A History of the Isle Of Wight Hospitals by E. F. Laidlaw
The House of Industry (1771) The Workhouse and Infirmary (1864) Forest House (1904) St. Mary's Hospital (1935)
To Islanders, St. Mary's has, I believe, seemed a very different type of institution from the Royal I.o.W. County Hospital, - at least until recent years and the N.H.S. Yet they have some things in common; both were founded through the initiative of those who would have been considered, and who considered themselves, the leading citizens of the Island, with a right and duty to decide what was needed; both were intended - in the first place - to serve especially or exclusively the sick and the poor.
It is true of course that they have a very different history. Until its foundation, the care of the aged and destitute, - those unable to support themselves - had, since the time of Elizabeth 1, - devolved upon the individual parishes; such people found shelter in the 'Parish House', - accommodation which varied; some parishes had by the time we are thinking of developed a reasonable service and decent living quarters; others less so; some would have been kindly treated, - others perhaps harshly; those who had any capacity for work provided a convenient pool of cheap labour for farmers and others especially at busy times such as harvests.
In 1770, at a meeting of the gentlemen of the Island it was decided that a 'House of Industry' should be erected, - one central building with a salaried staff, where all such people would be accommodated. It was thought that this would provide more effective relief for those who 'by reason of age, infirmities or disease were unable to support themselves, and a better employment of the able and industrious and the education of children'. They thought that by suitable training of the young, these people would become less of a burden to the public.
They placed an advertisement in the Salisbury Journal of October 8th 1770, announcing their intention; they obtained 80 acres of Parkhurst Forest from the Crown on a 999 year lease at the nominal rent of £8-17s-9½d. The House of Industry was modelled on a smaller similar building erected a few years earlier in Sandford in East Suffolk; however in its size and scope, dealing with the whole population of a large area, - the Newport House of Industry was a pioneer development.
As was to be expected, several of the 28 parishes on the Island, - presumably including those which had produced the most advanced services, - opposed the whole idea and there was argument and counter argument, but criticism and opposition were overcome and an Act of Parliament authorised the project in 1771, with a loan of £12,000; a few years later, in the style which is now so familiar, this proved inadequate and a second Act permitted a further £8,000; however by that time the House had been partly built and was occupied - since 1774.
The complex of buildings, - well known to the Island as the House of Industry, the Workhouse, Forest House, more colloquially the Grubber, and finally as St. Mary's, with the upper and lower hospitals, now become the north and south hospitals, - was well described by Worsley in hisHistory of the Island, and much of what I write about its early days is derived from his book or from the book by Jack & Johanna Jones The Isle of Wight; an Illustrated History; I'm glad to acknowledge the help I have had from both these.
It is said that the familiar pond (now the lake) at St. Mary's was formed in the hollow left when clay was excavated for the bricks which were to be used in the building of the House; I have been unable to find any written evidence of this but it seems likely enough; the pond at first was larger than now, early maps (see figure 4) show it a rectangle about 80 yards x 40 yards; it drained then as now by a stream across Dodnor Lane and through the fields down to the river. The land at the bottom of the hill would have been damp and possibly boggy; there used to be a withy-bed where now car parks slope down to a ditch; but there seems no particular reason why a deep pond should have developed there if it were not man made.
The buildings were near the southern end of the land obtained; Worsley writes:-
'The main building running from east to west, 300ft x 27ft, is of three storeys; about halfway along an extension on the north side 50ft x 21ft provided the chapel, - with a store over it; about 200ft from the west end a wing 170ft x 24ft ran southward at a right-angle to the main building, and from the end of this wing workshops ran westward, parallel to the main building, enclosing a space open on the west side, 200ft x 170ft; to the east of the wing was a courtyard bounded on the north by the main building, on the south by a wall; and on the east by various offices, - dairy, wash-house, brew-house, wood-house, store-rooms, etc.; behind these offices was a barn, a stable and a pig sty.'
'in the principal building is a large store room, steward's room, committee room, dining hall 118ft x 27ft, and a common sitting-room for the impotent and aged poor. Under the east end were cellars for beer and meat, 80ft long x 27ft wide; over this building [i.e. on the upper floors] are the laundry, governor's and matron's lodging rooms, nurseries and a sick ward. In the wing on the ground floor are the school room, an apothecary's shop, kitchen and scullery, bakehouse, bread room, governor's and matron's sitting-rooms, pantry, etc.'
'Over are the lying-in rooms, sick wards, and 20 separate rooms or apartments for married men and their wives; with two common sitting-rooms for the old and infirm who lodge in these rooms and are unable to go downstairs.'
'In the centre of the workshops before-mentioned..., is a large gateway, on the east side of which is a master weaver's room and a spinning room 96ft x 18ft with store room above; at the west side of the gateway is the shoe-maker's shop, a tailor's shop, and spinning room, 150ft x 18 wide, with weaving room and store rooms over it.'
'The House is capable of containing near 700 people; the number supported in it is 500 to 550; it varies with the season and as the county is more or less healthy. Suppose the number to be 550 the proportion will be - of men 64; women 136; girls nine years old and upwards 84; under nine 95; boys nine years old and upwards 56; under that age 116.'
'The domestic officers are a governor, matron, steward and school master, who are chosen annually; a chaplain who does duty in the House twice a week besides Sunday. There are also two surgeons and apothecaries and a secretary and treasurer, all of whom except the treasurer had settled salaries.'
The first surgeon (doctor) appointed was Mr. Richard Bassett of Newport who continued until 1795 when he was succeeded by his son who carried on until 1837, being joined for part of this time by Dr Waterworth and Dr Wavell; the first apothecaries were Barlow & Son.
It may be questioned whether, at this early stage the House of Industry could properly be regarded as a hospital; it seems best however to give at least a brief account of it, paying little attention to the Workhouse moiety, interesting though that may be; for from the start it did provide medical and nursing care for the elderly, sick and crippled; from the start too, a medical officer was appointed, and from 1835 onwards he was required to examine everyone admitted to the H.o.I.; in addition sufferers from some infectious diseases were admitted and treated and the institution was for a long time the only place on the Island which offered such care; and thirdly the House very early became a home for those classified as insane, - or as idiots or imbeciles; these terms, and the description of their accommodation as the 'Idiot Wards', sound strange and perhaps offensive to us now as does even the term lunatic asylum; but it should not, I think, be assumed that their care and treatment were lacking in humanity as it was understood at the time. There is plenty of evidence in the records of the concern that was felt for these people and of the endeavours to provide for them reasonable comfort and decent standards.
The House of Industry was managed by 24 Directors and 36 Acting-guardians. Worsley writes:-
The persons constituting the corporation and styled by the Act Guardians of the Poor are such inhabitants of the Island as are seized in fee, or for life, of their own or their wives rights of land rated to the poor rate of £50 per annum; heirs apparent to £100 per annum; all rectors and vicars; and the occupiers of land rated ... at £100 per annum. Out of the persons thus qualified ... are chosen yearly by ballot 24 Directors, and 36 Acting-guardians who divide and sub-divide themselves into quarterly, monthly and weekly committees of regulation and management ...'
Figure 4. Page 63 from the Ordnance Survey of 1862. The House of Industry (here called the Union Workhouse) is at the bottom left hand corner. The fourth (west) side of the quadrilateral shows a continuous building, with projections into the courtyard, which is divided into two parts: the smaller part has trees on two sides.
The building adjacent to the Burial Ground was called the Pest-house in Worsley's day: later it was the Lower Hospital, or, in 1880, the 'Present Infirmary Wards'. The small building further up, marked 'Hospital' and numbered 115 must at this stage have been the Infectious Diseases Hospital.
135 & 135a are ponds which drain across Dodnor Lane and down to the river, as now.
The small rectangular building between the north and west wings of the H of I was what in those days was called 'the Necessaries'.
The small buildings near Dodnor Lane were farm buildings. Courtesy: Ordnance Survey.
The Directors were in fact the managers, and they were drawn from the land owners and the Clergy, the original initiators of the Act; the Acting-guardians were answerable to them, and were selected as representatives of the parishes; the House, built by a loan, was dependent on the parish rates for its day to day running. Both Directors and Guardians took their duties seriously; they could be, and on occasions were, fined for failing to attend the committee meetings.
J. & J. Jones write that the Directors became the driving force of local Government on the Island; besides managing the House, they dealt with outdoor relief, the collection of rates and in time they supervised some primitive medical service. In 1836, the introduction of the new Poor Law, abolishing the old Elizabethan statutes, meant that they became answerable to the Poor Law Board and Commissioners; - but the management of the House did not greatly change; in 1865 the Poor Law Board dissolved the `incorporation', and the Isle of Wight Union was established, first meeting on September 28th 1865, and a Board of Guardians now managed the House of Industry although its personnel was very much the same as had been the previous management; and in 1871 the Poor Law Board itself gave way to the Local Government Board; all the activities of the Guardians had to be confirmed by this Board - e.g. even the appointment of a nurse or a domestic worker; and all new buildings or alterations must be approved by it. The Local Government Board itself gave way to the Ministry of Health in 1919, and the Guardians were finally dissolved and their function taken over by the County Council in 1930; the Council then already managed Whitecroft and Longford Hospitals on the Island; then after another two decades came the N.H.S.
The House of Industry had this in common also with the Ryde Hospital, - that in both of them building, additions and alterations to the initial structure, seemed almost continuous. Very few plans are now available; a few of alterations in the House and a few showing the design of the new wards in 1880-1882 which came to form what was later known to us as the upper hospital; those apart, the only available information is in the maps of the ordnance surveys, from which a ground plan of the buildings can be obtained; the first survey in 1810 was not of the same standard as later maps; but the surveys about 1860 and 1940 give useful evidence of the existing buildings and they are shown in figures 4 and 5. I shall try to describe the development of the various buildings as time went on and hope that the figures will go some way to showing how they ended up as the hospital we have known.
The first new building was an isolated unit for smallpox put up in 1782, and it seems there was additional provision for this in 1794. In those years smallpox was evidently the infection which most urgently called for isolation. Other infections at first were treated in the 'Pest-house' as its name implied; Scarlet Fever, Typhoid Fever, and Cholera are mentioned.
The 'Pest-house' was built at the same time as the House of Industry and is mentioned by Worsley in his book published in 1781; he says it was situated about three to four hundred yards from the main building; it lay to the east of the path or drive which then, and still now, leads up the hill to the buildings further up; it must have been approximately where there is now a temporary car park and just below the recently levelled helicopter pad; it became known as the Lower Hospital, as will be told, and it was not demolished until about 1952, although it had been for a long time then out of use. (It was not until 1948 that the Workhouse itself (Forest House) was referred to as the 'Lower Hospital'; by that time the Pest-house had long been out of use for patients: part of it, I am told, was a carpenter's shop). Adjacent was the burial ground; this was enlarged later, the Bishop of Portsmouth consecrating it at that time, and there is a note in 1854 about the path leading from the chapel to the Pest-house' where the mortuary was built, and the burial ground; in 1867 graves in the burial ground were all to be marked and numbered and a record kept in a book.
The need for care of the insane also arose very early; in 1784 two places of confinement, - or cells, - were provided and four more not later than 1810; by 1813 a large separate building had been put up, - it was this building which, more or less, filled in the fourth side of the quadrilateral of buildings that made up the House; it was enlarged in 1822 and again in 1830; by 1832 there were 28 inmates; the Guardians had earlier in 1832 had to obtain a licence authorising them to retain lunatics in the House.
In the Pest-house' separate wards had been set aside for Venereal Disease, and also for the Itch; but in 1834 all this department dealing with infectious diseases was moved to the building which had been set up near the top of the hill, reached by a path or drive which must have been the same as the path which now leads up to the stores and the former kitchen, restaurant and Pathology Department. This seems to have been a very small building, and one cannot visualise it holding more than about half a dozen beds, - or if it was of two storeys perhaps eight or ten. From this time the 'Pest-house' was referred to as the 'Lower Hospital' and it became perhaps the first place on the Island to offer some sort of hospital care for what may be called general medicine and surgery.
A list of diagnoses given in 1837 includes injuries, burns, arthritis, and dropsy; of course this hospital was presumably available only for people transferred from the House of Industry. In 1834 a separate ward with a separate entrance was set aside for the treatment of the Itch.
Dr Bassett retired in 1837; he and his father had served the Guardians for some 70 years since the foundation of the House; he himself for about 50 years.
Dr Waterworth carried on and in 1840 he reported that the asylum was too small -
'Patients cannot be kept apart, but all must be together; quiet or convalescent patients are disturbed by noisy ones; courtyards are too small and cannot be observed adequately; rooms are dark and damp. Most patients however are clean and happy, and restraint is used as little as possible.'
Figure 5. This is from the Ordnance Survey map of 1940. Most of the buildings remain now. In the Lower Hospital (H of 1) the continuous building across the west side has been replaced by three separate buildings, - which by 1994 became Holly House, the Diabetic Centre and the Secretaries House.
The building opposite Forest Road, with the former entrance to the hospital grounds, was demolished when the relief road and roundabout were built. The 'new' entrance a little way up the road towards Cowes has the Porter's Lodge, with weigh-bridge, just inside it, and the reception wards (which became offices) running eastward along the drive.
The old Pest-house is still there, roughly where now is a car-park; it was not at this stage in use as hospital accommodation, - not I think since about 1880.
The Upper Hospital, (or Infirmary) has blocks A & B as later, with the central block providing kitchens, dining rooms and nurses' rooms.
The buildings to the east of Block A separated by a path were the lying-in (obstetric) wards: north of that the old infectious disease wards: with modifications and additions the former of these would become Carisbrooke Ward and the dental surgery - and later the surgical day hospital: and the latter, the theatre and surgical ward (Bonchurch): the corridor joining these two to the main hospital was built about 1942. The mortuary with its chapel-of-ease north of these two, replaced the smaller, older I.D. Hospital, which had been demolished.
Hassall ward came to lie to the west of the hospital: the Obstetric wing to the north-west, and the new kitchens and dining-room, pathology laboratory, stores, and finally Newcroft, north and north-east - between them dwarfing the earlier buildings. Courtesy: Ordnance Survey.
At that time there were 12 men and 22 women in residence. Much earlier about 1810 a small number of women had been sent to an asylum in Laverstock where they were under the care of a Dr Finch, and now a few more were sent there, but some years later the Guardians, when asked, denied any need for any comprehensive transfer of patients to the Hampshire County Asylum at Knowle.
In that same year the doctors collectively asked that, in the interest of both the profession and the public, all doctors might be admitted at any time to the hospital to see and study hospital practice; likewise all apprentices, pupils and assistants; and that notice should be given of all operations to be performed in order that they might attend and observe. This request was refused by the Guardians, - possibly one of their less enlightened decisions; but they did accept a motion calling upon the surgeon to the House to show every consideration to other medical officers. Bureaucracy was in the ascendant about this time; doctors were required to indicate on their returns a visit, a call, or a supply of medicine to a patient, by the letters V, C, or M; the surgeon to the House was required to make a daily record of all sick in the House, using the form of the Poor Law Union, which was to be produced at the weekly committee meetings; and doctors were instructed in 1849 that no new patient should receive medicine more than once, unless the M.O. had visited to determine the effect of the medicine. In 1828 it had been ordered that the three surgeons attending the hospital (Bassett, Wavell, and Waterworth) should all be present and consulted before any operation took place. Wiser perhaps and more indicative of genuine care was the rule in 1837 that no patient was to be transferred from the hospital to the House in a dying state (suggesting that even then there was pressure on beds and concern about turnover) and some years later, that any patient requiring attention during the night should be transferred to the hospital.
The Governor complained in 1842 that the hospital accommodation was inadequate and during this decade it was improved. Bathrooms and a new water tank were built for the Upper Hospital and a new mortuary was added to the Lower. More building went on and more equipment was acquired for the hospital, including three thermometers, a water bed and two water cushions; twelve ear trumpets; knives and forks and trenchers for the asylum; and later counterpanes and a mercurial vapour lamp. Over the years also the Guardians received several boxes of linen from Col. Biddulph at Osborne by order of the Queen; games and toys were received for the children; and bibles and prayer books were purchased in 1850 and the Rev. McAlb provided communion plate.
Albany Barracks, on the west side of the Cowes road, had been built about half a century earlier in the time of the Napoleonic Wars; the drainage tended naturally to pass through the hospital grounds on its way down to the river, and there was a number of exchanges between the military and the Guardians with claims and counter claims; in 1848 there was concern about drainage of the cesspool at the barracks and the Guardians declined to pay part of the cost of this drainage. In 1861 there was a complaint that alterations made would divert part of the drainage into the hospital pond; later Major Robinson produced a plan for the drainage through an open ditch running through the Workhouse garden but avoiding the pond, which was accepted.
An epidemic of Cholera occurred on the Island (and elsewhere) in 1849; it was then that the Guardians thanked the committee of the Royal Isle of Wight Infirmary for the offer of two wards for a cholera hospital; such an offer, made while the hospital was still being built, must one feels have indicated a real emergency; the Guardians undertook, if agreeable, to provide furniture for the wards. I can find no evidence however in the records about the hospital that the offer of accommodation was actually taken up although one cannot be sure that it was not so; the Guardians also thanked the Ryde doctors and chemists for their help and they made an award to Driver Smeddle and his assistant Welch who, when others refused, offered to convey a patient from Ryde to Newport; they gave gratuities to the staff, medical and nursing, who attended the patients, and a grant of £50 to Arthur Clarke, - Clerk to the Guardians for the work he had done during the epidemic.
The licence authorising the 'Carisbrooke Asylum' to retain patients there expired in 1853, and the Guardians were asked where the patients should go; the question must have been anticipated for a few patients had already been transferred to the House of Industry and the previous year Dr Ferguson of the Hampshire County Asylum had asked for the names of patients; now in spite of previous rejection of the need they arranged for the transfer of 20 women and several men to Knowle in Hampshire. The Isle of Wight Steam Packet offered a special steamer for the move, at a charge of seven guineas, - an offer which was accepted. This was not of course the end of the asylum. Several patients were retained and some, regarded as harmless and incurable, returned from Knowle; but it gave an opportunity for another re-planning and rebuilding of the asylum wards, and a sub committee produced a plan to provide a male and female receiving ward, an 'Idiot Ward', and a residence for the chaplain; mentioning that as far as possible, the building work should be done by the inmates of the House of Industry.
It was nevertheless, about this time that the matron complained that thenumber of women resident in the House was becoming so reduced that she had difficulty in getting the laundry done. Improved equipment for the laundry was provided; and a few years later the Master likewise needed more help with farming because of the small number of men available and purchase of a plough was allowed. It seems that the House of Industry with its sick wards and cripple wards and with the increasing demand on the asylum and the hospital, was becoming more a hospital and rather less of a workhouse; moreover the boys' accommodation over the school room was abolished and the boys moved elsewhere.
The House had its first royal visit in 1869; Queen Victoria accompanied by the Dowager Duchess of Atholl and Lt.- General Seymour visited the Union Workhouse and was pleased to express the strongest approbation of the good order and cleanliness which pervaded every department. It was I think after this that she presented the House with a quilt, - of which more is told later.
Worries on the part of the medical officers about ventilation, drainage, and the adequacy of accommodation continued. In 1871-72 an epidemic of smallpox occurred on the Island and Dr Beckingsale received a bonus of £15 for his work during this. In 1872 the Guardians decided (with some opposition) to put up a new building with 24 hospital beds; the Local Government Board which had now replaced the Poor Law Board was critical of the plans, and demanded many changes which the Guardians complained were at variance with the advice and information they had from their medical officers; they asked for an inspector to come and confer; but they had instead to send a deputation to London; new plans were made and agreed; money was to be raised by an increase in parish rates; debate continued through much of 1873, but in September, the new building was postponed indefinitely and W.T. Stratton, a Newport Architect, produced plans for the improvement of the Lower Hospital which were accepted.
This was however only a temporary postponement; by the end of the decade in 1879, a new building was again on the agenda; the Local Government Board was glad to hear of this, and accepted the Guardians' assertion that the present lying-in wards, which had been improved, but remained for another 25 years in the House of Industry, were adequate.
Dr E. Waterworth, by now the medical officer in succession to Dr Beckingsale, was asked to comment on the number of beds needed; in his report on the House of Industry and the Lower Hospital he showed that there were in the hospital 3 wards for men with 5,5 and 9 beds and also 1 for Venereal Disease with 5 beds; for the women 2 wards with 4 and 10 beds and 1 for Venereal Disease with 6 beds; in the House, nurses and 'wardsmen' slept in the sick wards with the residents. They were themselves of course residents promoted to this work; the mens' garret provided 18 beds plus 2 for wardsmen; the 'inner sick room' 22 plus 2; and the 'outer sick room' was a passage room with 12 beds but no provision for a nurse; the womens' sick wards held 15 plus 2 and a cripple ward 14 plus 1; the lying-in ward provided 7 beds with 1 nurse; Dr Waterworth mentioned that cases with 'Fever' and Smallpox were provided for in the Upper Hospital; cases of Itch were at present said to be very rare and were treated in the receiving wards; his recommendation for the new buildings was for 20 mens' beds and 30 womens' beds; also 2 wards with 4 beds for children, and 2 for those with Venereal Disease; and a surgery for operations and examinations and a dispensary.
For the new wards William Tucker Stratton produced three plans; the first was sited on the east side of the drive, four wards in a square with a central court, which would have been built roughly where now the lower part of the stores and the building known until lately as 'Nurses' Home Two' stand; this must have been rejected in favour of a building on the west side of the drive, a bit further to the west and a bit lower down than the existing wards for infectious diseases. This site was approved by the representative of the Local Government Board, Dr Mowat, who came down to confer with the Guardians and the medical officers; it had five buildings joined by a long corridor running east and west; the buildings projecting on either side; the central one a single storey, with offices and administrative quarters on the south side and kitchen and dining room on the north of the corridor. A few yards along the corridor from this central building on either side were single storey buildings with childrens' wards, one for boys and one for girls on the south side and wards for Venereal Disease on the north side, and further along again two-storey buildings with wards upstairs and down, again for men at one end and women at the other. This rather ambitious building was abandoned in favour of a smaller one which merely had a central two storey block with administrative accommodation, kitchens and dining room, joined by corridors to the ward blocks on either side, - the west side for men and the east side for women; this building was slightly further up the hill than the earlier one; the two plans were rather curiously shown together on a single plan (Fig 6); this final plan which was adopted provided upper St. Mary's, as it came to be known, with blocks A and B. The existing wards for infectious diseases - known until then as the Upper Hospital - were alongside this building as shown in the Ordnance Survey Map of 1910.
£7,000 was spent on building these new wards, - a loan from Mr. S.R. Valentine-Robinson of Gresham Street at 4⅛%; building proceeded through 1881 though in September a committee felt that progress was slow and urged the contractor to greater expedition; in February 1882 gas lighting for the wards was agreed, and later that year a contract for a steam boiler was settled and £30 was allotted for trees and shrubs around the wards; finally it is clear from the minutes that an 'operating room' was associated with these wards. In January 1883 the Master was given instructions for the wards to be occupied; and a small fire engine was purchased.
These new wards, hereafter known as the Infirmary, presented to the south a facade somewhat resembling the letter E on its side, - with a central entrance and a wing, the paired wards, on either side, -tome slightly reminiscent of the style supposed to be characteristic of that of some of the Island Manor houses; (e.g. Arreton, Merston, Yaverland); one must not press the resemblance too far; these buildings partly enclosed a three sided courtyard with a central tree and a line of evergreen oaks forming a fourth side, where later other buildings were to come.
When opened things did not at first go perfectly smoothly, - a familiar situation with a new untried department, which tends to present unanticipated problems. The windows were unsatisfactory; the chimneys smoked (all heating of the wards at this stage of course was either by open fires or by coke stoves); the hot water system was defective and the supply insufficient; and the nursing accommodation was inadequate. With time and patience no doubt all these matters were dealt with.
Figure 6. page 73 This is the plan for what became the Infirmary, later Upper St. Mary's; now part of the North Hospital. The shaded plan is super-imposed upon an earlier and larger plan which was abandoned. It is approximately, but not precisely, that which was eventually built.
The building to the east (right) of the new one, marked 'Present Wards for Infectious Diseases' was earlier referred to as the Upper Hospital. It is not seen in the O.S. map of 1862, which does show the smaller building north of it: this smaller building must for several decades have provided such accommodation as there was for infectious diseases: the larger one not present in 1862 must have been built between then and 1880, the date of this plan. Courtesy: I. W. County Records Office.
Dr Beckingsale, as mentioned, joined the staff in 1846; his retirement in 1877 was a sad episode involving the staff and particularly the nursing and medical staff. A resident of the House had died, and was found by a coroner's jury to have died from starvation, but they were not prepared to say whether this was due to neglect or otherwise; the Guardians asked for a report from the Local Government Board and this was provided by Dr Mowat and Mr. Baldwyn Fleming; their enquiry, on which the report was based, was attended by the Chairman, Vice Chairman, and other committee members. It must have been highly critical, and it demanded the resignation of the medical officer to the House; the Governor was censured, and two nurses dismissed. Dr Beckingsale submitted his resignation which was accepted with great regret; he had served the House for 30 years, during which he had 'Invariably fulfilled his duty in an efficient and skilful manner such to have elicited the unqualified approbation of the Guardians', and they expressed their sympathy with him in the circumstances which led to his resignation. He applied for a superannuation allowance, - but this was disallowed and he withdrew his application; but several months later in 1878 a memorial was submitted signed by 84 property owners and rate-payers, saying they would be glad if the Guardians could in any way manifest their recognition of the doctor's long and faithful service.
This was considered by a special committee but did not lead to anything, and in May 1878 a renewed appeal was rejected.
It seems that the infectious disease wards were, in fact, taken over by agreement by the Royal Sanitary Authority, in 1887 - indeed the record implies that there was statutory authority for this; not long after this the R.S.A. asked for, and was granted, permission to store a hospital tent in the House of Industry; one supposes that this was, at the time, the way of solving the difficulty of shortage of beds in an epidemic.
Now in 1889-1890 came the County Council, and the separation of the Isle of Wight from Hampshire. Soon after it came into being the Council offered the Guardians £3,000 for 38 acres of land (which at that time still belonged to the Guardians although much of it would have been leased out for farming), on which they planned to build a mental hospital; this offer was declined.
More new buildings came in 1895, when a plan was adopted to build a new receiving ward, with new entrance to the hospital grounds, immediately opposite the road now known as the Forest Road; at the same time the whole of the imbecile wards were to be re-planned yet again, - the plans being approved by the Local Government Board; this when completed, provided one large building facing the road; with two others back from that forming the fourth side of the quadrilateral, and a third one in line with those two which became the chaplain's house.
These buildings, constructed by Mr. Hayles, required a loan of £5,500 in 1897 and an additional one of £1,100 from the ecclesiastical commissioners. To anticipate, the new building close to the road became for a time and at least in part, a residence for the farm bailiff, and later, in the days of the N.H.S. a physiotherapy centre, and then the school for spastic and handicapped children, - Forest-Side School; when the relief road from Newport was built, a large slice of land, now mainly occupied by the roundabout, was taken off the hospital grounds, - chiefly the large flat field known as the cricket ground, and sometimes used for that purpose; and the Forest-Side School was demolished (before this, the Cowes/Newport road ran straight through to Hunnyhill with Forest Road and Whitesmith Road turning off it).
Bells were fitted in the wards in 1895, and better accommodation for night nurses had to be found. Various small matters, - not necessarily unimportant - deserve a mention. The Royal Mail was delivered to the Infirmary separately from the House of Industry. It required some pressure on the Post Office before this was agreed. The Chairman and Vice Chairman attended a conference of hospital administrators seeking a reduction in telephone charges (one can guess the result). The Guardians agreed to the erection of telephone poles on their ground, - charging one shilling per annum per pole. A dentist was appointed to the staff in 1900. In 1891 the committee had made a charge of tuppence per person for skating on the hospital pond (there is, may-be, a hint here for a hard pressed Finance Officer). Later there was correspondence with the fishing club in Newport about fishing rights on the pond. In 1910 an extension of the central (administrative) building of the Infirmary gave improved accommodation, on two floors, for nurses.
A committee of ladies was appointed in 1895 though probably for the House of Industry rather than the Infirmary; a suggestion 'That great good might result from the attendance of a committee of ladies (under the control of the chaplain)' had been made so far ago as 1835, but it was not for 60 years that this one was actually appointed. A majority of Guardians, after debate, voted that the medical officers' prescriptions should be examined by the Guardians!
The water supply had, from the start of the House of Industry been a problem, and it continued so, - there was a well in the courtyard with a pump house (the building is still there) and there is frequent comment in the minutes about the building and deepening of the well, the functioning of the pump, and the purity of the water.
In December 1904, the Works Committee reported that after many difficulties, and expenditure of £494, the well was now in perfect order and should fulfil the needs for the years to come.
In 1902 Princess Beatrice, Governor of the Island, paid a formal visit. She toured the House, with a pause for presentation and speeches in the Board Room; she then took afternoon tea in the master's drawing room, when the Matron was presented; then on to the Infirmary, both mens' and womens' wards, which were found to be 'Delightfully light and airy'; the oldest lady patient had on her bed the quilt presented years earlier by Queen Victoria. Later this quilt was framed and hung in the Board Room, behind the Chairman's seat, and in 1905 a brass plate was fixed below it given anonymously through Mr. Dabell; eventually it found its way to the Carisbrooke Museum. No separate mention is made of the lying-in wards which were still then in the House, but in 1904 they were transferred to the Infirmary. Shortly before this the Guardians had decreed that the House should be renamed Forest House, and this name appears on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1910; this meant that children born there would not hence-forth have to be recorded as having been born in the Workhouse.
Regular inspections were made by the Local Government Board, - the Inspector for several years being Mr. Baldwyn Fleming already mentioned.
His reports were generally favourable, and indeed became almost effusive in 1905, - 'During my inspection I found the Workhouse generally in very good order; I observed many and most useful alterations and improvements.
The condition of the Infirmary is especially satisfactory. No complaint was made to me. I shall have great pleasure in informing the Local Government Board of the care and kindly feeling with which the Guardians and their officers supply the needs of the poor.' Despite this good report, - repeated by Mr. Baldwyn Fleming until 1909, - when he retired, the Coroner holding an inquest in that year on a patient who died after an accident, expressed the opinion that the hospital was considerably under-staffed, in view of the fact that one nurse had been in charge of 13 wards, male and female, at the time of the accident. (It is in parenthesis difficult to see how this figure of 13 could have been made up; eight wards, would seem to be a maximum; perhaps some were divided). The Guardians in due course conferred with the Local Government Board, and decided to increase the nursing officers from seven to eight!
Smallpox was always a problem for the hospitals, Ryde as well as Newport, and later for the isolation or fever hospitals. After the Infirmary was separated from these infectious disease wards, it did not often crop up again, but in 1890one case was admitted because of the impossibility of finding room anywhere else. Vaccination against Smallpox was a different matter; in country areas especially it may be that there was reluctance to accept it even when it became legally compulsory; on the Island the resistance seems to have been extreme; again and again Medical Officers, and Relieving Officers, reported the near impossibility of persuading people to accept it. In 1856 it was suggested that the Poor Law Board should be informed that the 'Vaccination (compulsory) Act is to a considerable extent inoperative on the Island.' Whether voluntary acceptance improved after the epidemic of 1872 I do not know, but certainly there was still much resistance.
The County Council, in its early years anyhow, favoured the idea of sending cases of Smallpox to a hospital ship in Cowes; whether this actually ever came about I have not been able to determine; but there certainly was a hospital ship, the principal object of which was, one supposes, to look after cases of infectious disease arriving at the port of Cowes. The ship was mentioned recently in the County Press, in the column designated '100 Years Ago'. It was referred to there as the 'Cholera Hospital Ship', and at the time (March 1894) was considered to be in a parlous state; but certainly later annual reports of the Medical Officer to the Cowes Port Authority, mentioned it and made recommendations for keeping it in good order.
I have as yet made little mention of nurses and nursing, - it seems to make a more coherent story if it is considered in one section from the start. Jane Adams, one of the earliest matrons, who was in office from 1779 to 1794, was in the view of J. & J. Jones a very able manager, who no doubt established a high standard. Her salary was £30 per annum, and she would have been answerable to the Master (Governor). Nurses in those days of course had no formal training, and required no particular qualifications; they must have been chosen from among the available resident population in the House and any training they did there must have been, quite literally, 'in-house'; and there were not many of them. They did not have any expectation of regular pay; if they had not been nursing they would have had to do some other work anyhow.
The first mention of any appointment of a professional or at least a paid nurse, was the appointment in 1826 of an 'assistant nurse' to superintend the 'hospital', at a salary not exceeding £10 yearly; whether the term 'hospital' at this time referred to the small block near the top of the hill; the larger Pest-house', which later became the 'Lower Hospital' or the hospital for the insane and imbeciles, is not clear. There must by then have been some sort of nursingservice, since the following year, in January 1827, a gratuity of £5 was to be distributed among the nurses of the hospital (we must again remember that this was something like £250 now in terms of purchasing power). In 1829 the nurses were to have a gratuity of two shillings 'for this quarter only'.
The superintendent of the asylum in 1830 was to receive a salary of £42 a year; and in 1847 there was a recommendation that the matron of the asylum should have £20 a year and should also have the assistance of two male keepers.
Later that year nurses in the hospital and the receiving wards were to have 'diet number two', (which I think was the diet given to the working members of the male staff,) except they would be allowed seven pints of beer weekly instead of the fourteen pints supplied to the men; soon after this it was accepted that nurses in the asylum were to have clothing distinct from that of the patients.
Ten years later the nurses in the receiving wards were to receive £6 yearly.
These nurses must, I think, still have been recruited from among the residents of the House, and this must have been their living place, unless they had rooms off the wards. It is a long time before there is any mention of separate accommodation for nurses, - not in fact until the Infirmary was built. However it is the case that the infectious disease wards did have accommodation for a nurse as did the lying-in wards.
A Cholera epidemic occurred in 1866, and at that time, the nurses as well as the matron, medical officer, Governor and clerk, had an addition to their salaries. The next year in 1867 the appointment of a head nurse at £18 yearly, two male and two female nurses may have been for the infectious disease (or Upper) Hospital, since at the same time advertisements for two nurses in the Lower Hospital at £12 yearly were made, and for a nurse in the idiot ward at £15; whether the higher salary indicates a superior degree of training, experience or presumptive ability, or merely a recognition of the quality of the work, one cannot say. By now however there must surely have been some accommodation set aside for these paid nurses, but where is not clear. Nursing by now however must have been in process of becoming a career and a calling. It was more than a decade after the Crimean War and the work of Florence Nightingale; there is mention that vacancies for nurses sometimes required repeated advertising, and some appointments were made provisional for a month's trial. All appointments had of course to be referred to the Local Government Board, which must have involved a significant delay; in 1873 the Medical Officers were asked to rearrange nursing duties, so that nurses would not be called upon to do domestic work which could be tackled by the servants! In this year paid nurses, (distinct from the inmates of the House of Industry drafted for nursing duties) were to wear uniform dresses.
Two years later in 1875, the Medical Officers recommended and asked for an increase in nursing staff of one male nurse for the idiot wards; one for the inner and outer men's sick wards (in the House); one female nurse for the female cripple ward, and a married couple for the infectious disease hospital; only the first of these five was agreed by the Guardians.
However by 1895, control of Infirmary and the sick wards in the House was to be in the hands of a head nurse or superintendent, independent of the Master, and five years later an assistant matron was appointed, with a salary of £30 (matron's salary at this stage was £45 raised to £60 in 1900). A few years later night attendants for the imbecile wards were arranged.
A letter was received from the Winchester Union with copies of a lecture on 'nursing in the Workhouse' by Mr. Baldwyn-Fleming; copies of this letter were sent to all absent members of the Board. It would be interesting to see this letter, one wonders if any copies are extant. Nursing associations had come into being on the Island, - an association in Ryde was mentioned earlier; and in 1895 the Guardians agreed terms for supplying nurses for the wards. These nursing associations, one supposes, filled the role now filled by nursing agencies.
The lying-in wards were moved from the House of Industry in 1904 to the Infirmary above, and the following year assistant nurses at the Infirmary were to receive training in midwifery. Much earlier in 1875, Dr Castle had offered to instruct a class of women in midwifery, if he could have the necessary equipment; the Local Government Board however at that time barred any additional expenditure on such a service.'Probationer nurses' were appointed to the Infirmary in 1907 (on the female side); they were to have a salary of £12 yearly rising by £2 a year to £16. The significance of this presumably is that some sort of nurse training was now envisaged; also that accommodation for them must have been available. In June 1910 the Classification Sub Committee of the Guardians (this was the sub committee concerned with personnel, etc.) recommended, for the Infirmary, one superintendent nurse (at 140 to £55 a year ), three trained staff nurses at £30, five probationers (at £12 - £17 - £22), and one male sick attendant at £30.
Accommodation was to be provided by extending the first floor of the administration block over the kitchen and surgery. Isle of Wight nurses were to be given preference.
There is little more to be learned from the minutes of the Committee up to 1930 when the County Council took over the House and the Infirmary. During the 1920s there were usually about 80 patients in the Infirmary, - this included the Obstetric Department, and perhaps about 200 in the House and the asylum.
In 1913 there was seemingly some adverse criticism of the management of the Infirmary, and the following year a new appointment of a superintendent nurse was made, but there is no mention of the number of nursing staff.
The term 'surgery', used above in mentioning the extension over the administrative block, is of interest since the 'surgery' was probably the room provided for examinations and operations, and this suggests that the first 'operating room' was in this central block.
The provision of an ambulance was apparently in the first place in the hands of hospitals (and Guardians) rather than of the County Council. A horse-drawn cart had been made available early on, and in 1922 the Guardians accepted gratefully the offer of a horse-drawn ambulance from the Joint Hospital Board; three years after this in 1925 they purchased a motor ambulance from F. Cheverton for £205-is-6d.
I have not attempted to deal with the history and development of the House of Industry which is outside the scope of this book, apart from its association with the hospital and medical services; but since it was to become the Lower (or now the South) Hospital it seems necessary to include a short account of the stages by which this came about.
1 Able-bodied Men's Day Room. 2 Cripple Ward Dormitory. 3 Cripple Ward. 4 Hall. 5 Old Men's Day Room. 6 Dining Room. 7 Porch. 8 Porter. 9 Board Room. 10 Master's Office. 11 Clerk's Office. 12 Bread Room. 13 Laundry. 14 Pump. 15 Wash-house. 16 East Ward 2. 17 East Ward 3. 18 East Ward 1, A.B. 19 Store. 20 Master's Pantry. 21 Master's Sitting Room. 22 Master's Kitchen. 23 Serve-out Passage. 24 Ovens. 25 Bakehouse. 26 Store. 27 Nursery Bedroom. 28 Nursery. 29 Old Women's Day Room. 30 Old Women's Dormitory. 31 Wash-house and bath. 32 Girls' Laundry and Scullery. 33 Girls' Day Room. 34 Girls' School Room. 35 Class Room. 36 Cottage. 37 Clerk's Sitting Room. 38 Sitting Room. 39 Band Room. 40 Kitchen. 41 Lavatories & Bath Room. 42 Boys' Dining Room. 43 Boys' School Room. 44 Males' Back Yard. 45 Males' Receiving Ward. 46 Males' Imbecile Ward. 47 Day Rooms. 48 Disinfecting Room. 49 Open Ward. 50 Wash House. 51 Drying Room. 52 Males' Kitchen. 53 Males' Lobby. 54 Staircase. 55 Male Attendant's Room. 56 Females' Kitchen. 57 Females' Lobby. 58 Staircase. 59 Female Attendant's Room. 60 Day Rooms. 61 Females' Back Yard. 62 W.C.s. 63 Female Imbecile Wards. 64 Bath Room. 65 Female Receiving Ward. 66 Kitchen. 67 Dining Room. 69 Urinal & W.C. 70 Open Shed. 71 A.B. Men's Yard. 72 Shoemaker's Shop. 73 Tailor's Shop. 74 General Store. 75 Store. 76,77,78,79,80 Open Yards. 81 Boiler House & Scullery. 82 Kitchen. 83,84 Open Yards. 85 Coke Yard. 86 Infants' Wash House & Store. 87 Coal Yard. 88 Smith's Shop. 89 Weighing Shed. 90 Bricklayer's Room. 91 W.C.s. 92 Girls' Playground. With acknowledgements and thanks to J. & J. Jones.
The general plan given in the Isle of Wight Illustrated History, is of uncertain date, (see Fig. 7) but is some time in the later half of the 19th century; I am most grateful to Johanna Jones for the permission to reproduce this plan; it shows changes from the description given by Worsley, though at least on the ground floor, much of the original east/west main building with its chapel, and of the cross range, and of the set of rooms forming the east side of a smaller courtyard. remain more or less as they were, though with some change of usage. The south wing however has been converted into school rooms for girls on one side and boys on the other side of the gateway marked here as the main entrance; and it is on the west side, open in Worsley's days, that the big change has taken place; the wards for the mental defectives and the asylum filling up this side with a more or less continuous building and forming the fourth side of the quadrilateral. The large space so enclosed is divided into two; the larger incidentally shows a pattern of paths across what was presumably grass, this pattern being exactly the same as it was one hundred years later, before the day rooms which now divide the space were built. The smaller space, marked as the boys' playground, is separated from the larger by a wall, which is still there and still divides the two spaces; various later buildings now intrude into this smaller space. In the 1850s, £5 was spent on planting twelve lime trees around two sides of the boys' playground, these trees are shown in the Ordnance Survey Map of 1862; eleven pollarded limes are still there, and must I think be these very same trees.
All this is approximately the state shown in the Ordnance Survey Map based on the survey of 1862. (Fig. 4) It also shows the pond, somewhat larger and more rectangular than it was later; and a small pond, on the other (east) side of the path leading to the 'hospitals'; - it seems obvious that the drainage course of the large pond will have been through the smaller, and on, across or under Dodnor Lane through fields down to the river.
The map also shows the two separate 'hospitals', the lower one (the 'Pest-house' of earlier days) with a small building at the north-east corner which must have been the mortuary added some years earlier, and the very small upper building near the top of the hill, - but obviously with some sort of clearing around it.
The map, (Fig. 5) based on a survey in 1940, shows many changes; the continuous building on the west side of the quadrilateral has given place to three separate buildings, - already mentioned - all still there today, - with modifications, and now known as Holly House, the Diabetic centre, and the secretary's cottage.
On the south side, part of the south wing labelled the girls' school room in previous maps, has gone, replaced by a wall, which itself was not brought down until the early 1970s. The buildings forming the east side of the smaller courtyard have been added to and altered; the 'Pest-house' is still there unchanged, but up the hill new buildings are seen. The small isolated building, - the former infectious diseases hospital has gone, - replaced by a mortuary.
South of this are two small buildings: one had been the larger and later I.D. Hospital, and was now to become Bonchurch ward: the other was the Obstetric ward. The larger buildings to the west of these three small ones are of course the Infirmary buildings, more or less as shown in Fig. 6, the whole group constituting Upper St. Mary's.
The Guardians in 1925 protested at a proposal that they should be abolished. However the writing was on the wall, and although they carried on for another five years their final meeting was on March 31st 1930; it was attended by about 60 members including 10 ladies. The Guardians had, if they are considered, despite administrative changes, to be the lineal descendants of the Directors of 1771, managed the House and its off-shoot the Infirmary and 'hospitals', for 101 years, latterly of course having many other functions on the Island, dealing with sewage and drainage, medical, nursing and maternity services, relief outside the Workhouse, schools and school attendance, rates, etc.
Their meetings were in the Sun Inn, Town Hall or in the Board Room of the Workhouse (their own printed forms continued to refer to it as the Workhouse right up to the end of their time); they had known controversy and dispute. They had included among their members aristocrats and landed gentry; retired service officers of high rank; learned professionals from medicine, the law, the church and teaching; merchants, farmers, craftsmen and tradesmen; ladies had been among the members for more than 30 years. Their quarterly and annual meetings sometimes numbered over 60, but quite often only half a dozen or fewer: once five members found themselves meeting on Christmas Day in the Sun Inn where meetings in those early years were sometimes held; they decided to postpone business for a week; once only a single member turned up (presumably with the clerk in attendance) he decided, one must suppose by a unanimous casting vote of one, to proceed. They had argued with the Poor Law Board and the later Local Government Board and had on occasions rejected and criticised their reports; once a distinguished Admiral had asked for an investigation into 'the mode of conducting business with a view to expediting proceedings...'. The Committee appointed reported its opinion that 'The business of the Board is conducted with as much dispatch as is consistent with due regard to accuracy; but that more time than is necessary is often taken up by desultory conversation'; - there is perhaps a message here for Committee chairmen - and members. In 1865, the year in which the Isle of Wight Corporation was dissolved, and the Isle of Wight Union created, they had decreed that their meetings should be held in public and that this should be made known to the press! In 1892 they had to get the consent of Winchester College for the improvement of the pathway leading from the hospital through the fields to Newport, - no objection was raised. In the same year they had protested to the Isle of Wight Central Railway at the inconvenience caused to members by the cancellation of the 9.40 train from Sandown to Newport: minutes do not reveal whether there was any response. In 1906 they wrote to the Royal Commission on Poor Law saying that the Commission should visit meetings of the Guardians around the country rather than merely hearevidence in London; and they supported a proposal by the Coventry Guardians that Ex-servicemen should be paid their pensions weekly instead of monthly, - that present practice being the source of thriftlessness and pauperism. (The Admiralty refused to make the change).
Now after their final meeting, closing with cheers for the chairman, Mr. H. Williams, they posed for a photograph and then proceeded to the Metropolitan Hall (later I am told Weeks Restaurant) had a farewell luncheon and sang 'Auld Lang Syne'.
Workhouses have acquired an evil name, and are often thought of and spoken of only in terms of bitter criticism and condemnation; the sordid and sometimes cruel conditions in which paupers and children were kept in them were perhaps due in part to deliberate governmental intent to make them as unattractive as possible, in part through sheer bureaucracy and bumbledom; and in part to simple lack of interest or knowledge. It seems that the House of Industry had its bad times, - as in 1813, 40 years after its foundation, when enquiries revealed many shortcomings and malpractices, and the Master was required to resign (in the report the 'medical gentlemen' were specifically absolved of any impropriety or failure in their duties); and much later than that Bill Shepard has, written of distressing cruelties to children in Newport.
Nevertheless, the House of Industry was unusual in that it was founded not by Order of the Government, but by the initiative of a group of local inhabitants who assumed the management of it; and when after some 60 years, it came under the control first of the Poor Law Board, and later of the Local Government Board, the Guardians who in effect ran it, were local men and the management was handed down through the generations from those who first took it on collectively and, especially in the early years, they must have known personally many of those who had to find refuge in the House.
Small may or may not be beautiful, but it does afford a degree of personal knowledge, interest, and understanding which become diluted as numbers and size increase. It seems apparent that over the years the Directors and Guardians had a genuine concern for the inmates and many matters were agreed and directions given for promoting their relative comfort and well-being, the education and training of the children, and the care of the sick and disabled. 'K In June 1789 it was decided that all disabled boys might be apprenticed to the Governor of the House of Industry, to learn weaving until the age of 18, and afterdischarge should be provided with looms at the expense of the Corporation and with materials and employment to exercise their trade, being paid at the usual rate for goods delivered to the House of Industry. It was a long time before a ladies committee was elected who were to visit the House of Industry; so early as 1834 it was thought that 'Great good might result from the attendance of a committee of ladies ... under the control of the chaplain', - but it was not until 1895 under the chairmanship of P. Glynn Esq. that such a committee came into being.
There was an endeavour to provide games and amusements for the children; in 1853 swings in the girls' yard were made safe, and a year later there was reference to a racquet or fives court in the boys' yard. Pocket handkerchiefs were provided for children in 1856, and rice with treacle was to take the place of pea soup which was not well liked; at that time also cod liver oil was found to be a medicine not a food. Simple games, toys, balls and illustrated journals were sought for the idiot wards. The Mayor of Newport invited children at the House of Industry to the celebrations at the Wedding of the Prince of Wales, - the Governor thanked him and also Mr. Charles Newnham, Confectioner, for his kindness. In 1860 a mast was erected in the boys' yard, by Messrs White of Cowes, - with a £10 donation towards it from the Rev. McAlb, the Chaplain.
Boys were to have musical instruction in 1871 and four guineas was made available for the purchase of fifes and drums. In 1895 a special allowance of £35 per annum was granted for a blind boy to enable him to study at the Royal National College at Norwood and the Academy of Music, and in 1901 the college wrote thanking the Board for their help in this case and saying that the boy now had a certificate in piano tuning. (Almost a century later Tina Snow who is typing the script of this book for me was trained in the same institute, now known as the Royal National College for the Blind). The care of the deaf and dumb was a matter of concern and difficulty and there were repeated enquiries about accommodation in the mainland institute for such sufferers. In 1877 books were received from the Seely Library and in 1880 adult classes in reading, writing and arithmetic were started for men living in the House of Industry; classes for women were to follow, - one hour daily in the evenings (not Saturdays); in 1888 there was reference to the Workhouse library; a concert was offered and accepted; and the next year the circulation of Warcry, the journal of the Salvation Army, was allowed; in 1891 Miss Elgar played the harmonium and taught children singing.
On a number of occasions such as Royal weddings and coronations roast beef and plum pudding were served; very nice when they happened to fall in the cool half of the year, - but perhaps rather lacking in imagination at the Golden Jubilee in 1887 on Mid Summer's Day; but not ungenerous - in 1863, for the Prince of Wales's wedding, minutes record the supply of thirty score of beef, three score of suet, and 951b each of currants and raisins!
In 1892 came a letter from the new County Council about the establishment of a School of Horticulture, which after several exchanges went ahead.
These few extracts from the minutes and others, reveal I believe that the history of the House of Industry was not one of unremitting hardship and a total lack of consideration or humanity. My wife recalls talking to an old lady in the 1960s, who remembered how she used to visit her aunt in the Workhouse before the First World War, and how on Saturday afternoons, in the winter, the old ladies would sit round a fire having hot scones for their tea with a white tablecloth. On the other hand Miss Weedon recalls how in 1947 the mentally defective girls living in what is now Holly House were marched to the laundry, worked there during the day and were marched back again at five o'clock, fed and locked into their rooms till the next morning. There are two sides to every story.
After County Council took over the House and the Infirmary there were a number of important developments.
During this phase of the hospital's life, management was delegated mainly to the Public Assistance Committee and its sub-committees; they made recommendations to the council and supervised the building and works that were ordered. The County Medical Officer reported to the Health (and Housing) Committee, and had some overall authority for the staffing and management of the hospital, as well of course as for the Health Service run by the council outside the hospital. The Master of the House of Industry remained responsible for the day to day maintenance within the Infirmary, but the medical and nursing work of the hospital was in the hands of the Superintendent Nurse and the appointed Medical Officer, namely Dr G. Raymond who worked part-time at the Infirmary for the council from 1930 to 1937, when he retired, and was followed by Dr Clement Sylvester who was joined in 1939 by Dr Peskett as his deputy.
It was the Public Assistance Committee (P.A.C.) that decided in 1935 to rename the Infirmary St. Mary's Hospital; St. Luke and St. Faith had been considered as alternatives and in Newport one might have expected St. Thomas, St. James or St. Cross to be considered, but St. Mary's was decided upon possibly from the association with Carisbrooke Parish and the Church of St. Mary's there. The change of name was approved by the Registrar General - reported in January 1936. At about the same time a brass plate was placed at the entrance to the House of Industry confirming the name Forest House.
The number of residents in the combined House and Infirmary during the 1930s varied between 300 and 350; of these there were usually around 120 in the Infirmary, - about 50 men and 70 women, - the beds for women including ten for maternity cases; the House usually held rather less than 200, - in the so-called 'Ordinary Wards'; and there were about 40 in the wards for mental defectives; the care of this last group was shared between the part-time Medical Officer to the Infirmary and a Medical Superintendent at Whitecroft.
In 1934 it was recorded that an agreement had been reached between the County Hospital and St. Mary's; the former would take all 'acute and sub acute cases', and the Infirmary would accommodate the chronic cases.
This book is not the place in which to enter into a discussion of such terms; the word chronic has been misunderstood and misused by the laity and ultimately, at times anyhow, by both medical and nursing professions; and above all by the media and finally dare one say it, by the powers that be; it has been thought of and used at times as indicating the severity of an illness or disability, and has even tended, too often, to become a term expressing contempt or abuse without actually uttering it. What was implied at this stage was that patients with chronic disabilities or illnesses were not expected to recover and often not to be discharged from hospital; and at the same time they were not thought likely to benefit from the attention of any medical or surgical consultant or the treatment they could offer; so that the wards for the chronically sick or disabled patients were filled by those who usually remained for a long time, often to their lives end; no doubt there were exceptions. Some recovered sufficiently to be considered no longer in need of nursing and medical attention. Such patients who had been admitted by the P.A.C. often perhaps from the Workhouse itself, and usually unable to support themselves, could be transferred to the Workhouse. This raised other problems.
On the one hand the doctors were repeatedly asserting that there was always a demand for beds in the Infirmary, and hence always the need to discharge any patient who was fit to live elsewhere; on the other hand, as the Committee pleaded, while hospital patients continued to draw their Old Age Pension, once they were transferred to the Workhouse this ceased; some members of the Committee felt strongly that old people were being treated unfairly by such transfers; a possible solution was found in the use of the sickwards in the House of Industry; patients placed in these wards could be regarded as receiving hospital care; and as early as 1931 the appointment of a night attendant for the old ladies in the House of Industry, would it was thought, justify the transfer of at least two or three patients from the Infirmary to the House. The matter however remained controversial and disagreement persisted and at times perhaps became heated. Eventually in 1941, Mr. Phillips, a General Inspector of the Ministry of Health was asked to consider and report; and he seems to have achieved an oracular judgement, as might be expected of a high civil servant, saying that it was the doctors' sole prerogative to decide whether a patient required medical or surgical treatment, but it was the job of the Master of the House in accordance with his Committee's instructions to decide whether any particular individual should be accommodated in the hospital or transferred to the Workhouse; he added that he believed that borderline cases, - where there was an element of doubt, should stay in hospital; and, most importantly, that medical and surgical treatment did not include nursing care.
That is, - patients or residents of the House who did not need medical or surgical treatment, might nevertheless need the services of the nursing staff. Dr Sylvester, for his part, assured the Inspector and the Committee that he had never given instructions for the transfer of patients, he had merely recommended the Master to do so. After this judgement a lay sub-committee was appointed to decide upon transfer from hospital to House in each individual case!
Work was needed during these years on the accommodation of nurses and a kitchen and staff dining room in the Infirmary; on the provision for mental defectives; on the porter's lodge and reception rooms associated with it; and on the obstetric accommodation. All the building during this next decade was contracted for by J. Ball & Sons.
The first of the items to be dealt with was the Infirmary kitchen which was remodelled and supplied with two Esse stoves. Lacking any plans it is difficult to judge precisely how the original buildings were designed and how they were now changed and extended. There was at first a scheme to build a new nurses home on the west side of the drive and in front of (i.e below) the Infirmary; it would have been roughly on the site of the short-lived chapel built in the 1960s and demolished in the 1980s when the new St. Mary's was built; however this plan never got off the ground and additional rooms for nurses were provided over the extended north wing of the central administrative block to which dining rooms and sitting-rooms for nurses and sisters were added as well as the remodelled kitchen. Some rooms had already been put on the upper floors of this block in 1910 and more were now added, the minutes indicating that they were reached by a corridor through the older rooms. The new block was opened by Sir Godfrey Baring in 1935 and was named the Eva Baring Wing; it provided about 20 bedrooms for nurses; it was centrally heated and lighted by electricity.
Plans for a new maternity ward were considered about the same time in 1931; at the start it was suggested that two 'pavilions' should be built, - one to be kept for infectious or septic cases; however Dr Fairley recommended that such infectious cases should be treated at Fairlee Hospital, and that one pavilion would suffice. The initial plan submitted by the County Surveyor in July 1931 was estimated to cost £4,000, and the building sub-committee, taken aback at this expense, recommended the rejection of the plan to the P.A.C.
However, this Committee accepted it and recommended the County Council to seek a loan of £4,000. The building, separate at the start from the rest of the hospital, was completed in 1933; the electricity supply was obtained by a connection to the cable supplying Albany Barracks, and involved a payment of £3-2s-5d for connecting up and 8d per unit, to the War Department. The final account for this pavilion was paid in October 1933 and it was completed before the work on the new nurses home was finished. The P.A.C. decreed that the new pavilion was in the first place provided for 'necessitous cases', i.e. for women who could not afford care at home or in any of the available maternity homes or had no home; complicated and abnormal midwifery cases came next in priority; others only if room was available. The pavilion was built on the site of a tennis court that had been available for nurses and a new court was provided in its place and must be the one still present in front of what later became known as Nurses Home Two.
The new mortuary, planned in 1933, was built in 1934 on the site of the small old building used first for infectious diseases and known at this time to hospital workers as the Smallpox Hospital, - although it had been many years since sufferers from Smallpox had been admitted, and the Smallpox Hospital at Ashey had been available since about the end of the First World War. The demolition of this old building had been ordered in 1931.
In 1934-35 joint meetings of the committees dealing with accommodation for the mentally defective patients and with works and buildings, a sub-committee of the P.A.C., agreed that provision for these patients should be continued at Parkhurst rather than at Whitecroft, unless any better accommodation became available, and that it should be increased to about 100 beds, either in the existing buildings, modified, or in new buildings; and in August 1935 a draft plan was submitted for a new block for male mentally deficient patients to house 54 patients and to include two large day rooms and a work room. Two years later the committee for mentally defective patients were considering the appropriation of 30 acres of land north-east of St. Mary's on which to establish a colony for mental defectives; the land however was found unsuitable, and consideration was given to forming such a colony at the Hermitage, or at North Court! In the following year a plan for the temporary use of a house, Woodside, in Pallance Road, Northwood was produced, - which inevitably led to protest from the local resident population.
The building opposite the Forest Road which had been put up in 1895, had housed the porter's lodge and reception wards and had been for some 40 years at the main entrance to the hospital; now it was found to be in poor repair and unsafe; some rooms had been closed. In the next year the Works and Buildings Committee planned a new lodge with a weighbridge at the entrance; it was to provide also a flat for a married man above the lodge and was to be at the new main entrance to the hospital. A row of buildings running up along the drive from it were to provide admission wards, one two bedded ward, and one single ward, for both men and women with bathroom, WC and linen store; this building was completed just after the outbreak of war. The old building was used for a time as a store, later it was suggested that it could be a cleansing station (?decontamination centre) and later an accessory fire station with a fire engine garaged close by; finally it was renovated and in part provided a residence for the newly appointed head gardener and his family immediately after the war. More changes would come later.
In 1933 the P.A.C. considered 'a small operating room for emergencies'; but it was only in 1937 that the provision of an operating theatre was reconsidered and the theatre installed at the Borstal Institute (Camphill) was inspected; and the next year the P.A.C. agreed to a new maternity ward of four beds; a labour ward and nursery, operating room and wards for eight children and eleven women. However any action on this was postponed partly because of the indeterminate status of the hospital, and partly because of the expectation of a conference with other Island hospitals and the Public Health Committee.
Also postponed was the repair of the covered ways between the central administrative blocks and the male and female wards on either side, - those covered ways which as J. & J. Jones wrote had been the object of dispute between the Guardians and the L.G.B. half a century earlier.
Early in the war or in the months just before it the C.M.O. reported that the Ministry supported a plan for an operating theatre; however soon after that in October 1939 they dropped plans for upgrading the hospital and further work was again delayed; and the Classification Committee rejected a suggestion that the hospital should be renamed (again) ' St. Mary's Emergency Hospital', - on the grounds that it had not been upgraded. The possibility of a theatre remained however, and the Chairman of the P.A.C. inspected an operating table offered for £12; an Occupational Therapist, Miss Thirkell, was appointed for two sessions each of five hours weekly (4s an hour + lunch and tea).
At last in 1942 plans for an operating theatre and for conversion of the infectious disease wards for use associated with the surgical work, and for an X-ray room, were adopted, - it was said that the Ministry would pay 70%, - and by July 1942 it was reported that the theatre would be ready in about two weeks; a Sister was appointed for the theatre and the surgical ward; and the next year improvements were made in the sterilising and anaesthetic rooms and in the associated ward, and a covered way about 100ft. long was built leading from the ladies end of the main hospital to the theatre, etc.; this building work was undertaken by G.H. Williams of Wootton.
The services of the hospital had been improved in other ways during the 1930s. In September 1933 the Newport Co-operative offered water at 6d per thousand gallons which the Infirmary accepted. Central heating was improved and fire escapes provided for the wards. Electric lighting for the Infirmary was recommended in 1934 and for the House in 1937; certainly new buildings were provided with electric light and at some stage the rest of the Infirmary, but years later the Superintendent Nurse was complaining of the poor lighting in some of the E.M.S. wards which she said were still only illuminated by paraffin lamps.
During these years while the P.A.C. was in charge of the hospital and the House as a whole the C.M.O., Dr Fairley, reported to the Public Health Committee on matters of nursing staff and training and on questions of infectious diseases and midwifery services. Admission to the hospital which had hitherto been authorised only by the P.A.C. could after 1935 or so be arranged through the Public Health Committee; the significance of this, one supposes, was that admissions were to be made now not only on the basis of poverty and the need for assistance from the council, but also on the count simply of medical or surgical necessity; that is the Infirmary was becoming more of a hospital rather than just an appendix to the Workhouse.
Dr Fairley in 1937 reported on the training of nurses; lectures for nurses as mentioned, had been provided earlier at St. Mary's, but had been abandoned in 1921, since the Infirmary was not recognised as a training school, and because, unfortunately, such a large proportion of nurses in those earlier years had not remained in the hospital long enough to complete any sort of training; many of them came and went over a period of a few months or a year. He advised a joint arrangement with the County Hospital and Fairlee Hospital for the training of nurses; tuition should be provided for nurses at St. Mary's and also at the Frank James Hospital and at the two Shanklin hospitals (Scio House and the Arthur Webster Hospital); training at Whitecroft and at the Royal National Hospital he considered satisfactory.
By 1940 the numbers of nursing staff had increased; besides the Superintendent Nurse (who it was specified later in 1946 should not be referred to as Matron, a term reserved for the Matron of the House) there were 5 sisters, 6 staff nurses and 25 assistant nurses; there were also 6 resident maids and 6 non-resident ward maids; 1 cook and 1 assistant cook and 1 kitchen maid; and 1 ambulance driver and handyman.
A new set of 38 rules for nurses was issued; the first was that nurses must obey all directions from the Superintendent Nurse and the Medical Officer; the 38th was that all bedroom doors were to be kept locked.
Further additions to the staff were made, - including of course those mentioned when the theatre and related buildings were opened. There was however a continuing shortage of accommodation for nurses and difficulty in war-time in recruiting the necessary staff; it is mentioned that in 1942 ten nurses were provided by local nursing associations and were presumably non-resident.
Dr Sylvester and Dr Peskett continued as Medical Officers, but the start of surgery required additional appointments and in May 1943, Mr. Leisching was appointed Visiting Surgeon for P.A.C. patients; also in 1942 when the X-ray room was built in association with the theatre, Dr E.G. Barker was appointed part-time radiologist. The X-ray apparatus unfortunately gave a good deal of trouble and was often out of order for months on end, and during this time the House Governor at Osborne House agreed to the use of their apparatus for which the Committee was duly grateful.
In the House of Industry the chapel was part of the original building, and more or less unchanged for 150 years, and the Chaplain had been one of the resident staff; but soon both chapel and chaplaincy must change. In 1938 the Works and Buildings Sub Committee suggested that the gallery of the chapel should be boarded up, and the chapel itself redecorated; this however had to stand over for the time being and was again postponed in 1939; and in 1940, presumably under the stress of war and the increased activity in the hospital and the House as a whole, the Committee agreed to the use of the chapel as a store for civil defence equipment. (I have not found any mention of its deconsecration).
Thereafter services were held in the Board room, and the chapel a few years later became known to hospital workers as 'Knocker's Store', - 'Knocker' White being in charge of the stores, - and the nickname differentiating him from 'Deffy White', the Engineer who was hard of hearing.
The Chaplain had since the 1890s lived in one of the three buildings on the west side of the House; it had needed fairly frequent repair and alteration; the Chaplain besides his hospital work in the 1930s did some teaching at Cowes and Sandown, one supposes that his income was thereby supplemented. He seems to have been in a subordinate position to the Master, who in 1930 rejected his request for an issue of 50 hymn books, without apparently any reference to the Committee. There was a suggestion now that the Resident Chaplain should be replaced by a part-time Visiting Chaplain; the Committee thought that simple corporate prayers might be read morning and evening; attendance should be encouraged (but presumably was not compulsory), and committee members should attend divine service from time to time.
The Rev. Bayliss who had been Chaplain for several years died in 1937 and in 1938 the Rev. Kelsey was appointed a part-time Non-resident Chaplain. The Chaplain's house, - referred to in the minutes on one occasion as the 'old parsonage', became a few years later the Master's house. This was after Mr. McKeown, Master, had retired in 1945 with the thanks and good wishes of the management. Mr. Bennett was appointed in his place; lie evidently found the house in poor repair and ordered some work to be done on it which brought him into dispute with his Committee, whose authority he had not asked for; for this reason and others they would have dismissed him, but refrained because of his hitherto unblemished record and for the need to obtain the Minister's consent for taking such a step; so he remained and was still in post when the N.H.S. took over. Apart from becoming the venue for religious services, the Boardroom also now was to serve as a cinema; in 1937 the decision was taken to install a cinematograph projector and a projection room was made at the back of the Board room; the equipment was paid for by public subscription. Also in 1937, Messrs Sherratts provided six portable wireless sets for the wards, - for £50, with full guarantees, 'including valve replacements'. New laundry equipment was also installed in the House during this decade.
At a meeting of the Public Assistance Committee which must have been one of the last, if not the very last, at which the Committee concerned itself with the affairs of St. Mary's, the fate of some furniture and utensils at the H of I was considered; 12 Chippendale chairs were to go to the office of the Superintendent Registrar; a mahogany desk to the ladies' room in County Hall; and four pewter plates and two silver spoons were to be placed in the County Hall; all of these as 'a memorial to the work of the Poor Law Administration now being wound up.