Discover the Cleve Hill Military Hospital

Published on: 01 Oct 2014

cleve hill hospital downend

Frenchay Village Museum has mounted a new exhibition, which principally features Cleve Hill Military Hospital, Downend, where many villagers were involved in tending the wounded servicemen. 

Molly and Nancy Elliott of Cliff Court Frenchay were VAD nurses there, and they made a collection of around 100 postcards, featuring staff and patients.  Many of the patients have signed their cards, and given their regiments.  

Sir Charles Daniel Cave, who lived in Clifton, owned Cleve Hill House, and at the outbreak of war he offered the house to the authorities for use as a hospital. His son Charles Henry Cave who lived in Rodway Hill House, Mangotsfield, became the Quartermaster, and his wife Beatrice became Commandant.  Their son, 2nd Lt. Walter Cave, was killed in March 1915 at Ypres – he had only left school nine months before.  After the war Mrs Cave was awarded the OBE for her work at the hospital, and the house and estate were later sold at auction.  The auction catalogue from 1920 and accompanying maps are displayed in the exhibition.  The extent of the Cleve Hill estate will astonish those familiar with Downend today.

Through the website,, a lady in Australia has contacted us about her mother, who she believes was a VAD nurse at Cleve Hill.  She has sent her mother’s sketchbook for display, and it features cartoons and sketches by patients and staff.  Some are comical, and some very serious.  Her mother, Amy Hill, was born in Frenchay, as her father was the landlord of the Crown at Hambrook. Before the war the family moved to North Street, Downend. Amy apparently met an Australian soldier, Albert John Cummings, at Cleve Hill, and they married on December 31, 1919 in Christ Church.  They then moved to live in Australia. Amy’s brother was Harold Hill, who was a sapper in the Royal Engineers, was killed in France aged just 20, in August 1916. He was one of five young men to die at the Front who had been members of the 1st Downend Boy Scout group. His name is recorded on the Scout War Memorial outside Sainsbury’s in Downend. Harold had sent home a postcard just before his death describing the night time bombardment, likening it to a huge firework display - the sky vivid with light.

The museum has also produced a new book “Frenchay – A Village at War 1914-18”, which gives a month-by-month account of a village coping with the war. The text is taken from contemporary Parish Magazines, and features letters from serving soldiers. Copies of the book are available in the museum costing £3.

The exhibition runs until November 30, and the museum is just inside Entrance “B” of Frenchay Hospital. It is open Saturday and Sunday 2-5pm, and Wednesday 1-4pm. Admission is free.

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