Compiled by Alan Aucott
The Nuneaton Cottage Hospital
Before 1890 medical provision in Nuneaton was limited, those less fortunate relied on family, friends, and neighbours, there were women that knew about herbs, and a little about the few things that were available in the shops, there were also women that became untrained midwives, these women could help in a few cases, but in the main death rates were extremely high, conditions did little to help the situation, and communicable diseases such as Typhoid, and Small Pox, and also childbirth were high on the list of causes.
At this time Dr Edward Nason, who
was the Surgeon for Nuneaton, administered to people in there own homes, and
probably in his own home for a fee, these patients would then be cared for at
home if necessary, many people however could not afford to pay doctors fees,
these were the ones who relied on others around them.
Dr Nason also administered free off charge to those unfortunate enough to find themselves in the workhouse, who would be cared for by fellow Inmates.
Edward Nason’s son Richard, commented at the time on the need for a hospital, which were evident in places like London, were they could treat and care for patients in better conditions, especially as mines and quarries were opening up throughout the area, and server injuries’ were becoming common place, poor conditions were causing wound infections and preventing the healing process, and quite often could be fatal as a result.
Initially a house in Abbey Street was donated by Mr Richard Ramsden of Camp Hill, this was deemed to be less that Ideal for the vast task ahead so it was sold and the money used to start the “hospital fund”, there was an additional amount of £100 from a donation, bringing the total to £270. Richard Nason’s son also called Edward had recently returned from London were he had been trained, he had witnessed first hand the benefits of medical and nursing care on an in patient basis, in clean conditions with less chance of infection, and the provision of care for Typhoid cases in particular, where patients could be isolated in a separate ward, his fortuitous return was invaluable as there had been a huge increase in Typhoid cases.
Dr Richard Nason called a meeting of the local General Practioner’s which was held at 80 Abbey Street, the home of his son Edward, there were 5 doctors who attended, Dr Richard Nason, Dr Edward Nason, Dr William Nason (Edward’s other son), Dr Cookson, and Dr Peacock. It was decided that there was insufficient funding available to provided an inpatient service at the time, so a back up plan was implemented. As a result 2 Stanton Villas, Prince’s Street was rented, and staffed with two trained nurse’s, and a housekeeper, a room was set aside for operation’s and care for one patient in exceptional circumstances when no other suitable accommodation was available, the nurses main role was to administer the first trained nursing care in the community, with the nurses visiting people in their own homes. This building and nursing service was opened by Mr Reginald Stanley on the 4th November 1890. However it did not provide for Scarlet Fever, and Measles patients, or childbirth.
By 1892 despite wages and running costs for 2 Stanton Villas, the fund had reached £3,000 enabling plans to be made for a cottage hospital to be built. Land off Manor Court Road was donated by Mr James Tomkinson MP and Mr Reginald Stanley, who was one of the local Brickyard owners, the land was thought to be the Abbey’s Home Farm originally. Mr Stanley had a tree lined avenue constructed from his own funds, this became the driveway leading to the hospital, and his own architect Mr F J Yates from Birmingham was employed to design the building, and Mr Thomas Smith a Building Contractor from Coton quoted the best price from 13 applicants, and was appointed as the contractor for the construction, at a cost of £2,794, there is no mention of cost of bricks, but short reference is made to the bricks being “typical” of Stanley brothers, so I don’t think there is any doubt that these were either donated or purchased at cost. The building was in three sections, the main central part housed Administration, theatre and Kitchens on the ground floor, and staff accommodation on the first floor. There were corridors with veranda’s leading to two eight bedded wards either side, which were named Nason and Melly, one for men one for women, , Mrs Richard Nason and Mrs Edward Nason were appointed the responsibility of purchasing all the household items such as linen, curtains and kitchen utensils, unfortunately only four bed’s on each side could be used at the time due to insufficient funds remaining after all the equipment, beds etc were purchased, when all this was completed services were transferred from Princes Street, it only remained then for Mr James Tomkinson and Mr Reginald Stanley to officially open the Cottage Hospital, as it was known at the time, this took place on the 20thSeptember 1893, there was a ceremony to mark the occasion, the cost alone of the Excelsior band was £4.12s, that would have paid a qualified nurses wages for approximately 10 weeks at that time. The first patient 14 year old William Taylor was admitted with a broken leg on the 9th October.
Although the Doctor’s gave their time free to the hospital, further funding was needed to enable the remaining beds to be used and to maintain the running costs of the hospital, a further £923 was raised through workmen’s contributions, church collections, and various forms of entertainment such as football matches, this then enabled every bed to be utilised.