Valley End once had it’s own hospital, the Windlesham and Valley End Cottage Hospital.
Hatton Hill Nursery, once the Cottage Hospital.
The story began in 1897, when Windlesham decided to build a Nurse’s House, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
When it opened in 1898, the date of the Jubilee was incised above the door. It was set out as home for the nurse to live in, and equipped with an “abundance of cupboards” including one for the Loan Blankets.
Oak seats were built in the porch, because “Invalid parishioners might walk up to the house before breakfast and have a glass of water from the Chalybeate Spring, as patients do at Harrogate, and the porch would supply a comfortable resting place while drinking their tumblers.”*
Things change; we no longer lend blankets to those who can’t afford them, or prescribe a glass of water.
The Nurse’s House gradually became a Nursing Home, and the idea began to grow that a local hospital would be invaluable.
Windlesham Hospital Parade, 1910. (Image courtesy J. End.)
So in April 1921 the Nursing Home submitted plans for improvements to Windlesham Urban District Council. Then a letter was sent to the Charity Commissioners, asking them to “to administer a charity for residents of poorer classes and for a Cottage Hospital at Windlesham.”
The hospital opened in a fanfare of celebration. HRH Princess Christian laid the foundation stone on Sept. 14th 1921, while the Windlesham Scouts provided a guard of honour.
The Cottage Hospital in Hatton Hill. (Image courtesy of Ann Wolfe.)
It was a small place. In March 1934 it was found to be too small to be affiliated with a London hospital, which affected the payment given to probationer nurses. Space was limited.
The hospital did not provide free care. There was a contributory scheme, with fees for patients who were not members. Where payment was difficult, people could apply to the House Committee.
Perhaps because it had to support itself, there was a huge range of fund raising activities, from rummage sales to subscription children’s parties, and carnivals to bridge tournaments. Local people supported the local hospital, and gave gifts.
In 1934 the Valley End schoolchildren gave 202 eggs on Ascension Day, and the following year Pound Day brought in groceries and 16s in cash. There were presents; a clock for the nurses’ room, a gramophone, and a bed and a mattress.
In 1939, the hospital prepared for war. Sand bags were filled, and a hand pump acquired in case of fire. It was to be a casualty receiving hospital in the area.
“How to deal with incendiary bomb.” Poster by Dennis Colbron Pearse. (Image courtesy of the I.W.M.)
The war years were difficult, and by 1944 strains were beginning to show.
In Jan. 1944 a special meeting was called to decide on the procedure if the Matron and doctor disagreed about admitting a patient. A year later the Matron was complaining about the District Nurse. The District Nurse was asked to leave, whereupon a letter arrived, signed by twenty members of the contributory scheme, demanding to know why?
In September 1945 the staff shortage was so acute that the Matron was requested to refuse to accept any new patients. The following month it was suggested that the hospital be closed for a month.
The lack of medical and domestic staff continued to be a problem. In April 1946 the committee minutes explain that the hospital has been closed since Feb 30th (sic) due to this. However, at least the Matron was able to take a holiday, her first since starting work in January 1945.
The Cottage Hospital. (Image courtesy of Ann Wolfe.)
In September 1946 it was suggested that the hospital should be closed due to shortage of staff. The situation had been acerbated by a nursemaid, sourly described in the committee minutes as hysterical and unsatisfactory, and prone to epileptic fits
On 13th September 1946 “The Committee decided that the Hospital be closed as soon as the three patients could be discharged or removed.”
In July 1947 a letter was sent to the Charity Commissioners, suggesting that the hospital be passed to the Berkshire Red Cross.
The hospital was handed over, but the world was changing for small local hospitals.
On the 5th July 1948 the Welfare State, including the National Health Service, began.
The gardens of the Cottage Hospital. (Image courtesy of Ann Wolfe.)
Under the NHS, the hospital became a Maternity Home, and the place where so many Chobham and Valley End people were born. It was tiny. There were only 8 beds, although at a pinch they could squeeze in 10.
The mothers stayed for a fortnight after having their babies. According to Kath Nemestothy, the Matron was lovely, and “all of us enjoyed it there.”
The entrance to the old Cottage Hospital.
Sadly, this closed. The building was empty for three years before being sold to Surrey County Council. It became Freemantles School, for children with communication difficulties. Freemantles moved in August 1996, and Hatton Hill Day Nursery opened on the site.
The hospital building remains on Hatton Hill, the present home of the nursery. It still has the date 1897 over the porch commemorating Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
The date of 1897 inscribed over the main entrance.
*Chalybeate Water – a mineral water tasting of iron. These waters were thought to be medicinal. In Harrogate the first mineral well was discovered in 1571, and people searching for cures drank and bathed in the waters from the 17th to the 20th centuries. Harrogate as a working spa did not decline until World War 1, and it still sells spa water.
If the Cottage Hospital was recommending Chalybeate water as a cure in 1899, it was in tune with contemporary medical thinking. The water was found in wells in the area, such as those on One Tree Hill near Sparrow Row, or near the Round Pond. It is possible that 18th century Chobham could have become a spa.
According to the Ordnance Survey map for 1896, (X 10) there was a well in what became the grounds of the hospital. Could this have been the Chalybeate Spring?
Surrey Advertiser Sept 19th 1921. pg 2 “Windlesham Royal visit to cottage hospital. Stonelaying by Princess Christian.”
Surrey History Centre 352/1/3
Windlesham Parish Magazine, March 1898, October 1898, October 1899.
Windlesham magazine Feb 1996. “Then and Now.”
Windlesham Magazine Oct 1996. “Then and Now.”
Hospital. Minutes. Windlesham and Valley End Cottage Hospital. SHC 7267 /9/1
Windlesham and Valley End Cottage Hospital. Surrey History Centre. SHC 7267/9/1
With thanks to Kath Nemestothy and Ann Wolfe.