Hospitals by Denise Amos

Maternity hospitals

Women’s Hospital, Castlegate, Nottingham

The first hospital to deal solely with women was established on 25 September 1875 at premises on Castlegate, Nottingham. Once again this hospital was only able to run through donations and payments for treatment. Patients had to pay 1/- Registration fee and a further 3d at each subsequent consultation which would entitle her to Medicine and Advice for two months. The hospital opened with 12 in-door patients. The hospital was closely connected with active members of the Unitarian High Pavement Chapel. Day to day management of the hospital was conducted by the Ladies’ Committee who were also part of the full board of Governors. This was highly unusual, as women rarely had such influence. They showed that they had an exact knowledge of the accounts and were aware of any unauthorised expenditure. This came to a head when Dr Elder had purchased some equipment without getting authorisation beforehand.  The ladies added benefit was that they showed a human touch within the hospital. Unfortunately the ladies came up against the opposition from two of the hospitals doctors, Elder and Truman, who declined to be dictated to by the ladies’ committee and subsequently resigned and set up the Samaritans hospital for women in 1885 on Raleigh Street.

This split caused some concern as George Edgmore, Chairman of the Women’s hospital stated in June 1885 that ‘he was anxious to draw attention….that the Hospital for women is not in any way connected with the proposed Samaritans Hospital which is now being advertised’.

The Annual Report of 1887 suggested that the hospital was doing well but were lacking in funds but twenty years later in 1907, the hospital was still going strong and the Ladies’ Committee were pleased with the way the hospital was running. In fact in 1890 the hospital premises moved to the old Inland Revenue office, again on Castlegate. There had been some haggling over the price which was initially set at £3,600 and also when the hospital could move. Eventually in 1890 the new premises were signed for.

Minutes from November 1896 suggest that there had been some underhand rumours prejudicing Miss Martin, the senior nurse and nurse Lucy but after a great deal of enquiry by the Ladies’ Committee it emerged that it was a case of envy, jealousy and malice and the parties had signed an apology to the said nurses.

Samaritan Hospital, Raleigh Street, Nottingham

Drs Elder and Truman became the Senior Medical Officers of the newly formed Samaritan hospital on Raleigh Street which had its inaugural meeting on May 22 1885 in the George Hotel, Nottingham. They were able to lease the premises for seven years and had an in-patient department. The hospital was officially opened by Lady John Manvers of Belvoir.

Again the hospital relied on donations to keep it running and a scheme was set up whereby collecting boxes were put in Lace warehouses for the women workers to make contributions. An appeal in the Nottingham Daily Guardian on 31 March 1916 called for more donations and subscriptions. Possibly because of the constant need for money there seemed some desire on the part of some to amalgamate the hospitals. In 1891 at the Quarterly meeting on July 8th the general chairman of the Samaritan hospital had suggested whether the two hospitals could be amalgamated but the answer came from the Women’s hospital that such an arrangement was quite impractical as long as Dr Elder was connected with the Samaritan hospital. Similarly in 1898 a proposal was put forward but again not taken up as indeed in April 1903 an informal communication was put forward but no action was taken. This duplication of effort was a direct consequence of the conflict of opinion in the 1880s about the best way to conduct a women's hospital.

 However, by this time Dr Elder had resigned and had been replaced by Dr Hogarth. There had been a complaint made against Dr Elder in May and June 1889 regarding the treatment given to a Mrs Parnham.

Up to 1914 both institutions ran completely separately, but by then it was clear that this diluted the available resources. Informal negotiations led to amalgamation in 1923 and the construction of a purpose-built hospital in Peel Street.

The new building was formally opened on 5 November 1929 and received its first patients in January 1930 when the hospitals in Castle Gate and Raleigh Street were closed down. The Peel Street accommodation offered four large wards to accommodate 44 patients and smaller wards for private patients, as well as out-patient accommodation, operating theatres and staffing facilities. In 1945 Adbolton Hall was opened as an annexe for post-operative cases. In 1947 St Mary's Nursing Home was taken over as a Maternity Home for private patients. St Mary's closed in 1972, and Adbolton Hall in 1980.

Peel Street was finally closed down in November 1981 when the remaining obstetric and gynaecological units were transferred to the Queen's Medical Centre. The Peel Street building was converted into flats and a public house named the Gooseberry Bush was built nearby.

Firs Maternity Hospital, Nottingham

Unlike other maternity homes around Nottingham this one was specifically for the unmarried women of the early 1900s. It was made possible by the trustees of the Abel Collin Trust, a long established charitable organisation in Nottingham.

The first hospital was on Waverley Street in Nottingham and opened in 1908 but soon outgrew its purpose; the birth rate was rising and it seemed that after the end of the First World War with a growing number of post-war pregnancies the need for larger premises was critical. The Corporation of Nottingham indicated in the 1920 that it was willing to provide land on the Sherwood Estate, at the rear of the Cedars, convalescent home on Mansfield Road, which had originally been earmarked for working class houses. Unfortunately the then Minister of health, Dr Christopher Addison, declined to cover the costs of such a development because of the country’s financial situation (after the war), the costs involved both immediate and on-going.

In 1925 the Trust was able to purchase a large Victorian house on the corner of Mansfield Road and Hooley Street (now Elmswood Gardens) and converted it into a 30 bedded maternity home and in 1928 it was opened to patients both fee and non-fee paying and the Waverley street Home was closed after twenty years of service.

Hospital confinements were not always welcomed because of the fear of puerperal fever, which was often spread through childbirth attendants not washing their hands after examining each patient. By the 1930s child births at the Firs had gone down to less than 300 per annum, the hospital became unviable and the trustees notified the City Council of their intention to close it at the end of 1939. However, in the mainstream City hospital the number of women attending the maternity department was overstretching their facilities and it was decided by the City’s Health Committee to purchase the Firs and use it as a satellite maternity unit. The cost of this was £25,000 and considered a bargain!

During 1946 there was a baby boom in Nottingham, so the amalgamation of the Firs and City hospital maternity facilities, together with first-class obstetric experience at both hospitals was timely. The rise in hospital births reached 1,500 per annum putting pressure on the elderly premises of the Firs hospital. After the launch of the National Health Service in 1948, administrative responsibility was taken over by the Sheffield Regional Hospital Board who were able to inject more funds and provide additional staff, facilities and equipment. Now treatment was free to all.

During the 1960s a new maternity block was built on land to the south east of the original Victorian house, including new delivery suites and single and multi-bedded rooms for patients and the Firs building was converted into accommodation for staff. Not only had the hospital gained new up-to-date equipment and facilities, the nursing and obstetrical staff were highly regarded for their professionalism. However, time was running out and with increasing pressure to provide specialised baby care the construction and opening of the Queens Medical Centre in 1978 and more facilities at the City hospital, the Firs maternity hospital closed its doors on 3 January 1982. after delivering Approximately 50,000 babies had been born there in 53 years.

The premises are now retirement accommodation.