Glossop Heritage Trust
The Story of Shire Hill Hospital.
The following article was printed in the Glossop Chronicle on 21 March 1952. It is illustrated with photos from the Glossop Heritage Trust collection.
“Shire Hill Hospital has the great advantage that it is surrounded by fields which are the property of the Minister of Health, and the hospital is capable of extension in accord with need when the notion and exchequer permits it.”
This paragraph from the latest report of the Ashton, Hyde and Glossop Hospital Management Committee tells only half the story, for whoever takes a stroll in the vicinity of the hospital on early spring days such as we have had this week must instantly wonder if a hospital could have lovelier surroundings. Shire Hill, with its background of sweeping hills and rolling fields commands as fine a position as any hospital in the north.
Soon the local authority will relinquish its occupation of the premises and so increased accommodation can be provided for the chronic sick.
This change-over comes almost exactly a quarter of a century after the formal opening of the additions and extensions to Shire Hill or the Poor Law Hospital as it was then known. It was on November 30th 1927 that the opening was performed by Mr. J Rowbottom. J P.
Recalling the evolution of the “Poor Law Infirmary” nowadays seems like a chapter from Dickens—or even earlier authors. In the Poor Relief Act as for back as 1601, Parish authorities who were then the churchwardens and overseers of the poor, had to raise sums of money towards the relief of lame, old, blind and poor people.
How was this money raised?—By taxation and tithes. Not until over 300 years later—in 1831—was the Poor Law Amendment Act passed under which Boards of Guardians were first elected for the purpose of Poor Law Administration. Then come the institutions or “workhouses” as they used to be known, which were for the reception of all classes, including children and the sick and to relieve able-bodied persons who previously received grants of out-door relief.
These institutions led to the erection of Poor Law Infirmaries for the treatment of all classes who were sick in mind or body.
Twenty-five years ago there were 50,000 beds throughout Derbyshire provided by the voluntary hospital system; county borough and district councils had 13,0000 beds under their jurisdiction and the Guardians of the Poor had provided 200,000 beds
There was a lot of criticism against the Boards of Guardians as older readers will remember, but these figures show that they provided many thousands of beds more than the local authorities and other agencies.
In 1883 the Glossop Board of Guardians decided to erect a separate infirmary to the “workhouse”. This intention developed 14 years later when the Glossop Poor Law Hospital known locally as “Shire Hill View Infirmary” was built to hold 40 patients. It cost approximately £5,000 and the site chosen was one of the most impressive in the area. Nothing could be more removed from the dismal institutions which Dickens writes about, nothing more likely to bring health and vigour than the environment of bracing hills and fresh air which blessed this site. “The fact that it was built on a site so admirably situated for the purpose is for all times to be acknowledged as a tribute to the policy of the Glossop Board of Guardians" is the comment of one local historian.
From 1897 to the beginning of the first World War this hospital accommodation appears to have been adequate. During the first World War some beds were set aside for wounded soldiers by arrangements with the Army Council and the Ministry of Health. Nothing could be done, to give effect to the Medical Officer's recommendations for improved accommodation. He said that there was a need for isolation wards.
Next move came in 1920, when the attention of the Guardians was drawn to the overcrowded condition of the women's section of the infirmary and for the great need for the provision of receiving wards and separate wards for noisy cases. But the Guardians hesitated to act because the Government was proposing to abolish Boards of Guardians. There was also the depression caused by the war to consider and the need for caution by local authorities before they started on schemes Incurring considerable capital expenditure.
But the complaints of the overcrowded state of the infirmary were being continually received from the Infirmary Medical Officer. The children’s ward was occupied by adult women patients and the Old Board Room at the Institution had to be used for certain cases so that it was difficult for the nursing staff to work.
In 1922 patients at the Infirmary were being treated for diseases of a more varied nature than before the 1914-18 war so that there was really a permanent demand for treatment of sickness in the hospital. Action was finally taken in 1923 when the Guardians appointed a committee to consider details of the proposed alterations and extensions. Building started in May 1926 and the opening took place 18 months later.
Members of the Glossop Board of Guardians at the time were: Messrs. J. T. Hyde (chairman), B. Watkiss (vice-chairman), J. E. Buckley, E. Freestone, S. Gregory, J. Hague, S. Hambleton. J. H. Harrison. J. Knowles, A. Mellor. A. Mounsley, W. Petty. J. Renshaw, W. Robinson, J. H. Rowbottom. P. Sargentson, J. B. Smith, G. Wharmby. J S. Wood, Rev. A. C. M. White, Canon W. R. Winder, and Mesdames E J. Byrom, A S Davis, H. Leech, M. A. Parington and F. Sargentson.
New accommodation was arranged in two additional ward pavilions of two storeys each and open verandahs were provided along one block. Internally, the Infirmary was rearranged by means of steel girder construction and after all alterations the building provided accommodation for 35 females, 31 males and six children.
A new heating and hot water supply plant was installed to serve the building and electric light was installed throughout.
Estimated cost of the job was £9,800.
It happened 25 years ago. To-day, if you took the straight smooth road which leads from Old Glossop to the hospital you will find the same building externally. Neat gardens are laid out in front of it and on certain days the patients get their visitors.
In the last year much was done to improve this hospital of which Glossop can surely be proud. Internally and externally it was decorated. A physiotherapy department to serve both out and in-patients was constructed and equipped. The pressure of water was improved. A new greenhouse built. And the nurses' dining room was furnished and equipped.
Everything is done to make patients' visitors comfortable and additional stacking chairs were bought. Patients and staff can also use the Free Library.
How many of those Guardians of 50 or even 25 years ago would ever imagine that the hospital would ever have a piano for ward and staff concerts and religious services? Or that three television sets would be supplied for patients and staff? Such things sum up the progressive changes at Shire Hill.
Now we are nearing the end of another chapter in the history of Shire Hill Hospital. The change will mean that more chronic sick folk will have the advantage of its position amid the Derbyshire hills. It may play an even more important part in the life of Glossop.
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Page last updated: 25 September 2017.
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