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Hertford County Hospital

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Alternative name(s):
  • Hertford General Infirmary (Formerly known as)
  • Hertford General Dispensary (Formerly known as)
Date: 1838-1960
History: Hertford County Hospital began its life as a General Dispensary which was established in one room of Hertford Castle, in 1822, 'for the relief of the sick poor by affording them gratuitous advice and medicine.' Medical advice was given to those who most needed it twice a week by the attending surgeon, and by the physician once per week, at his own house, on condition that the patient could produce a letter of recommendation from a subscriber. Medicine was dispensed four days a week and in 1828 it was also decided to supply the poor with trusses.

In early 1832 the Revd Thomas Lloyd had begun a campaign to build a new hospital. By April of that year a meeting had been held to elect a surgeon, a medical resident and a matron. The foundation stone was laid on 17 July of that same year by the Bishop of Lincoln. Hertford General Infirmary, as it was known, was located on North Road, Hertford. It opened to patients on 3 July 1833 when four patients were admitted. As with all the voluntary hospitals, the benefactors were allowed to recommend out-patients, but any person who had met with an accident or who required immediate surgery was to be admitted without any recommendation at any time of day or night. This was not the case with all voluntary hospitals. Beer was brewed on the premises. In 1834 there was a recommmendation that the brewhouse should be moved to the end of the stable because the steam from the brewery was 'injurious and unwholesome' to the inmates of the hospital. In 1839 Sebright Ward was opened for children and a mortuary was built in 1859. In 1886 a ward was opened for male patients and in 1895 a special children's ward was built. In 1908 the hospital changed its name to Hertford County Hospital. By 1911 there were 56 beds for subscribers. In 1916 the hospital was closed for external alterations and a new sanitary system and during that time the patients were treated at Elmsfield, in Hagsdell Road, Hertford. Further alterations were made in 1932-1933, when innovative veranda wards were built with sliding and folding frames, allowing entire sides to be opened up in suitable weather. By 1947 there were 173 beds for patients.

On 5 July 1948 control of the hospital passed to the Minister of Health. It was managed by the Hertford No.1 Group Hospital Management Committee as part of the North East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. In 1974 it passed to the East Hertfordshire District Health Authority in the North West Thames Regional Health Authority, and in 1975 further extensions were made for out-patients. In 1980 it beds for 143 patients, which declined to 111 in 1992, when it became part of the East Hertfordshire Health NHS Trust. In 2004 a new hospital was built and opened at the site, with the original hospital building being converted into appartments.
  • Hertford, Hertfordshire
Sources of authority: National Health Service Act 1946
Functions, occupations and activities: Health and social care > Hospitals
Historical context: The first voluntary hospitals came into being in England to provide care for the poor after the Reformation, taking over the role previously performed by the monastic orders. Voluntary hospitals were privately endowed, often by a local landowner, but subsequently maintained by subscriptions and donations. Anyone was open to subscribe, and then became known as a governor or subscriber which entitled them to certain privileges. A Board of Management was appointed from the governors to administer the daily running of the hospital, usually with the help of a House Committee and a Finance Committee. Many local organizations adopted the hospitals and held fetes, garden parties and other fund raising events to raise money for the maintenance of the hospital and especially for the purchase of equipment. Many of the hospitals had contributory schemes which entitled a member of the scheme to medical treatment. The voluntary hospitals, unlike the large sprawling workhouse infirmaries, were usually small, containing as few as six or seven beds in some cases, and served the "deserving" poor of the immediate area. Voluntary hospitals would not generally admit the destitute or "undeserving" poor. In the early days of the voluntary hospitals the medical staff were usually unpaid, but it was considered to be prestigious to be appointed to the medical staff, who often maintained themselves by private practice. The nursing staff were on the whole either "Nightingale" nurses or had been trained at other nursing establishments. Voluntary hospitals could chose which patients to admit (then referring all other cases to the workhouse), and if their beds were full they could refuse to admit patients altogether. They did not take the chronic infirm, infectious cases or long term sick patients. Most of the voluntary hositals started life in cottages or other buildings, which were either bought by the governors or left by the benefactor. As the hospitals became more financially stable and more prestigious they were able to finance larger, purpose built buildings, often in the pavilion style with high ceilings and lofty corridors. On July 5th 1948 control of the voluntary hospitals passed from the Board of Management and therefore the local community to the Minister of Health.
References: Hosprec database; Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies online catalogue; Harriet Richardson (ed), English Hospitals, 1660-1948: A Survey of their architecture and design, 1998; Hertford County Hospital History 150th Anniversary booklet, 1983
Name authority reference: GB/NNAF/C26420 (Former ISAAR ref: GB/NNAF/O91886 )
Number Description Held by Reference Further information
1838-1948: records incl various minute books and press cuttings books
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
NRA 11973 Hertfordshire
c1900-1960: registers and other records
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
See Annual Return 2002
1877: financial statement
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
1880: reports and rules
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
Related record creators
  Record creator Description of relationship Dates Category of relationship
Hertford County Hospital was subordinate to the North East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board
Hertford County Hospital was subordinate to the North West Thames Regional Authority