93 Years of caring at Frenchay Hospital
Published on: 31 Mar 2014
THE story of Frenchay Hospital comes to an end next month with the hospital’s closure. It leaves behind a remarkable story that began in 1921 when Bristol Corporation acquired Frenchay Park, a large country estate in Frenchay, and used the mansion house as a children’s tuberculosis hospital.
The only treatment for TB in those days was fresh air, sunshine, and good food - all of which could be found at Frenchay Park. The fertile soil of the estate was put to good use by establishing Frenchay Park Farm, which provided vegetables, eggs, chicken, and TB free milk. In 1925 the Minister of Health, Neville Chamberlain, came to see for himself that the children were being well looked after.
In 1931 new purpose-built accommodation was opened, increasing the number of beds to 100. In the new treatment block, sun lamps and showers were provided, and the two new wards had walls that could be opened back, so that beds could be wheeled out onto the veranda to maximise the “fresh air” element of the treatment.
During the build-up to the Second World War, Bristol responded to the threat of mass bombing of the city by building an Emergency Medical Hospital with 15 wards and operating theatres in the grounds of Frenchay Park. Thankfully, it was not required, but was used to house children made homeless by bombing. However, when the Americans arrived in the UK in 1942, the hospital was handed over to them to use as a military hospital.
A further 15 wards were added by the Americans in late 1942, and they continued to use the hospital until the end of the war. Throughout the American occupation, the children’s TB hospital was still functioning alongside the military one.
When Bristol Corporation took over again in 1945, the hospital was in a very poor state of repair, but the Health Committee set about trying to rebuild and expand the facilities. In 1948, with the founding of the NHS, the general hospital was combined with the children’s TB hospital. Meanwhile, the farm continued to supply most of the food required, until in the 1960s it was closed as uneconomic.
Frenchay’s reputation grew and “Frenchay” became a well-respected name, especially in the fields of burns and neuro-surgery. Facilities were improved, the coal stoves gave way to central heating, new theatres were added, and in 1990 the new Phase 1 was opened to replace the wartime wards.
Frenchay Village Museum has mounted an exhibition telling the hospital’s story. Some of the voluntary groups that operate within the hospital are mounting their own displays in the museum’s Visiting Exhibition Room. These include the RVS, better known by their former name, the WRVS, and Headway House.
Frenchay Village Museum is also collecting people’s memories. For example, were you in Frenchay Amateur Dramatic Club? If so your photograph may be on display, as there are photograph albums recording the club’s productions. But nothing is known about the club, and the museum would welcome information. They would welcome any stories relating to people’s memories of the hsopital.
Also available in the museum are copies of Dr James Briggs’s book, The History of Frenchay Hospital and Faces of Frenchay Hospital, a collection of memories of hospital staff that was first published in 1998.
The museum is just inside Entrance B of Frenchay Hospital, and is open Wednesdays 1-4pm, and Saturday and Sunday 2-5pm. Entry is free. Further details on 0117 9570942, or email firstname.lastname@example.org