A History of the Isle Of Wight Hospitals

by E. F. Laidlaw


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Dedicated to all who have worked, who work now or who will work in the future at St. Mary's Hospital

© E. F. Laidlaw 1994 First Published 1994

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the permission of the publisher and the copyright owner.

Hardback ISBN 1 873295 75 8
Softback ISBN 1873295 80 4

Front cover plate. A ward scene - probably about 1900. Courtesy: R. Brinton.

Back cover plate. Main entrance to the House of Industry. Courtesy: I.& J. Jones and Dovecote Press.


Part One

From the beginning to 1948

Part Two

The National Health Service



The suggestion that I should write this book was made to me in the winter of 1993 by Mr. Tony Blee, then the General Administrator of the Isle of Wight Health Authority; and later the St. Mary's Trust kindly agreed to sponsor me and to pay part of the expenses. I am duly grateful to both the Trust and Mr. Blee and most especially to Major-General Brian Livesey for writing a foreword.

The most important source of information has been from the minutes and reports of the Councils, Committees and Boards which managed the various hospitals, which up to about 1970 are mostly housed in the County Records Office and I am glad to thank the staff of that office who have carried so many heavy tomes from one room to another for me; also Audrey Elliot of Medina Borough Council, who helped me to hunt, with limited success, for the records of the Borough Councils of past years, and to Mavis Granger who has led me around the circumference of Whitecroft where records of the last 25 years are, with luck, to be found; and has found me vicarious accommodation where I might study them.

Another important source of information available at the Records Office has been past numbers of the County Press over the last century or so and of early Ordnance Survey maps; and in the County Library an earlier paper the County and various books, especially Worsley's History of the Island and the book An Illustrated History of the Isle of Wight by J. & J. Jones; also Cooke's A New Picture of the Isle of Wight; Bill Shepard's Newport Remembered; Mr. A. Parker's two short books about Shanklin, and Cantwell and Sprack on The Solent Defences, but apart from this official or printed information, I have in the course of two years received advice and help from so many different people that I could not give a complete list of them and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all collectively here; there are some that I must mention individually, - Mrs. Margham; Miss Sylvia White; Miss Weedon and Miss Johnson, all of whom remember the coming of the N.H.S. at Newport, Mr. Rouse, the former Chief Engineer who typed out for me an account of the building and engineering work at St. Mary's while he was there; Jack Keech who was Secretary of St. Mary's for many years and Bruce Charman who was secretary at Whitecroft and later took Mr. Keech's place at St. Mary's; Mr. Hunt, the only man I have spoken to who worked at St. Mary's before it became a hospital and was in fact assistant to the Master of the House of Industry and who later became assistant to Jack Keech; Mrs. Elizabeth (Heather) Gray and others from the Frank James staff and Mrs. Eileen Down; Mrs. Phillips, who had nursing experience in both worldwars in the emergency hospitals, Dr David Cooper, who gave me details of Parkhurst Prison Hospital and Dr P.D. Swinstead, retired consultant Pathologist. Apart from those associated with the hospital, I must thank Mr. Roy Brinton and Mr. A. Gale who have given me much information about Ryde in particular, and Mr. E.H. Burbridge who gave me an account of St. Catherine's Home in Ventnor.

The history of the hospitals seems to divide itself naturally into two parts. Up to 1948 each hospital had its own management board or committee and after 1948 when there was one central organisation, and I have divided the book accordingly.

Where I have referred to money matters, - income, expenditure, prices, charges, costs, etc. I have used the units in use at the time, that is for the most part the old L.S.D. style. It is usually of course only the pounds that matter and I have generally when extracting figures from records given them to the nearest pound; but occasionally shillings and pence seem worth recording.

In the course of preparing this book I have of course encountered a great many names of administrators, doctors, matrons, nurses, hospital servants, members of committees, Medical Officers, Councillors and especially givers of various bounties. Many names come up naturally in the course of the story, but I regret many that I have not mentioned, including many who were well known in their day and many still well known now. There may be some who feel surprise or even disappointment that their own name, or some other particular names, are not mentioned. To these I can only apologise for my omission.

Such maps and plans as I have been able to produce come mostly from Ordnance Survey Maps; there have been a very few plans available of buildings at St. Mary's, and one very early one of Ryde Hospital, for which my thanks are due to Mr. R. Brinton.

It is a pleasure to acknowledge with thanks the reliable and painstaking work of Tina Snow in producing the type-script and the ever ready help and advice in word and deed of Mr. Peter Cross and his staff, Anita Govinden and Marion Giddings.

Finally with all my heart I thank my step-son, Robin McInnes for help and advice especially about the illustrations and my wife Brenda for her endurance, tolerance and help, and her good memory.