The day the workhouse became a local authority hospital

 

THIS YEAR’S 75th ANNIVERSARY..more interesting facts from our archive

Lithograph of Guildford Union workhouse 1838 by Henry Prosser
Lithograph of Guildford Union workhouse 1838 by Henry Prosser

January 2015 marks the 75th ANNIVERSARY of Guildford Union Workhouse changeover to a local authority hospital.  On 1st January 1930 the Guildford Institution was renamed Warren Road Hospital and on 1 April that year its management passed from the Ministry of Health to the Public Assistance Committee of Surrey County Council. So, 94 years after being founded the Institution changed emphasis from managing the poor/destitute to providing medical care for both the local community and the poor.

The Local Government Act 1929 did away with the old Institution but was this really the end of the Workhouse?

Under the Act Surrey County Council took over the employment of 950 Poor Law Officers, 35 Road Officers and 828 workmen across the county. Its review of the Guildford Institution states that there were175 beds for hospital in-patients and, interestingly, accommodation for 253 inmates who were still in need of support. Vagrants or tramps were still in need of shelter, with an average of 33 sleeping in the Spike each night. The Institution, including the Master and Matron, employed 79 staff.

After 1930, it is fair to say that change was only piecemeal. Some dormitories were still converted into wards, despite a 1933 report that the Institution was “incapable of adaptation” to a hospital. The hospital staff consisted of one resident and one assistant Medical Officer, a Superintendent Nurse, 6 Sisters and 24 Probationary Nurses.

Miss Brigit Coyle, (who joined the staff in 1930) recalled: “In 1933 I became Night Sister. Being the only trained person on duty, I was responsible for the supervision of the general wards, the deliveries in a 10 bedded maternity ward and the night theatre work……on coming off duty in the morning I would often give a lecture to the nurses as in those days we had no sister tutor. My off duty was four nights a month, all taken together.¬† I can recall a period of ten weeks when I had to work without any off duty.”

Research – latest news

Phil Davie has been finding out more about the naming of St Luke’s Hospital. (Click on the heading above to see the full article.)