A History of the Isle Of Wight Hospitals by E. F. Laidlaw

printer icon

Longford Hospital - Havenstreet

In October 1919, the County Medical Officer (C.M.O.) was asked toprepare a scheme for dealing with Tuberculosis among the Island population - in particular for hospital treatment where it was needed for both insured and uninsured persons. (Insured persons were known at that time, and for many years to come, as panel patients). Several possible sites were considered, and in June 1920 Councillor Ball was authorised and empowered to attend a sale by auction of Longford House, and to purchase it for the Council-, in September it was duly acquired for 13,000; and a month later the Council purchased the freehold of the house and grounds, including its timber, for £925.

Longford House had been the Island residence of John Rylands, a wealth Lancastrian industrialist from Longford Hall near Manchester; in Havenstreet village he also built the Longford Institute, - later known as Holmdale - as as sortof club and library for the village; it enters briefly into this story during theSecond World War; and he also built a gas works which supplied the village as well as his own house. He died in 1888.

The house needed a good deal of work before it was suitable for its purpose and had to be enlarged; an early plan to provide more beds in a wooden pavilion was rejected by the Ministry and in June 1921 it was agreed that a new block to contain 16 beds should be built to supplement the existing accommodation.

Meanwhile the R.N.H. at Ventnor offered to take Island patients at three guineas per patient per week; beds were also available at this time at Hawthorndene in Bonchurch and at the Hermitage. The former later became an outpost of the LCC and accommodated about 30 convalescent girls and women, medical care being provided by the local practitioners and supervision in respect of their Tuberculosis by Dr Miller who visited weekly; the patients were brought to the R.N.H. for X-rays and occasionally admitted for treatment.

The Hermitage, sometimes know as Dr Bassano's Hospital or sanatorium was (and is) a rather remote building high up at the north end of St. Catherine's Down; Dr Bassano was a practitioner in Ventnor, who did some work in pathology at the R.N.H.. The Hermitage continued to function as a nursing home until about the end of the Second World War.

In August 1921 Dr D. Morrison-Smith was appointed Tuberculosis Offier and Assistant C.M.O. and was to be the Medical Officer at Longford Hospital; work on the building continued through 1921 and much of 1922; electric lighting was installed, but this necessitated the hospital having its own generator; and, as seems often to have been the case on the Island, the water supply caused some problems. The Matron took office in May 1922, but had to be found rooms for a time in Holmdale House. Dr Morrison-Smith wished to resign in August 1922, but agreed to stay on until the end of September; and the hospital was officially opened on August 10th 1922 by Dr Robertson of Ventnor, Chairman of its committee; the next month there were 11 patients, 8 of them women - in residence. The staff included, besides the Matron, one sister, two staff nurses or charge nurses, a cook general, two ward maids, one girl coming in daily, a laundress and a handyman.

A report had to be made to the Committee of any patient who was detained more than eight weeks. The C.M.O. reported to the Committee that 'Wherever patients are able to contribute to their maintenance they are expected to do so, and as a rule this is done willingly'. An Out-patient Clinic was held at the hospital, but in 1923 a clinic was opened at County Hall, - as it was felt (no doubt quite correctly) that patients would find it easier to attend there than at Longford, and a shed at the rear of County Hall was converted into a clinic for this and for a Venereal Disease Clinic; later that year Tuberculosis health visiting became available. Paying patients could be admitted to Longford provided accommodation was available at a charge of £2.50 per week.

The hospital was administered by the Sanatorium Sub Committee of the Public Health Committee of the County Council; Dr Robertson who first came to Ventnor as a resident at the R.N.H. about 1880 was its Chairman. In the 1930s the hospital held 45 patients and shortly before the war a further 14 beds were added when the Rev. W.E. Bowen gave in memory of his wife the Catherine Bowen Home, a new building placed within the hospital grounds but a little way from the main building.

At this stage Dr Carpenter, as Assistant C.M.O., supervised the services for Tuberculosis; his report to the Committee each month included not only the admissions, discharges and bed occupancy; the staff numbers and changes; but also the weight and market value of the vegetables grown in the hospital garden and the number of eggs laid each month by the hospital poultry.

The Tuberculosis service carried on during the war and after it until the National Health Service. As was the case with the R.N.H. this function ceased after a few years and it seems best to complete the story here. Dr Easton succeeded Dr Carpenter and lived in a house adjacent to the hospital which he superintened while he also worked as Chest Physician on the Island, holding clinics after 1948 first at County Hall and then from 1952 at St. Mary's in the new wing of the Out-patient building.

The Catherine Bowen Home was by 1954 not thought suitable for children and by then in any case there were not many children requiring institutional treatment for Tuberculosis; it was closed for the time being and the few children needing hospital care were sent to the Whitehouse Sanatorium at Milford on the mainland. The need for hospital beds for Tuberculosis declined steadily and early in 1955 Longford Hospital ceased to be a sanatorium; the few patients left there were transferred to the Royal National Hospital in Ventnor the Superintendent there and his assistant took on the chest clinic work and Dr. Easton took up an appointment near Glasgow.