above - The hospital in 1964 and below in the mid 1990's just before final closure.
A charitable institution
The Chester Infirmary was founded as a charitable institution for the treatment of the sick poor, largely owing to a bequest of £300 from Dr Nicholas Stratford in 1753, it was housed in an unoccupied part of the upper floor of the Blue Coat School, Northgate Street in 1755.
The Blue Coat Hospital
The Blue Coat Hospital building soon became hopelessly overcrowded, and ill-adapted for the purpose of a general infirmary. A building committee, including four doctors was formed to plan the new infirmary. A number of possible sites in the surrounding area were viewed, after considering a list of potential sites, they decided to build on the open ground north west of the city within the walls, a location known as St. Martin in the Fields. The new infirmary was erected on a site which has been one of the main Roman cemeteries, below the west wall of the fortress.
The new infirmary was erected on a site which has been one of the main Roman cemeteries, below the west wall of the fortress. So many bones had been found in this area during construction works. This area was known as "the Plague Field", and in it were interred the bodies of those who died in the plague, when that fearful disease devastated the city. It was not until the period between the 1910s and 1960s when various fabric additions and extensions were being carried out on a piece-meal basis, numerous graves were discovered, including some of soldiers of the 20th Legion. A number of Roman and Medieval archaeological artefacts have also been discovered in this particular area.
At that time it was decided that the accommodation in that building was on a temporary basis until the completion of a new building. The infirmary was support by subscriptions and donations. The first patient was one William Thomson of St. Mary's Parish, who was admitted with a wounded hand on 11th November 1755.
see also Extracts from "A History of the Ancient City of Chester". Published 1896. G L Fenwick
The new General Infirmary building was commended in 1758 and opened on 17th March 1761. At that time the fabric of the Chester townscape was being transformed on a large scale with new architectural styles and building materials such as brick, stone and slate. This was the period when a number of individual town houses of the city were being overtaken by wholesale redevelopment projects, such as Abbey Square, and speculations such as Stanley Place and Nicholas Street. Previously open land within the walls soon began to be filled with housing and other individual buildings and therefore Chester soon became a prosperous and fashionable provincial town with substantial Georgian houses.
The early Georgian period developed and built new hospitals in most of England’s provincial towns, this was the era of the Georgian hospital movement, it made a large impact in the improvement and contribution to the progress of medical science. As a result of this, 24 new hospitals were built between 1760 and 1783. The new Chester General Infirmary was founded and built by generous benefactions, and continuing public support, such as subscriptions and donations. The infirmary was one of the most progressive hospitals of its time. For example, Dr. John Haygarth (1740-1827), who was appointed physician in 1766, pioneered the isolation of fever patients.
In plan the new infirmary was a quadrangle building, four storeys high facing west overlooking the River Dee and Welsh hills. According to old plans, there was an open central courtyard fifty-four feet by forty-two giving light and air to the wards. The basement provided cellar accommodation, the ground floor offices, and the first and second floors the four wards. The main wards ran the whole length of the building on the north and south sides, they were originally designed to take twenty-four beds each. On the remaining sides were staircases, a chapel and 4 small rooms for staff. The infirmary accommodated a hundred beds, affording about 1,000 cubic feet of air space per patient.
JOHN HAYGARTH, Pioneer Doctor (from"Chester
Characters" by Bernard Wall Published 2,000 based on article in the "Chester
Standard" newspaper 1988)
"Chester Infirmary, in its early days, had a remarkable physician who did much new about smallpox and fevers. He won some international recognition, but not enough fame to be much remembered. His name was John Haygarth and one can read his story in the Record Office in the British Medical Journal of 1913, an article by Dr I Elliott, an admirer working in The Infirmary then. Smallpox, was a menace through the ages, bringing disfigurement and death...
Dr Haygarth (shown here) came from the Yorkshire Dales, a keen young man, better qualified than many. Like a modern researcher, he made careful notes and assessed them. He decided smallpox infection was not in all the air, as some said, making isolation useless, nor was it so widespread by the patient that one should not approach. It was by breathing the patient’s breath one could be infected. Even clothing, unless wet with pus, was not infectious. So a degree of isolation was needed. Meanwhile, like some other doctors, he was trying immunisation to prevent infection.Some others considered this too dangerous. Haygarth, however, had only two deaths among 416 folk immunised. He thought he was beginning to arrest the disease. In 1778, in typical Chester fashion, he called a meeting at the Mayor’s Office in ‘The Pentice’ up against St Peter’s. Three years before there had been severe outbreaks of smallpox and typhus so now he formed The Chester Smallpox Society to encourage citizens to be immunised and provide sufficient isolation of victims. There was good support and progress made. Other cities copied Chester - Liverpool, Leeds, Edinburgh and even Geneva, with smallpox societies. Then came a new development - from London! Dr Jenner observed cow-pox victims did not contract smallpox. He tried using a cow-pox vaccine against smallpox. This has proved effective, as we all know. Haygarth did very well but Jenner got the breakthrough and it is his name that is recorded and remembered. In the days when The Infirmary was quite new and Dr John Haygarth was there, sailors would arrive in port sick with typhus. One in ten died. And there were other fevers rife in town. In 1785 the doctor made a plan. He would turn lumber out of a long attic, get windows open and make a fever isolation ward. Typhus is transmitted by lice or rat-fleas .so all must be clean, floors scrubbed, clothes and linen washed or disposed of, all utensils marked for this ward alone. No one would come and work there! Trepidation ran through the staff. Isolation in a separate place was known. Plague victims of 1603 had been put in huts by the Water Tower, but in a general hospital, never. Eventually a male patient who had had surgery volunteered to look after men, but he caught fever and died. Presently a nurse, Lowry Thomas, came forward. She served men and women for eleven years. Four times she contracted fever, the fifth time she died. There was also Jane Bird, catching fever twice in four years and then resigning. The doctor complained they had done too much and, oddly I think, mentions none other in his reports: surely the two must have had assistants, reliefs and successors, but they didn’t get a mention! Lowry and Jane were the responsible ones and their gallantry and devotion has been remembered down the years, especially as the work with the quinine and all was successful. Most patients survived, the spread of diseases was reduced and no-one in the rest of the hospital caught an infection. The lead given here was, again, followed in Liverpool and Manchester, the deaths there were reduced and expenditure on paupers’ coffins lessened! Even London reacted with isolation wards in their Guy’s General Hospital. Dr Haygarth lived first in Watergate Street, then built a nice house with a big garden in Foregate Street, somewhere near today’s Parkers Buildings, but later retired to Bath and visited his Yorkshire birthplace, though he had written ‘Chester’s climate is good and its ladies beautiful’ He still practised a bit, and as a Fellow of the Royal Society (F.R.S.) continued to advocate various social advances from savings banks to a leper colony on Hilbre Island (which was not adopted). His pioneer fever ward deserved the credit it got, but depended on those nurses, pioneers too, who risked their lives as they did." Chester Standard 1988
Chester Infirmary site plan in 1898
In 1829, there were plans for improvements to the exiting fabric and a building committee was set up to consider alterations to the original design, these were implemented in 1830, fabric of the exterior was remodelled by William Cole, he was also the architect of Upton Asylum on Liverpool Road. The sum of £ 3,250 was spent on various refurbishment works and additions, the cellar area was divided up into laboratories, store rooms, domestic offices, and a number of small rooms for patients suffering from hysteria, epilepsy, and smallpox, and whom it was advisable to keep isolated, the ground floor was retained as office accommodation, board room, library, though some rooms were now set aside as a dispensary, which was a valuable addition to the infirmary's service.
The wards were divided into two and bathrooms for nurses were built around the central courtyard. The governors congratulated themselves that "the Chester Infirmary is now confessedly one of the most improved institutions, as to plan in the country."
As the infirmary was now approaching its century, and the design of
the building was now greatly improved. In 1859 five acres of land known
as the "Infirmary Field" was purchased from the ecclesiastical Commissioners
of the Dean and Chapter of Chester Cathedral by public subscription. It
was walled and railed to give it an improved appearance and also this was
land which the governors hoped to keep for "sanitary and recreative
purposes" was a great advance in the infirmary's outdoor amenities. Concern
for fever cases was still felt and, in 1865, a legacy of five hundred pounds
was left by Mrs Henry wood to provide a hospital for smallpox and other
infectious diseases. Until 1868, the infirmary turned away cases of infectious
disease but outbreaks of cholera in 1849 and 1867 demonstrated the urgent
need of such a hospital.
Chester Infirmary in the 1900s
The Board of Management chose a site on the east side of the infirmary and plans were obtained for the erection of a building to provide accommodation for twenty four patients. A public appeal and donations brought in the balance required to meet the builder's estimate of £2,595. The new building was completed in May 1868 and immediately proved of great value. During that year, 115 fever patients were admitted, over half being typhus cases. One death was recorded. The smallpox hospital was in use until 1899 when Chester Corporation opened an isolation hospital at Sealand.
An Infirmary ward in about 1900
Late nineteenth century
From the late nineteenth century onwards, new facilities were needed to meet the demands for providing medical care for the increasing population. New additions and upgrading works were carried out on a piece-meal basis. In 1892, an important addition was made to the old infirmary fabric when the Humberston Wing was built. Colonel Humberston, a Chairman of the Board of Management for twenty-five years, had left a legacy of five hundred pounds and this was used as the basis of a memorial fund for this purpose. The being of the twentieth century brought further improvements.
In 1903 the outpatients department was enlarged and a new operating theatre was built.
TO CHESTER INFIRMARY
On 19th September, 1912, the Duchess of Westminster laid the foundation stone of the new Albert Ward wing in Chester Infirmary, set in a three storey building consisting of six pavilion wards erected in memory of King Edward VII. Mr Albert Wood of Conway had generously donated £12,500 to the extension fund. On the right behind the stone, is the architect, Mr. W. Lockwood and to the left of the Duchess, Mr. J R. Thomson, Chairman of the Board of Management and Dr. Dobie, Hon. Consulting Physician.On the platform are Lord and Lady Grosvenor, Dr. and Mrs. Elliott and Mr. Barbour of Bolesworth Castle, who all made speeches. The wing was officially opened by King George V and Queen Mary on 25th March 1914 during a visit to Chester, and at the same time declared that the hospital should, in future, be known as the 'Chester Royal Infirmary', this opened up a new era for planning a major building programme for upgrading the existing fabric.From this date the Infirmary was allowed to use the ‘Royal’ prefix.
From that time, a number of additions, alterations, improvements were
developed together with new theatre suites and increased accommodation
for resident nurses and medical staff on a piece-meal basis right up to
the time of the Second World War. Proposals for further new additions of
the infirmary field were put forward in 1938, but the outbreak of war prevented
their realisation. It was not until the early 1960s that a new outpatients
and accident unit was constructed with a visitors car park on the remaining
area of the field. This new unit was opened by HRH Princess Marina, Duchess
of Kent on 11th June 1963. For the next 30 years small-scale developments
such as new theatre suites, intensive care unit and engineering workshops
were constructed together with various improvement works that were maintained
on a piece-meal basis.
The original building of the Chester Royal Infirmary was the main acute hospital in Chester on the same site for 232 years until it's inpatient work was transferred to the Countess of Chester in 1993. The infirmary was closed for good when the post war Outpatients Department was transferred in 1996.
The infirmary played a large role for the sick of the city within the walls, in the early nineteenth century the population was increasing and therefore in 1830 the existing building was remodelled and the sum of £3,250 was spent on various refurbishment works. As the infirmary was now approaching its century the design of the building was now greatly improved. One of the first isolated fever hospitals in the country was opened in May 1868.
From the late nineteenth century onwards, new facilities were needed to meet the demands for providing medical care for the increasing population. New additions and upgrading works were carried out on a piece-meal basis. In 1892, an important addition was made to the old infirmary fabric when the `Humberston' wing was built. The being of the twentieth century brought further improvements. In 1903 the outpatients department was enlarged and a new operating theatre was built.
In 1913 the construction began on the first large scale development since the original building was erected, this was the `Albert Wood' wing a three storey building consisting of six pavilion wards erected in memory of king Edward VII. This wing was officially opened by King George V and Queen Mary on 25th March 1914 during a visit to Chester, and at the same time declared that the hospital should, in future, be known as `Chester Royal Infirmary', this opened up a new era for planning a major building programme for improvements and future developments of the existing fabric.
Just before it closed in 1993 and officially closed December '95
AND just after it closed...
The oldest and original hospital building has been retained and converted to apartments by Bryant Homes - calling it the "1761" development - the original opening date of the hospital.
Most of the rest of the old hospital has been demolished and replaced
with houses/flats known as St Martin's Way:-
Liverpool Daily Post (24 March 1998 p 8):
`Digging deep for the truth of a city's Roman burials'
Excavations in advance of the redevelopment of the site of the former Chester Royal Infirmary have the potential to reveal more evidence of a previously discovered Roman burial ground. Other excavations south of Chester at Pulford may also reveal the locations of a Roman villa and a medieval abbey.
Daily Post (Liverpool) (2 May 1998 p 9):
`Chester gives up a piece of its past - ancient roads found under site of city infirmary'
Archaeologists excavating on the former site of Chester Royal Infirmary have discovered an ancient pathway, which could date back to AD410 and a cobbled Medieval Road. As excavation continues the archaeologists are hoping to find a Roman road under the cobbles and also a possible Roman burial ground.
Extracted from "A History of the Ancient City
of Chester". Published 1896. G L Fenwick
"By the courtesy of the Secretary, we are able to give the following facts in a condensed form :—
1761 .Chester General Infirmary opened.
1830 Extensive structural alterations and additions to the fabric, costing £3,230.
1859 The Infirmary field purchased by public subscription, to be used for sanitary and recreative purposes, at a cost of £3,000.
1865. A Board of Management constituted, Alderman Philip Stapleton Humberston, Chairman.
1867. Erection of a Fever Hospital—cost £3,000
1874. The disused City Gaol on the south side of the Infirmary purchased by his Grace the Duke of Westminster, and taken down, to the great advantage of the institution.
1881 A Convalescent Home in connection with the Infirmary opened at Parkgate. Miss Barrow appointed Lady-Superintendent.
1882. September 30th, the Convalescent Home at Parkgate formally opened by His Grace the Duke of Westminster, K.G.; cost of building £3,000. A system of Private Nursing by nurses of the institution established.
1883.—The Chapel of the institution altered and improved; cost £120, defrayed by subscriptions raised by the Lady-Superintendent and Chaplain. £560 received in 1882 for permission to view Eaton Hall and gardens, was paid to the credit of the Infirmary by His Grace the Duke of Westminster, K.G., and a similar or larger sum from the same source has been handed in every year since, amounting now (1895) to nearly £7,000.
1885 A Ward opened for the treatment of Opthalmic cases.
1888. Two district Visiting surgeons appointed, one for Saltney and one for Bishopsfields. The Victoria and Albert Wards re-fitted and redecorated by a Friend of the Institution. Cost £122.
1889 The property in Long Edge and St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields purchased in order to give the Board of Management control of the approaches to the Infirmary, and to accommodate the nursing staff. Cost £2,000.
1890 Death of Colonel Humberston, for 25 years chairman of the Board of Management. He left a legacy of £500 to the Institution.
1891 Erection of the “Humberston” Memorial Wing at a cost of £2513 16s 6d , defrayed by his legacy, and special contributions collected by Colonel Evans-Lloyd. Outside staircase erected for escape in case of fire. Cost £471 9s 1d.
1892.—New “Humberston” Wing opened by his Grace the Duke of Westminster, KG. Furnished by special subscriptions— £174 17s 3d. The sanitary system of the Institution reconstructed. Cost £1432 7s. 1d.
1893.—Iron balconies erected on the west front of the Institu-tion to enable patients to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Cost £422 18s., provided by Captain Massie-Taylor out of funds left by the late Miss Sarah Hester Jones.
1894.—The Wards re-floored, &c. Cost £700
1895.—Total expenditure for the year £5,757 10s Number of patients treated 7,692.
1755. J Weaver
1766. J Haygarth
1767. W. Falconer
1773. W. Currie
1790. W. Houghton
1798. W. M. Thackeray
1799. R. F. Currie
1804. G. Cumming
1805. J. Larden
1807. R. Barker
J. M. B. Pigot
1814. Llewelyn Jones
1827. G. Cumming
1829. E. P. Luscombe
1831. H. T. Moore
1835. Richard Phillips Jones
1837. James Edwards
1851 Thomas Davies
1854. Edward Waters
1861. Robert Hutchinson Powell
1871. Henry Stolterfoth
1875. William Murray Dobie
1890. Henry W. King
1895 John Elliott.
1755. G. Venables
R. H. Vaughan, Bart.
1767. J. Frodsham
1770. D. Orred
1773. C. Morrall
1786. G. Rowlands
1787. S. Freeman
1795. C. Monall, junr.
1801 .S. Nevitt Bennett
1803. W. Wynne
1806. P. Bagnall
1809. 0. Titley
1828. G. Harrison
1837. G. Harrison, junr.
1839. John Harrison
1843. Thomas Brittain
1848. J. Weaver
1853. J. D. Weaver
1854. W. S. Jones
1860 Essex Bowen
1862. William O’Kelly
1867. Albert C. Reade
1868. James Taylor
William Charles Watson
1881 Alexander Hamilton
1885 Farington M. Granger (Opthalniic Surgeon)
1892 Farington M. Grainger"
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