words supplied by Alexandra Price
Before 1890 medical provision in Nuneaton was limited, those less fortunate relied on family, friends, and neighbours, there were women that knew about herbs, and a little about the few things that were available in the shops, there were also women that became untrained midwives, these women could help in a few cases, but in the main death rates were extremely high, conditions did little to help the situation, and communicable diseases such as Typhoid, and Small Pox, and also childbirth where high on the list of causes.
At this time Dr Edward Nason, who was the Surgeon for Nuneaton, administered to people in there own homes, and probably in his own home for a fee, these patients would then be cared for at home if necessary, many people however could not afford to pay doctors fees, these were the ones who relied on others around them.
Dr Nason also administered free off charge to those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the workhouse, who would be cared for by fellow Inmates.
Edward Nason’s son Richard, commented at the time on the need for a hospital, which were evident in places like London, were they could treat and care for patients in better conditions, especially as mines and quarries were opening up throughout the area, and server injuries’ were becoming common place, poor conditions were causing wound infections and preventing the healing process, and quite often could be fatal as a result.
Initially a house in Abbey Street was donated by Mr Richard Ramsden of Camp Hill, this was deemed to be less that Ideal for the vast task ahead so it was sold and the money used to start the “hospital fund”, there was an additional amount of £100 from a donation, bringing the total to £270. Richard Nason’s son also called Edward had recently returned from London were he had been trained, he had witnessed first hand the benefits of medical and nursing care on an in patient basis, in clean conditions with less chance of infection, and the provision of care for Typhoid cases in particular, where patients could be isolated in a separate ward, his fortuitous return was invaluable as there had been a huge increase in Typhoid cases.
Dr Richard Nason called a meeting of the local General Practioner’s which was held at 80 Abbey Street, the home of his son Edward, there were 5 doctors who attended, Dr Richard Nason, Dr Edward Nason, Dr William Nason (Edward’s other son), Dr Cookson, and Dr Peacock. It was decided that there was insufficient funding available to provided an inpatient service at the time, so a back up plan was implemented. As a result 2 Stanton Villas, Prince’s Street was rented, and staffed with two trained nurse’s, and a housekeeper, a room was set aside for operation’s and care for one patient in exceptional circumstances when no other suitable accommodation was available, the nurses main role was to administer the first trained nursing care in the community, with the nurses visiting people in their own homes. This building and nursing service was opened by Mr Reginald Stanley on the 4th November 1890. However it did not provide for Scarlet Fever, and Measles patients, or childbirth.
By 1892 despite wages and running costs for 2 Stanton Villas, the fund had reached £3,000 enabling plans to be made for a cottage hospital to be built. Land off Manor Court Road was donated by Mr James Tomkinson MP and Mr Reginald Stanley, who was one of the local Brickyard owners, the land was thought to be the Abbey’s Home Farm originally. Mr Stanley had a tree lined avenue constructed from his own funds, this became the driveway leading to the hospital, and his own architect Mr F J Yates from Birmingham was employed to design the building, and Mr Thomas Smith a Building Contractor from Coton quoted the best price from 13 applicants, and was appointed as the contractor for the construction, at a cost of £2,794, there is no mention of cost of bricks, but short reference is made to the bricks being “typical” of Stanley brothers, so I don’t think there is any doubt that these were either donated or purchased at cost. The building was in three sections, the main central part housed Administration, theatre and Kitchens on the ground floor, and staff accommodation on the first floor. There were corridors with veranda’s leading to two eight bedded wards either side, which were named Nason and Melly, one for men one for women, , Mrs Richard Nason and Mrs Edward Nason were appointed the responsibility of purchasing all the household items such as linen, curtains and kitchen utensils, unfortunately only four bed’s on each side could be used at the time due to insufficient funds remaining after all the equipment, beds etc were purchased, when all this was completed services were transferred from Princes Street, it only remained then for Mr James Tomkinson and Mr Reginald Stanley to officially open the Cottage Hospital, as it was known at the time, this took place on the 20th September 1893, there was a ceremony to mark the occasion, the cost alone of the Excelsior band was £4.12s, that would have paid a qualified nurses wages for approximately 10 weeks at that time. The first patient 14 year old William Taylor was admitted with a broken leg on the 9th October.
Although the Dr’s gave their time free to the hospital, further funding was needed to enable the remaining beds to be used and to maintain the running costs of the hospital, a further £923 was raised through workmen’s contributions, church collections, and various forms of entertainment such as football matches, this then enabled every bed to be utilized.
By 1900, however it was realized that more beds were needed, and on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, after obtaining permission from her majesty to use her name, two further wards containing 5 beds each were opened, one was named Victoria, the remaining one was called Mary and was designated a children’s ward. The opening ceremony was performed by Lady Newdigate, Anne Emily Garnier was the wife of Sir Edward Newdigate Newdigate at the time.
Money received from donations and wills raised a further amount of £1370 in 1909, this enabled a new theatre to be built in 1912, and the old one to become a secondary one when needed. More land was also purchased on the hospital site which was used for growing potatoes for the kitchen until needed for expansion. The coal strike of 1912 affected the collection of workers subscriptions due to workers wages being stopped, and a fire at Hauchwood Colliery which led to it being closed for 12 months also affected subscriptions. The Picture Palace + Picture Drome in Stockingford raised £20, which helped but unfortunately did not cover the huge gap from the regular subscriptions from the miners, so times were hard all round.
In 1913 weight machines were installed in Boot’s chemists and funds raised from this went to the hospital, the first collection amounted to £3.5s.4d.
The following year war broke out, subscriptions dropped again as men were drafted, there was some compensation however from the war office, which was needed as people injured in the war were admitted, soldiers were also brought back and transferred to the hospital to recover from their injuries. Because there was only 26 beds at the time this became a problem, as space was limited it was decided in 1916 to requisition Weddington Castle and Arbury Hall to be used as military hospitals for the recovery of the war wounded soldiers, Weddington Castle Hospital was staffed by Commandant Mrs Herbert Fowler, who was Colonel Herbert Fowlers widow, along with the Nuneaton and Hartshill Red Cross nurses, Arbury was under the control of commandant Mrs Fitzroy Newdigate, to alleviate the problem at the General, as it known by that time. When war was over all the equipment and linen used at Weddington was donated to the General Hospital.
On August 30th 1923 at 10pm, the staff at the General had to deal with a local emergency, a bus full of passengers on their way back to Stockingford from an outing to the picture palace in Nuneaton met with a tragic accident, when filling the bus with petrol from a can on the Cock and Bear bridge the fumes were ignited by a cigarette, and the bus and passengers were engulfed in flames, 10 were treated at the General, but sadly despite the efforts of the staff, only 6 survived.
Separate accommodation was needed for nurses to free up room in the main hospital for private patients, which was to provide extra income, and in 1928 the first ward for maternity patients, consisting of 13 beds was opened on the first floor, women could then pay a fee to book a bed ready for when they went into labour, only patients with complications were treated on the main ward prior to that.
In 1926 South Home was built to accommodate the nurses. Three years later Miss B M Partington was recruited as Matron, by this time there were 70 beds at the General. Miss Partington was responsible for many changes in her 19 year service at the General, one of note was the introduction of nurse training, before this only trained nurses were employed to care for the patients, the hospital by that time had become of a sufficient size and offered enough services to enable Miss Partington and the hospital governing board to apply to the General Nursing Council to set up a nurse training school on site. In 1933 the first nurse Edith Whitmore received her qualification along with a badge which showed a shield surrounded by the words PRET D’ACCOMPLIER and NUNEATON GENERAL HOSPITAL.
In Miss Partington’s 1st year a physiotherapy department was also established.
Funding was an ongoing necessity, therefore in 1930 Eli Deeming called a meeting at the Cock and Bear Inn, this took place on Tuesday the 23rd July, there were 6 others present at that meeting, they talked over fundraising ideas that had been mentioned over the previous months, one of those ideas was to hold a carnival, at a subsequent meeting Mr F C Ripp was appointed organising secretary, Miss Partington came up with a slogan, Every Copper Helps, and also drew a sketch of a policeman to be used in posters. The first hospital carnival took place on Saturday 18th October, the Mayor at the time Dr L E Price crowned Ann Seal the first Queen, and sliced the first piece of the ox roast, fun was had by all, and it was decided to make it a regular event. The first 3 years alone raised nearly £3,000 for the hospital.
Another event that took place that year was pound day, people were asked to donate a pound weight of food items for the hospital kitchen, items donated were Flour 70llbs, rice 16lbs, sugar 157lbs, jam 66lbs, butter 21lbs, and soap 40 bars, and a large amount of produce was donated by the Stockingford Allotment Association. Mrs Edward Melly arranged for the Linen Guild to fundraise, the proceeds were used to purchase materials for 300 items such as linen and clothing needed in the running of the hospital.
Further funding was raised by Nuneaton Amateur Dramatic Association in 1937 for a production of Rose Marie. £100 was donated to the General hospital, and £59.17s.8d to Nuneaton Nursing Association.
Due to the pressure of overcrowded wards in 1932, £3,500 was provided by the miners welfare fund to build a further ward, consisting of 28 beds, this was named the welfare ward, due to the origin of the funding. The following year the physiotherapy department was relocated to Daintree house in the Avenue leading to the hospital, but by 1946, it was evident that this was becoming inadequate, and a purpose built prefabricated building was erected on the site of the tennis courts next to South Home.
The welfare ward was opened In 1934, by this time work based subscriptions were providing half the total income received.
The nursing school was proving to be a success, with 18 State Regisered Nurses qualifying by 1937, and 26 in training.
To alleviate the problem of extra bed requirement during WW 11 in 1939, 6 “temporary” buildings were erected next to the workhouse infirmary off Collage street. The infirmary and “temporary” buildings on the workhouse site became known as the Emergency Hospital. Nuscroft was rented as a private maternity ward during the war, and was felt to be an asset so in 1947 it was purchased for £6,750 by the hospital management and renamed Margaret ward.
The following year Councillor Bates, who was Mayor at the time, sent out an appeal, which raised £21,000, for the General hospitals post war refurbishments.
July 5th 1948 became the day that both the hospitals were placed under a new system of management called the National Health Service.
During the years between 1950 to 1969 reorganisation took place. It was at this time the General was renamed the Manor, the emergency hospital was renamed George Eliot. Up until this time maternity was stretched over 3 sites, the George Eliot’s hospitals infirmary, the Manors Nunscroft, and a private nursing home in Attleborough. It was decided to move all maternity facilities from the Manor to the George Eliot, where most of the upper floor of the infirmary was used and renamed Poyser. Nunscroft was then used for nurse training.
During this time the children’s ward was also transferred to what was a nurses home at the end of one of the corridors leading of the wards used during the war, this was named Catrina. Mary ward at the Manor then became an Ear Nose and Throat ward. In 1962 I was admitted to Mary ward for a tonsillectomy, my mum told me I was the only child there, and as a result I was thoroughly spoilt by the nurses, all I remember is being given green jelly, and asking to see my dad, who was a conductor on the buses, as soon as I came home.
In the 1980’s a new casualty was built, which freed up Melly Ward. I remember going to the old casualty on many occasions, I was accident prone, I was always falling over, and one occasion I was pushing a go-cart of a friend which was pushed back on my foot, I remember sitting in the reception area of casualty, then being wheeled in a red leather wheelchair to x-ray, it wasn’t broke, but I still have a scar as a reminder ! I also remember taking my son there when he fell down stairs and broke his arm, and being referred to the Physiotherapy department, for massage and exercise treatment, for my back.
Since its beginning in 1893 Nuneaton’s first hospital saw many changes, constant expansions to accommodate an ever increasing population’s needs, setting up of a nurse training school, 2 world wars, and all the changes that the NHS brought, one thing that was constant throughout all this was the support it received from the people of Nuneaton, and their tireless fundraising efforts
After several years of reorganisation the Manor Hospital closed its doors on July 20th 1993 in its centenary year. Hospital facilities may be transferred to the George Eliot Hospital but the building itself still remains host to doctors as a GP surgery.