style with windows running all around it.

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Extract from the 2nd-edition 25-inch OS map, surveyed in 1902 showing the newly built sanatorium. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Stylistically it was closer to the sanatoria in Germany than any others that were subsequently built in Scotland. But it was also very similar to Mundesley Sanatorium, in Norfolk, which had opened the year before.

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The old tuberculosis hospital at Mundesley, photographed in 2011. It originally opened in 1899. © Copyright Evelyn Simak and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Glen o’Dee was originally called Nordrach‑on‑Dee, changing to Glen o’Dee when the building became a hotel for a time in 1934. It had been founded as a private sanatorium which treated TB on the Nordrach System pioneered at Nordrach in Baden, established in 1888 by Dr Otto Walther. This treatment mostly consisted of rest in the open air. Nordrach‑on‑Dee was founded by Dr David Lawson of Banchory, who had a distinguished career, pioneering work in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. Before the Hospital was built, much discussion took place as to the site. In 1899 Lawson published an article outlining the criteria and giving details of the eminent committee formed to acquire a suitable site. This committee consisted of, amongst others, Professors of Medicine from Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities. According to their research Deeside’s record for minimum rainfall and maximum sunshine were favourable.

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The Bremer Sanatorium at Gobersdorf was one of the most influential of the early hospitals pioneering open-air treatment of tuberculosis. From F. R. Walters, Sanatoria for Consumptives, 1899. 

The site for Nordrach-on-Dee was purchased from Sir Thomas Burnett of Crathes for between £5,000 and £6,000. The building itself was estimated to cost £12,000. Initially there were 40 bedrooms though later additions were made. In 1928 Nordrach‑on‑Dee closed and was unused until its re‑opening as a luxurious hotel in 1934.

canmore_image_SC01241325-2A postcard of the sanatorium from c.1910 from the RCAHMS collection

Brochures surviving in NHS Grampian Archives from both its incarnations give a similar picture of the regimes at the Sanatoria and Hotel. In the earlier document the text describes how each room was  constructed so as to admit a maximum of pure sunlight and fresh air. ‘The windows occupy over two‑thirds of the outside wall space and are so arranged as to permit of their being kept open during all weathers.”

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An old postcard of Glen-o-Dee Hospital, when it was still known as Nordrach-on-Dee, from the RCAHMS collection

It was one of the first sanatoria to use x‑rays in the treatment of TB. In 1941 the Hotel was requisitioned by the army and at the end of the war it was purchased by the Scottish Red Cross Society, who re‑fitted it as a sanatorium for ex‑service men and women suffering from TB. It was opened as such by the Queen in 1949.

canmore_image_SC01269480-2Aerofilms photograph of Glen-o-Dee hospital taken in 1950 from the RCAHMS collection

In 1955 it was transferred to the National Health Service and was latterly devoted to the care of geriatric patients. Two  single‑storey ward blocks were constructed to the rear, the most recent on the site of the former nurses’ home. In 1990 Grampian Health Board had plans to demolish part of the original sanatorium. Whilst its timber construction made it understandable that the building presented difficulties with both maintenance and fire prevention, its undoubted historic importance makes its loss regrettable.

Selected Sources: Grampian Health Board Archives, booklets on Sanatorium and Hotel. The Hospital, 1 June 1901, p.152‑3]; BBC news, online report: NHS Grampian archives website has a history and images of the hospital

Belvidere Hospital

Practically no trace now remains of Belvidere Hospital, a large housing estate having been built on the site. The Belvidere once played a key role in protecting the population of Glasgow from the ravages of infectious diseases, including smallpox. The hospital was built on the most up-to-date plan, and took shape over a prolonged period of construction beginning with temporary wooden huts that were later replaced by brick buildings.

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Belvidere Hospital, central ancillary building, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

Epidemics of infectious diseases were amongst the major threats to life to the urban poor, living in the overcrowded districts of the rapidly expanding and industrialising city. Although the parochial authorities made some provision for paupers, this was very limited and strictly speaking only paupers were eligible for admission. From 1862 local responsibility for public health in Glasgow rested with the Board of Police, and it was under their auspices that a temporary fever hospital was built in Parliamentary Road in 1865. Proximity to the centre of population and a restricted site rendered the hospital inadequate in the face of a severe epidemic of relapsing fever in 1870. As a result, Belvidere House and its 33 acre estate were purchased to provide a site for a permanent fever hospital.

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Low Belvidere House and grounds in the 1850s, later the site of Belvidere Hospital. Extract from OS Town Plan of Glasgow, 1857. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The original house was built by John M’Call, a leading merchant of Glasgow, who died there in 1790. It then passed to his son-in-law Robert M’Nair, a sugar-refiner, who sold up in 1813 to Mungo Nutto Campbell. Campbell sold it on around 1820 to David Wardrop who exploited the coal on the estate, and over the following decades the house and grounds were passed from one industrialist to another. (See The Glasgow Story for more on the history of the house and a photograph by Thomas Annan taken in 1870.)

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Detail of the 1st Edition OS Map, surveyed in 1858, showing Belvidere House. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland 

John Carrick, the Glasgow City Architect, was responsible for drawing up plans for the new hospital. The first ‘ temporary shed’ was occupied on 19 December 1870. Eight timber pavilions were planned, four had been finished and partially occupied by Christmas, and two were expected to be completed before New Year.

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Belvidere Hospital, former smallpox ward blocks, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

In 1871 it was decided to build a separate smallpox hospital at Belvidere. Great lengths were taken to ensure that the most up-to-date features were incorporated in the design and many other hospitals were visited to this end, including the Herbert Hospital in London ‘reputed to be the finest specimen of a pavilion hospital in existence’. The local press had called for the design of the new hospital to reflect ‘the experience and results of modern science’, hoping that the authorities would not adopt the ‘old style of building tall structures’ but rather would follow the model of the recent temporary blocks at Parliamentary Road built on the pavilion principle ‘so strongly advocated by Miss Nightingale, and by writers on the subject of hospital accommodation’. The ‘temporary’ hospital blocks at Parliamentary Road were anticipated to last for around twenty years. There were those in the medical profession who considered that after occupation for that period of time all hospitals should be remodelled, if not entirely razed and rebuilt.

Belvidere 17Belvidere Hospital, one of the central buildings, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

Nothing seems to have been done immediately but in 1874 plans were drawn up for the new permanent structures. Five single-storey, brick ward pavilions were built, though still described as ‘partially erected ‘ in December 1875, as well as the necessary ancillary buildings. These works were completed in 1877. The pavilions were aligned roughly north-south, and each was divided into four wards, two for acute cases in the centre, two for convalescents at the ends. The flooring was of close-jointed oak, the inner walls coated with Keen’s cement and the wards warmed by hot-water pipes and open fires. Roof-ridge ventilators  (Boyle’s) were a distinctive feature on the outside of the buildings.

Belvidere 12Belvidere Hospital, one of the ancillary buildings, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

To the south-east was a large wash-house. Matrons’ and medical superintendent’s houses and dormitories for the nurses occupied a position at the north-east corner of the grounds, close to which was  the morgue. The original kitchen block stood opposite the north end of the central pavilion, it was surmounted by a small spire, which also served as a bell tower and clock. It was designed to minimise contact between the kitchen staff and the nurses: a platform under a verandah on the southern side of the kitchen allowed the nurses to receive the food which was served through a window.

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Bartholomew’s New Plan of Glasgow… 1882. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The grounds were laid out into plots of shrubs and flowers by Mr M’Lellan, the Superintendent of Glasgow city parks. The team working alongside the architect were James Hannah, clerk of works; John Porter, builder; William Lightbody, joiner; Robert Nelson, plasterer; Wallace & Allan, plumbers and gas-fitters; John M’Ouatt & Sons, slaters; and James Comb & Son, heating engineers.

In 1879 work began on permanent buildings to replace the temporary sheds of the fever hospital on the south-east side of the site. Four brick pavilions were built to begin with. In 1882 the Medical Officer for Health in Glasgow, J. B. Russell, produced a ‘Memorandum on the Hospital Accommodation for Infectious Diseases in Glasgow’, which resulted in the further expansion of the site. Russell’s memorandum itemised the requirements for a large infectious diseases hospital and considered various details of its construction.

Belvidere 3Belvidere Hospital, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

Over the course of the next five years pavilion after pavilion was added until there were thirteen altogether, providing 26 wards and a capacity for 390 patients. In addition there were ancillary buildings, providing kitchens and laundries etc, so that the hospital was as self-sufficient as possible, thus limiting the number of visitors to the site. The extended hospital was officially opened on 4 March 1887.

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Extract from the 2nd edition OS map, revised 1892-3. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The simple polychrome of thin, horizontal bands of white amongst the red bricks created a streaky bacon effect. This unusual construction for hospital buildings in Scotland gave them a utilitarian air reminiscent of Glasgow’s industrial buildings.

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Aerial photograph taken in 1952, from Britain from Above. The river Clyde is in the foreground, the smallpox hospital to the left and fever hospital to the right. 

In contrast to the polychrome-brick of most of the buildings, stone was used for the large administration block, which also contained the nurses home, recreation hall and senior staff residences. It was a large, somewhat austere building erected on the site of the original Belvidere house. The central range was designed as an echo of the house it replaced.

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Belvidere Hospital, administration block and staff accommodation, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

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Belvidere Hospital, detail of the administration block and staff accommodation, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

In 1929 a house was provided for the Medical Superintendent and a new observation ward was opened in 1930. After the inception of the National Health Service in 1948 various additions were made and changes in function introduced. Two important developments at Belvidere were the opening of the first Cobalt Therapy Unit in Scotland in February 1961 and in March 1973, the opening of the second Neutron Therapy Unit in Britain.

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Belvidere Hospital, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

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Belvidere Hospital, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

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Belvidere Hospital, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

The hospital closed in 1999. After years of neglect the derelict buildings were mostly demolished in 2006 – all except the administration block and nurses’ home. Hypostyle Architects acting for Kier Homes Ltd designed the masterplan for the site development. Divided into three zones: high density urban blocks, urban terraced housing, and low density sub-urban housing. The high density section nearest the London Road comprises four-storey blocks of flats and three-storey town houses. The terraced housing, of two stories, creates a buffer zone between the flats and the low-density housing on the south side of the site. Original plans to convert the listed admin block were subsequently scrapped and permission granted to demolish the remaining shell of the central block for more low-density housing. The original master plan was for 351 residential units: 145 flats, 115 townhouses and 91 houses.

Sources: 

Glasgow Herald, 24 Dec 1870 p.3; 22 Nov 1875, p.5; 3 July 1877 p.2; 5 March 1887, p.9: Strathclyde Regional Archives: Account of Proceedings at Inspection of New Hospital for Infectious Diseases erected at Belvidere, 1877: J. B. Russell, ‘Memorandum on the Hospital Accommodation for Infectious Diseases in Glasgow’, 1882: ‘Report of proceedings at Official Inspection…’, 1887 Corporation of City of Glasgow, Municipal Glasgow, Glasgow, 1914: The Builder, 4 Dec 1875, p.1083; British Architect, 22 July 1887, p.70: Hypostyle Architects website

Greenock’s lost hospitals

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Greenock in the mid-eighteenth century, depicted on Roy’s map of the Highlands. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The dark, austere tower block that is Inverclyde Hospital opened in 1979. It superseded the Greenock Royal Infirmary, Eye Infirmary, Gateside Hospital, Duncan Macpherson and Broadstone Jubilee Hospitals which were all disposed of by the local Health Board in 1982. It was built just to the north of Larkfield Hospital, and that too was later replaced by the present Larkfield Unit. Later the last of Greenock’s pre-war hospitals, the Rankin Memorial, also closed and has since been demolished. This post gives a brief account of Greenock’s past hospitals, mostly demolished but a couple still stand in other use. Information on the lunatic asylum, poorhouses, and hospitals nearby can be found on the Inverclyde page of this website. Grateful thanks must go to the McLean Museum and Inverclyde Archives for kindly allowing me to use images from their online collections website (which I highly recommend).

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Inverclyde Royal Hospital, with the Larkfield Unit in front, photographed in 2007. © Copyright Thomas Nugent and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Though Inverclyde hospital is perhaps not the most heart-warming in terms of architectural delight, Greenock can nevertheless be proud of its historic hospitals and of the people who built, funded, staffed and administered them. The earliest of these now-lost hospitals was the Royal Infirmary in Inverkip Street.

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Postcard of the infirmary, probably early 20th century. Reproduced by permission of the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Inverclyde Council

A dispensary had been established for the sick poor in 1801, but an outbreak of fever in 1806, the source of which was thought to be the crew of a Russian prize-vessel brought into the harbour that year, demonstrated the limitations of the dispensary and the necessity for a hospital. Plans for establishing an infirmary were put in train in 1807, the foundation stone was laid in 1808, and the building opened on 14 June 1809 – the dispensary becoming part of the new infirmary. In most instances the first generation of voluntary hospitals built in Scottish towns were designed by local architects. Greenock was no exception, although John Aird,  who furnished the plans, was the local harbour engineer rather than an architect per se and it appears to be the only known building that he designed.

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Greenock, from John Wood’s plan of the town of 1825, showing the new streets laid out for development in grids around the old town. These were said to be ‘filling up with rapidity’ at the time of Wood’s survey, although neither Macfarlane’s map of 1842, or the first edition OS map of 1857, bear this out. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The original infirmary was a good size for the time and the size of the town, providing 32 beds. Sir John Shaw Stewart, Lord of the Manor, gave the site, originally on the outskirts of the town, and the building costs amounted to around £1,815. It operated as a voluntary hospital funded by subscriptions, and was intended for cases of fever as well as general medical or surgical cases. Additional ground was given in 1815 to provide a larger airing ground or garden.

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Detail of Wood’s map, the infirmary is marked by the letter ‘n’ and is towards the bottom left of the map. To its north ‘o’ marks the United Session Church and ‘p’  is the Greenock brewery. Further to the east ‘r’ marks the relief chapel and ‘s’ the tabernacle. On the right hand side are the bridewell –  ‘x’ and the Renfrewshire bank – ‘y’. At the top ‘c’ is the gaelic chapel. All this can be seen much more clearly on the National Library Maps collection site, which also has a link to the description of Greenock that accompanied Wood’s Atlas.

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Detail from Andrew Macfarlane’s map of Greenock of 1842. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 20.17.55Extract from the OS Town Plan, 1857. The small building to the south was the wash house and dead house. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Outbreaks of fever (i.e. an infectious disease) remained common in this harbour town, and were often severe. In 1829 the hospital was stretched beyond its capacity during an epidemic, resulting in the erection of a temporary fever hospital and plans made to extend the building. Two wings were added in 1830. By the mid-1840s the capacity of the infirmary had been increased to around 100 beds. An extraordinary number for the building depicted in the 1857 OS map (above).

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Late-nineteenth century lantern slide of Greenock Infirmary and Duncan Street cemetery. Reproduced by permission of the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Inverclyde Council

Additions were made in 1847 (James Dempster architect), and in 1869 the infirmary was enlarged (James Salmon & Son, architect). Further additions in 1938-43 by W. J. B. Wright included a nurses’ home.

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Extract from the 2nd-edition OS map, surveyed 1896. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

One of the specialisms that developed at the infirmary was the treatment of diseases of the eye. In 1865 James Ferguson, merchant of Inverkip, had bequeathed £6,000 to provide an eye hospital but legal action ensued and it was not until 1879 that the trustees rented a consulting room in Greenock Infirmary and in the following year appointed an oculist. At last the Eye Infirmary was built in 1893 on Nelson Street.

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Extract from the 2nd-edition OS map, revised in 1912, showing the eye infirmary to the west of the County Court and prison. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland 

The Eye Infirmary was designed by James B. Stewart with funds donated by Mr Anderson Rodger, a Port Glasgow ship builder. It also catered for ear, nose and throat patients until 1921. It is a handsome building, and survives, latterly as the Ardgowan Hospice.

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Opening ceremony of the Eye Infirmary on Nelson Street, Greenock on the 19th August 1893. Reproduced by permission of the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Inverclyde Council

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Atmospheric colour slide of the Eye Infirmary taken in 1971 by Eugene Jean Méhat (1920-2000). Reproduced by permission of the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Inverclyde Council

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 Ardgowan Hospice photographed in 2007 © Copyright Thomas Nugent and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Public Health legislation in the late nineteenth century eventually made the provision of municipal hospitals for infectious diseases compulsory. For Greenock this resulted in the erection of Gateside Hospital, otherwise known as the Greenock and District Combination Hospital for infectious diseases. Built well outside the town, it was designed by Alexander Cullen of Hamilton and opened in 1908.

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Extract from the 2nd-edition OS map, revised 1912. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

With the decline in need for hospitals for infectious diseases Gateside took on orthopaedic surgery, paediatric medicine and general medicine, before finally closing in 1979, superseded by Inverclyde Hospital.

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Postcard of the combination hospital, Greenock. Possibly the most surprising hospital to find a postcard of, made even more bizarre with the MacGregor tartan and lucky heather. 

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A photograph of the nurses with Miss Gay, Matron to the left of Dr Phillips, taking tea in front of the hospital. A poignant scene, given the year 1913. Reproduced by permission of the McLean Museum and Art Gallery, Inverclyde Council

The photograph above shows the matron Miss Margaret Russell Gay, seated to the left of Dr Phillips. She was matron at Gateside for over 25 years, having been appointed when the hospital first opened. From Greenock, she trained at Greenock Royal Infirmary, and before taking up her appointment at Gateside was matron at Largs hospital. She also spent time in America as a private nurse, and was in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake. She died in 1941 aged about 70.

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Extract from the 2nd-edition OS map revised in 1938. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

A Children’s Convalescent Home was built c.1900 on the edge of the smart western suburb of Greenock, on the corner of South and Forsyth Streets. It was opened by Mrs Andrew Carnegie – who had gifted £500 towards the home – in October 1902. It was still running during the Second World War. The building survives, now as private housing.

During the inter-war years Greenock’s hospital services increased greatly, but just before the end of the First World War, in 1917, Togo House was presented to the burgh of Greenock by Baillie Daniel Orr for use as a maternity hospital. This house was presumably on the site of present-day Togo Place, just off Dempster Road near the corner with Ann Street.  It only had space for six patients, but in 1925 plans were approved to build a single-storey extension that would provide a proper maternity ward with 18 beds, and turn the house itself over to office and administrative use.

It was during this period that a convalescent home was built in association with the Royal Infirmary at Larkfield. Designed by Abercrombie & Maitland, it opened on 21 December 1929. At the opening ceremony, a Birmingham-made ceremonial silver key in a gold-coloured casket was presented to Miss Maggie Donald Rankin. The casket and key are now in the McLean Museum and Inverclyde Archives. Miss Rankin and her brother, Mathew, were major benefactors of Greenock. Mathew Rankin was partner in the local firm Rankin and Blackmore, engineers.

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Extract from the 2nd-edition OS map, revised in 1938. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The home provided two, ten‑bed wards and eighteen private rooms. By 1943 it had become an auxiliary hospital treating all medical cases. It has considerable historic importance in terms of the development of hospital planning after the Second World War for having the first experimental ward designed by the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust, built in 1951-6, and followed by one in Belfast at Musgrave Park built in 1956-9. The Trust began to develop a new type of ward unit in the early years after the war, looking abroad for inspiration where the old Nightingale style wards had made way for groups of patients’ rooms on one side of a corridor with ancillary facilities on the other – bathrooms, treatment rooms, sluice rooms etc. The Trust studied the daily routine of nurses and aimed to devise a new layout that would reduce the amount of walking for nurses, improve privacy for patients but not lose the necessary level of supervision of patients by the nursing staff. The ward unit that they came up with still provided a basic 32 beds (about the size of the largest Nightingale ward) but arranged with a combination of four-bed bays and single rooms on either side of a central corridor. (An illustration can be seen on the University of Cambridge School of Architecture website, and a plan is reproduced in Jonathan Hughes’ article in Medical History.)

Larkfield Hospital closed in 1979. That same year the new Inverclyde Royal Hospital was opened, built just to the north-west. The Larkfield unit for geriatric patients has since been built on the site.

Two more hospitals were built in Greenock in the later 1930s. The Ear, Nose & Throat Hospital in Eldon Street was built in 1937 by James Miller. It originally had accommodation for 20 beds and an out‑patients’ department. Eear nose and throat patients were initially taken into the Royal Infirmary and then moved out to the Eye Infirmary when it opened in 1894. In 1921 the old prison buildings in Nelson Street were acquired as a temporary measure until the new hospital was provided in Eldon Street. The Eldon Street hospital was demolished some time after 1990 and has been replaced by blocks of flats.

Housing has also been built on the site of the Rankin Memorial Hospital. This hospital opened on 17 August 1938 replacing the Togo House Maternity Hospital and the children’s hospital at Shaw Place (about the latter, I have found no information). Maggie Donald Rankin donated £41,000 to build and equip the new combined hospital.

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Extract from the 2nd-edition OS map, revised in 1938. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The architect was James Watson Ritchie, for H.M. Office of Works. It was designed as a long low, two‑storey building in three sections with maternity to the west and children to the east of the central administration section. All the blocks were rough‑cast. There was accommodation for 28 women and 28 children, and the 13 1/2-acre site was laid out by Greenock Corporation Parks Department.

A ceremonial silver key, made by Hendry & Co. of Birmingham, England, was presented to Miss Rankin on the opening of the hospital by the Burgh of Greenock Corporation. Like the other key presented to her on the opening of Larkfield Hospital, it has been preserved in the McLean Museum and Inverclyde Archives.

Following transfer to the National Health Service in 1948 plans were drawn up for extensions and a nurses’ home, and a special baby-care unit designed in 1979 by Ross, Doak and Whitelaw.  The Rankin closed in 1994. (There was also a Rankine Memorial Hospital, established around 1901, in Yichang, China, named after Dr David Rankine, its founder. The nursing staff were deaconesses from the Church of Scotland.)

Sources: Greenock Royal Infirmary: Dictionary of Scottish Architects: The New Statistical Account of Scotland: Renfrew, Argyle… 1845, pp 474-6. Gateside Hospital: Common Services Agency, Glasgow, plans collection: Glasgow Herald, 29 Dec 1941, p.6. Greenock Eye Infirmary: F. Walker, South Clyde Estuary, Edinburgh, 1986. Togo House Maternity Hospital: Glasgow Herald, 20 May 1925, p.6. Ear, Nose & Throat Hospital: Architect & Building News, 1937. Rankin Memorial Hospital:  McLean Museum and Inverclyde ArchivesDictionary of Scottish ArchitectsThe Builder, 23 Jan 1948, p.125; 27 Feb 1948, p.264; 11 Jan 1952, p.101; 30 April 1934, p.786: The Scotsman, 18 Aug 1938, p.6: Aberdeen Journal, 2 May 1907, p.3 for the Chinese Rankin Memorial Hospital.

 

The Hospitals Investigator 10

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

Cruciform Observation Wards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Droitwich

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

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

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

Corbett Hospital

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

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

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

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

 A letter from Dorset, January 1993

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

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

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

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.)

geograph-2773134-by-Mike-Faherty

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.

geograph-1344309-by-Chris-Downer

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

List of Hospitals in Dorset

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

DORSET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nairn Hospital

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 14.38.48

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 15.23.39

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 17.14.20

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

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

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

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

The Hospitals Investigator 9

In December 1992 Robert Taylor circulated the ninth edition of his newsletter amongst his colleagues working on the Royal Commission’s hospitals project. In this issue he provided more useful source material on isolation hospitals from Parliamentary Papers: a ‘Sanitary Survey’ undertaken in 1893-5  and the annual report of the Local Government Board of 1914-15, which highlighted the problems encountered in municipal hospital provision during the first year of the war.

The Sanitary Survey covered England and Wales and was prompted by ‘the ever recurring source of danger’ to Britain of cholera spreading from the continent. Publication of the inland survey was delayed following a ‘serious accident’ which befell Dr Frederick W. Barry, Senior Medical Inspector of the Local Government Board, who was supervising the work. A year later he died suddenly, it was presumed from the injury he sustained. The inland survey followed one on the ‘Port and Riparian Districts of England and Wales’ submitted in September 1895. When attention was turned inland, districts where the purity of the water supply was in doubt were investigated as a priority and then districts in which the administration was believed to be defective or ‘in which former experience had shown that filth diseases prevailed’.

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 17.22.50

The late Dr F. W. Barry, from The Graphic, 23 Oct 1897, p.17. Barry had struck his head on a stone doorway causing severe injury to his skull the previous year. He died  suddenly after he had retired to bed at the Grand Hotel, Birmingham, and was found the following morning by the chambermaid.

The actual work of inspection was conducted under Barry’s supervision by a team of doctors in the LGB Medical Department. The bulk of the sites were covered by Dr Bruce Low, Dr Fletcher, Dr Reece, Dr Wilson, and Dr Wheaton, a few were inspected by the late T. W. Thompson, Dr Sweeting, Dr Theodore Thomson, Dr Coleman, Dr Bulstrode, Dr Horne and Mr Evan Evans (surely one of the inspectors of Welsh hospitals). Each inspector was given a set of forms containing questions as to the general sanitary circumstances of the district, its sanitary administration and cholera precautions.

Under the first of these three headings the inspectors were to report on the condition of dwellings and their surroundings, the purity and sufficiency of the water supply, the efficiency of public sewage, domestic drainage and sewage disposal, methods of excrement and refuse disposal and removal, and the condition and nature of supervision over registered premises and trades. As regarded ‘sanitary administration’ the inspectors were to report on the general character and efficiency of the administration of the local sanitary authority, noting the bylaws, regulations and adoptive Acts in force. They were also to report on the work done by the local Medical Officer of Health and Inspector of Nuisances, and on the provisions made for dealing with infectious diseases and ‘infected articles’.

As to ‘Cholera Precautions’ the inspectors were instructed to ascertain what general arrangements existed in each district to deal with an outbreak of cholera and what special arrangements had been made for action in an emergency. Detailed reports were made and submitted to the local sanitary authorities together with recommendations for improvements. Only the detailed reports for Sunderland were reproduced in the Report, for the other districts abstracts were published.

The inspection of the County Borough of Sunderland was made on 19 April 1894, the district covered Sunderland, Bishopwearmouth, South Bishopwearmouth and Monkwearmouth with a population in 1891 of 131,015. The chief industries were shipbuilding, engineering, mining, seafaring and glass-blowing. The sewers are described in detail and house drainage. There were an estimated 4,000 water closets and 1,100 ‘tub closets’ (galvanised iron tubs) in the district, but the majority of houses used privy middens which were found to be mostly of a ‘very defective type’. The local Medical Officer of Health was John Caudell Wood, who was paid a salary of £500 p.a. with an additional £20 as Port Medical Officer of Health and £5 as Public Analyst. He was described as having a good knowledge of his district but ‘wanting in judgment’, and therefore ‘cannot be regarded as a very satisfactory officer’.

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 17.45.42

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Extracts from the 6-inch OS map of Sunderland published in 1898. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Sunderland Isolation Hospital was found to be a good brick building for 42 patients, situated on an isolated site about two miles north-west of the Town Hall. (This is probably what became Havelock Hospital east site, formerly Sunderland Borough Infectious Diseases Hospital, the west site being formerly the infectious hospital for Sunderland Rural District, situated to the west of Bishopwearmouth cemetery on Hylton Road.) It had been built in 1890, and consisted of two fever pavilions each for 16 beds designed generally on the lines of Plan C of the LGB 1892 memorandum, and an isolation pavilion for 10 beds on the lines of Plan D in the 1888 memorandum. There was also an admin block, with accommodation for 11 nurses and 9 servants as well as a medical officer and matron, a mortuary, post-mortem room, laundry, and disinfecting house.

Emergency plans included arrangements for opening the ‘House of Recovery’ as a cholera hospitals, this had been the old borough fever hospital a the end of Dunning Street near the river and could take about twelve patients.The following is Robert Taylor’s  list of the English isolation hospitals noted in the report. The page numbers are those given in the Blue Books, not the report’s pagination. There are some oddities: Bishop Auckland Urban District’s isolation hospital was in converted dog kennels, while at Lyme they set aside a room in a warehouse on the Cobb. At Dudley they had built a hospital comprising three blocks and a tent on a pit mound, which the inspector described as ‘very bad’. It supposedly only had space for six patients, although it had been used for 23 smallpox patients.

Sanitary Survey

The ‘Report on the Inland Sanitary Survey, 1893-95’, by the late F. W. Barry, undertaken for the Local Government Board was published in Parliamentary Papers 1896 XXXVII, pp 669ff. Just how Mr Barry met his death is not recorded, but we trust that it was not a direct result of the time spent investigating hospitals. He presented, albeit posthumously, a series of short descriptions of a sample of infectious diseases hospital visited between 1893 and 1895. A list and summary may be of some use, even if only to show what sort of buildings are missing from our own survey a century later. The abbreviations used are familiar – UD for Urban District, B for Borough, CB for County Borough.

Amble UD. A small cottage is rented for an isolation hospital, an unsatisfactory arrangement. [p.682]
Ashby de la Zouch UD. An old barn converted into a four-room cottage, very unsatisfactory. [p.684]
Ashton in Makerfield. A small eight-bed hospital, with no accommodation for two diseases in both sexes. [p.685]
Bacup B. A converted mill is used in common with Todmorden, Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge UDs. no means of separating two diseases. [p.687]
Banbury B. A well-built hospital of 1890. [p.688]
Bedlingtonshire UD An old granary converted to isolation hospital, with eight beds; unsatisfactory. [p.694]
Berwick on Tweed B. There are two wooden hospitals, one with four beds for the town, one with eight beds for port cases. [p.698]
Beverley B. Two hospital tents purchased in 1892. [p.700]
Bideford B. A six-bed hospital built in 1885; cannot separate two diseases. [p.701]
Bingley UD. Temporary hospitals shared with Keighley UD and RD, for smallpox cases only. [p.703]
Bishop Auckland U. Dog kennels converted, with five beds; unsatisfactory. [p.704]
Boston B. A converted farmhouse with 12 beds, used jointly with the Rural and Port authorities. [p.706]
Brandon and Byshottles UD. A temporary hospital built in 1891 with 16 beds; cannot isolate two diseases in both sexes. [p.707]
Bridport B. Temporary wooden hospital provided for cholera in 1866. [p.710]
Burton on Trent B. Three temporary hospitals; a permanent 30-bed hospitals being built in August 1893. [p.714]
Calne B. With Calne RD has a well-arranged hospital of 10 beds built in 1889. [p.716]
Carlisle B. Sixteen beds are provided permanently at Crozier Lodge Hospital, and further 16 are reserved. [p.719]
Chesterfield B. An unsatisfactory 10-bed hospital. [p.723]
Clay Cross. A four-ward building for smallpox on an old pit heap, used as two cottages in May 1894. [p.724]
Darlaston U. A house was purchased in 1885 and a tent was recently bought. Very unsatisfactory.[p.737]
Doncaster B. An old dilapidated house for smallpox, very unsuitable. In 1892 temporary wooden buildings were erected for cholera, but it is only used for the families of smallpox victims. [p.741]
Dronfield U. Four four-room cottages have recently been bought, but were unfurnished in May 1894. [p.744]
Dudley CB. The Infectious Diseases Hospital consists of three blocks and a tent on a pit mound, and is very bad. There is only space for six patients, but it was used for 23 smallpox patients. [p.745]
Durham B. An iron hospital being built in June 1894, very unsatisfactory. [p.746] {Is this by any chance the hospital supplied by Humphreys of Knightsbridge some time before 1914?}
East Retford. A farmhouse, only suitable for one disease at a time. [p.747]
Exeter CB. There are two ward blocks, one of wood and cement with four wards, one of brick and stone with two wards. Unsatisfactory and crowded.[p.753]
Faversham B. A brick hospital, with an administration building, a ward block with two wards each 10 by 13 feet and 13 feet high, and outbuildings. [p.756]
Gainsborough UD. Hospital consists of an administration building, two ward pavilions of brick, and a temporary wooden ward block. Apparently only used for smallpox. [p.759]
Great Yarmouth. Hospital being erected November 1893. [p.767]
Harwich B. Hospital at Dovercourt, built in 1882 with eight beds. [p.770]
Hastings CB. A building was purchased in 1874 and has 35 beds. Later a 30-bed iron hospital was bought for smallpox. The site is inadequate. [p.771]
Havant UD. Hospital shared with Havant RD, consists of two ward blocks, with 16 beds. [p.772]
Heanor UD. An eight-room cottage, used for smallpox; unsatisfactory. [p.775]
Heath Town UD. A temporary 10-bed smallpox building was recently erected with Wednesfield UDC. [p.777]
Hereford B. A 16-bed corrugated iron hospital built in 1893; unsatisfactory. [p.779] {Another Humphreys hospital?}
Herne Bay UD. Two cottages bought in 1891; unsatisfactory. [p.780]
Huntingdon B. An old brick house called the ‘Pest House’ with five beds, very unsatisfactory. [p.790] {Built in 1760 for £95 15s and now demolished}
Ilfracombe UD. A farmhouse at Mullacott for four patients, and a private house at Ilfracombe for six patients; very unsatisfactory. [p.793]
Ilkeston B. An 18-bed temporary wooden building provided in 1888 during a smallpox epidemic. [p.795]
Ipswich CB. Satisfactory 36-bed hospital. [p.796]
Keighley B. Keighley and B. J. H. B. have a temporary smallpox hospital. [p.797]
Lincoln CB. Temporary wooden building for smallpox cases. [p.805]
Longton B. An old cottage used for smallpox cases. [p.810]
Loughborough B. A cottage is rented as a hospital; unsatisfactory. [p.811]
Lyme B. A room in a warehouse on the Cobb. [p.817]
Margate B. Temporary 44-bed hospital at Northwood, shared with Ramsgate and Broadstairs. [p.819]
Maryport UD. A 4-bed hospital built on the model plan. [p.821]
Millom UD. A temporary hospital near the pier is used for cholera. [p.824]
Newark on Trent B. A 6-bed wooden hospital. [p.831]
Newbold and Dunston UD. A 12-bed temporary hospital used for smallpox cases only. [p.832]
Newcastle under Lyme B. An 18-bed hospitals built in 1872, now dilapidated. [p.834]
New Romney B. A temporary 12-bed iron hospital built in 1893, unsatisfactory. [p.837]
Northam UD. A temporary iron and wood hospital near Appledore, with no fittings, water supply, etc. [p.838]
Norwich. An excellent hospital completed in 1893. [p.840]
Oldbury UD. Smallpox hospital is a block of cottages leased by the Authority; unsatisfactory. [p.842]
Ormskirk UD. Hospital of four wards and six beds in one acre, built shortly before March 1894. [p.843]
Pemberton UD. One pavilion containing four wards and eight beds, built in 1886. [p.845]
Penrith UD. Hospital has two pavilions with 12 beds. In 1894 a new hospital building of two pavilions with eight beds, set in 2.5 acres. [p.848]
Poole B. Permanent hospital of 6 beds built in 1875. A temporary smallpox hospital built in 1886, with poor fencing. [p.850]
Runcorn UD. Two wards with 12 beds, built in 1881. Temporary building with 20 beds for smallpox cases erected on same site. [p.858]
Salford CB. Hospital at Ladywell built in 1884 with 5 pavilions set in 13 acres. Also a modern smallpox hospitals with 50 beds. [p.864]
Shipley UD. A ten-bed hospital at Stoney Ridge built according to the Board’s model plan. [p.872]
Shrewsbury B. An emergency hospital built in 1893 with two wards each with 3 beds, of iron lined with wood. Very unsatisfactory. [p.873]
Sidmouth UD. Wooden 10-bed hospital built in 1884, with no furniture, and which has never been used. [p.874]
Sittingbourne UD. A satisfactory 24-bed hospitals built in 1884. [p.876]
Stalybridge B. A building bought in 1888 and partly fitted up but never used. [p.887]
Stockport CB. Hospital with 28 beds in two pavilions, each with three wards, opened in 1881. A separate smallpox hospital at Whitehall. [p.891]
Truro B. St Mary’s Parish Workhouse fitted up, suitable for one disease only. [p.906]
Warrington B. A satisfactory 40-bed hospitals built in 1877. [p.916]
Widnes B. A satisfactory 24-bed hospital built in 1887. [p.920]
Wigan CB. A satisfactory 60-bed hospital built in 1889. [p.921]
Workington B. The old workhouse used, unsatisfactory. [p.927]

Isolation Hospitals

The Annual Report of the Local Government Board for 1914-15 (P.P. 1914-15 XXV, 29-30) gives some interesting information about hospitals. It is also interesting for referring to the conflict as the Great War as early as 1915.

In the early months of the First World War, it was discovered that the existing isolation hospital accommodation was often insufficient for the extra military population of the area. This was particularly the case in Eastern Command. In some districts, huts of an army pattern were built in the grounds of existing isolation hospitals by agreement between the local military and the hospital authorities. It was intended that after the war the local authority would buy the building from the military at a percentage of the original cost. These huts did not provide floor space to the requirements of the Local Government Board, and after a meeting with the Board, Eastern Command adopted a design by their architect which was a modification of the Board’s Model D of the Memorandum of May 1902. The pavilion had two ten-bed wards and two one-bed wards, was 24 feet wide, and provided 144 square feet of floor space for each bed.

The War Office built these pavilions at the following hospitals: Biggleswade (1 pavilion); Bedford (1 pavilion); East Grinstead (1 pavilion); Guildford (1 pavilion); Tring (2 pavilions); Chelmsford (1 pavilion); Bletchingley (1 pavilion); Dunstable (1 pavilion); Rochester (1 pavilion); Folkestone (2 pavilions).

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Folkestone Isolation Hospital. The two blocks added during the First World War are the pair to the south. Extract from the 2nd edition OS map revised 1937-8, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Before this plan was completed, several authorities who objected to the original army hut prepared plans of their own, which were submitted to the LGB in the usual way. These authorities were: Northampton (2 pavilions); Colchester (2 pavilions); Ipswich (2 pavilions); Orsett Joint Hospital Board (1 pavilion).

Of those which came within the area covered by the Cambridge office (where Robert Taylor was based), the two wards built at Ipswich had been demolished, although OS maps showed their distinctive outline (which was the same as the single pavilion built in 1914-15 as the Ipswich Smallpox Hospital). At Northampton there was a pair of pavilions with sanitary annexes with stalks at each end, and the readily identifiable double projections of single wards flanking the duty room. The potentially more interesting military blocks at Bedford, Biggleswade and Dunstable did not survive. The block at Biggleswade appears from maps to have been a plain rectangular structure without any projections for sanitary annexes or duty rooms. The most likely pavilion shown on maps of Biggleswade was another plain rectangular building, with a central rear sanitary annexe with narrow stalk. no building can be identified on maps of Bedford.

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.”

The Hospitals Investigator 6

October 1992 brought forth the sixth newsletter from the Cambridge team of the RCHME Hospitals Project. It included short pieces on mortuaries and asylum farms, and accounts of the Victoria Cottage Hospital, Wimborne, Dorset, with thoughts on holiday closures of hospitals. There is also a note on Sleaford’s isolation hospital, a portable hospital with what sounds like a camper van for the nurse. Extra curricular activities at hospitals were discovered too, with money making schemes in a Yorkshire madhouse and an unofficial B&B at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Victoria Cottage Hospital, Wimborne

This unremarkable little Dorset hospital has a history written in 1955 by someone hiding behind the initials G. H. W. From this booklet we can extract several amusing bits of hospital history.

 

First must come the sanitation. In 1887 when the hospital was built there was one earth closet for the patients. This came to light in 1907 when water was installed along with an extra closet. The operating theatre was another horror for it doubled as the bathroom from 1887 until 1904 when a new operating room was built. Even this new theatre did not have an electric light until 1934. Provision of a separate operating theatre did not end the dual use of the bathroom, however. Until 1927 it housed the telephone. In that year the telephone was moved to the matron’s office.

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Extract from the 1901 OS map. The cottage hospital is to the north-west of the town, almost on a level with the union workhouse, which is to the north-east. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Until 1924 the hospital closed completely for about a moth every year, for cleaning and repairs. During this time the staff took holidays, and the patients were dismissed. Some were sent to the small 18th-century workhouse in Wimborne, for in 1922 the Guardians sent the hospital a bill for care of patients. We have met this sort of annual closing and cleansing elsewhere, but it seems poorly documented. In 1946 the Passmore Edwards Hospital at Liskeard closed for a moth because that was the only way in which the staff could take a holiday; our source does not say whether this was a regular event. The Royal National Sanatorium at Bournemouth closed in winter, allegedly because the hospital was only intended to provide a summer break for consumptives (and thus for their carers as well). At Northampton the General Infirmary managed cleaning and repairs by simply closing one ward at a time, but as this was a large hospital part-closing was easier than in a small hospital like Wimborne.

Finally, on a frivolous note, when the townsmen were discussing whether to commemorate Victoria’s jubilee by building a hospital or by some other means, one suggestion was ‘erecting a statue of Queen Victoria with a clock on top’. Just how this was to be arranged is not explained.

Sleaford Hospital

The Sleaford Rural District Council bought an isolation hospital in 1901 for the sum of £127. It was ‘an ingenious contrivance’ of numbered wooden sections that could be put together in a few hours, measured 20 feet by 12 feet and could hold up to four patients. A van on wheels provided both accommodation for a nurse and the necessary cooking arrangements. There was also a portable steam disinfector that was reported to be too heavy to be portable. This magnificent hospital was stored at the Sleaford Workhouse, and was erected for the very first time for the benefit of an inquisitive Local Government Board inspector in 1905. It is not known whether it was ever used after that. [The inspector’s report is in Parliamentary Papers, 1907 XXVI, 200-201.]

The East Stow Rural District Council in Suffolk had a ‘small portable hospital’ for smallpox cases in 1913, and presumably this was also a sectional wooden building. [PP 1914 XXXVII, 746] In 1913 Bournemouth Corporation had lent the neighbouring Rural District Council a Doecker Hut for use as an extra hospital ward during an outbreak of enteric fever at Ringwood, another portable structure. [PP 1894 XL, 565 and see Doecker Portable Hospitals]

At least these buildings were of wood. Shortly before 1890 the Gainsborough Rural Council bought a hospital marquee for patients and a bell tent for the nurses. They were aired from time to time, but appear not to have been used. [PP 1894 XL, 565] Perhaps even these tents were better than the converted dog-kennels at Bishop Auckland in 1895. [PP 1896 XXXVII, 704]

Mortuaries

In the course of research for the project a file copy turned up of a Government questionnaire headed ‘Isolation Hospital Accommodation’, and filled in for the Southampton Smallpox Hospital. The printer’s rubric shows that it dates from 1926 and that some 10,000 copies were printed. The answers, together with a crude plan from another source, make a description of this vanished hospital possible, but there is little of interest until the question ‘is there a mortuary at the hospital?’ The answer is simply ‘Cubicles in Observation Hut used for this purpose’. The observation hut was a small building with two single-bed wards and a duty room If one cubicle was occupied by a patient, the psychological effect of comings and goings in the other cubicle can hardly have been good. Perhaps the real significance of this arrangement is that the observation wards of isolation hospitals were probably rarely used, and that there never was a living patient to be disturbed by the arrival and departure of a dead one. It also helps to suggest ways in which hospitals without mortuaries might have functioned.

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Extract from the 1934 OS map. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The smallpox hospital was at Millbrook Marsh, an inhospitable looking place even as late as the 1930s, surrounded by mud and marsh. It is interesting to see that development of the estuary was just beginning at this time, to the east is the King George V graving dock under construction. By the 1950s the hospital site had become a boat yard, re-using the existing buildings. A couple remained in the late 1960s, when the area to the north had become a sewage works, which eventually swallowed the remaining former hospital buildings.The huge Prince Charles Container Port was built over the mud flats and saltings.

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Extract from the 1897 OS map. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Southampton, in common with other ports, provided a number of isolation hospitals. As well as the smallpox hospital there was another isolation hospital at West Quay.

It is in the usual location, close to the water so that anyone arriving by ship suspected of having contracted an infectious disease could be taken directly to the hospital by boat. The site was later an Out-bathing and Disinfection Station for Infectious Diseases and later still used for a clinic and a mortuary. That was in the post-war era, and by then land reclamation had seen the site removed from the water’s edge. As far as I can make out, the Grand Harbour Hotel seems to occupy the site now.

Asylum Farms

Slowly it is becoming clear that asylum farms were unlike those in the world outside, at least in the South of England. Large barns for storing crops are absent from those seen so far, but piggeries are ubiquitous and any fragments of yards and single storey buildings appear to have been for cattle. Sometimes there are stables and cart sheds, but it is not certain that these were specifically for farm use. Indeed the buildings suggest that attention was concentrated on stock, especially pigs and cattle, and perhaps market gardening, where there was greater scope for farming as occupational therapy. At Digbys, Exeter, there is a tall building which had large opposed loading doors, one opening on to the yard, the other on to a lane outside the hospital grounds. The building is not large enough to hold much, and certainly is not suitable for storing a grain crop. It seems to have been intended for receiving bought-in material, presumably feedstuff for the pigs and cattle.

EPW024131Digby Hospital, formerly the Exeter Lunatic Asylum. The small farm complex is on the east near to the London & South Western Railway line. The buildings have been converted to housing as part of the re-development of the hospital and its site for housing.

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Extract from the 1st Edition OS Map published in 1889. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The advantages of concentration on livestock is that it would provide the asylum with pork, bacon, milk and beef, while a market garden would provide soft fruit and vegetables. All of these are labour-intensive occupations, providing maximum work throughout the year for the relatively large number of patients.

Secondary Employment

John Beal was the proprietor of a private madhouse at Nunkeeling in the Yorkshire Wolds. The financial success of this venture seems out of proportion to the small number of patients and the remoteness of its position. The truth emerged in 1823 when the excise men found 24 casks of tobacco, 25 of tea, and 264 of assorted spirits, mainly gin, concealed about the premises. Perhaps we should pay greater attention to such institutions, in the hope that more than just buildings survive.

Income

Those hospital administrators busy trying to generate income have all failed to exploit one obvious opportunity that was seen as long ago as 1770 by the Matron of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. The town has long had a shortage of short-term accommodation. The matron saw this and let beds to overnight visitors, presumably giving them breakfast as well. On discovering this the Governors dismissed her, partly because she was pocketing the income.