Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Victoria Hospital

When Mrs Ambrose Goddard ceremoniously announced ‘I now declare this hospital  to be open,’ she unlocked the door on not just a new hospital but free medical care for the people of Swindon, regardless of for whom they worked.

Ambrose Lethbridge Goddard had given a one-acre plot of land in the Sands on which to build the new hospital and his wife Charlotte laid the foundation stone on Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, opening the hospital just 15 months later on September 29, 1888.

Goddard family involvement continued with Ambrose serving as the first president.  Bank Manager Lyttelton Etty was the first treasurer and Thomas Roberts the first secretary.  Mrs Rhoda Smith was appointed first matron.  Katherine Ackerley from Huddersfield succeeded her, supervising an increase in the hospital capacity from 12 beds to 22 by 1904.

The hospital opening day was something of an occasion in itself.  The procession set off from Faringdon Street and marched along Bridge Street and Regent Street, up Victoria Street, completing a lap of the principal streets of Old Swindon before heading off down the Sands. 

The parade contained six bands, including the Regimental Band of the Swindon Troop of Yeomanry, mounted and carrying drawn swords; members of both Old and New Swindon Local Boards, marched alongside members of the Oddfellows and the Ancient Order of Druids.

Mr and Mrs A.L. Goddard with the building’s architect W.H. Read and members of the Hospital Committee, travelled in an open carriage.  The official opening ceremony contained lengthy speeches given by local dignitaries and concluded with prayers spoken by Rev. F. Pugh and a burst of the National Anthem.

The procession reformed, marching to Market Square, but the festivities were far from over.  The Goddard’s played host to a Garden Party at their home, The Lawn, with a Promenade Concert, Horticultural Show and a Fire Brigade Competition.

And as if that wasn’t enough celebrating for one day, the piece de resistance was a Masquerade & Torchlight Procession through Old and New Swindon, terminating at the bottom of Eastcott Hill where a bonfire was made.  The Advertiser reported that ‘thousands of spectators lined the route.’

With the fun and games over, the serious work of the hospital began in earnest.  The Swindon Hospital Saturday Committee composed of representatives from town traders and the Friendly and Temperance Societies set about fundraising and in the first fifteen years donated £1,700.

Ten years after the opening, at the time of Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, fund raising endowed the hospital with a further £1,570 16s 11d and in 1901 £223 was raised to build a lodge.

During the first year, 35 patients were treated on the three wards, male, female and accident, at costs totalling £250 and within 12 months of opening the hospital was declared to be free of debt.

On the 6th anniversary of the opening ceremony, Mrs H. Kinneir laid the foundation stone for a new wing adding a further four wards containing 22 beds and four cots.

Proud of its innovative achievements in care in the community, the Hospital Board announced the parish nursing team had made 1000 home visits during 1903.

During its long history the Victoria Hospital has provided a variety of health and care facilities in the field of gynaecology, infection diseases, child assessment and psychiatric care.  It was also home to the Prospect Foundation Hospice during the early 1990s.

The hospital closed its doors for the last time on December 5, 2007.  Future plans included converting the original 19th century building into apartments and developing the remainder of the site for family houses.

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