Savernake Hospital Timeline

Children's party c1930's

Children’s party c1930’s

Pre Savernake

1859 First Cottage Hospital in England established in Cranley (now Cranleigh)


And here we begin……..


1865 Notice issued by J O Stephens of intention to establish Cottage Hospital and the outline plan


1866 17th Jan  Meeting in Town Hall Marlborough Lord and Lady Ailesbury offered the building known as the old Training Institution (later Copelands) at the top of Forest Hill for Hospital – also necessary furniture.


Marquis of Ailesbury became President of proposed institution and the first declaration was:

“This hospital  is established for the relief of sufferers from disease or accident as In or Out Patients and shall be managed by a committee”.


27th Jan Advertisement appears in press for subscribers.

First Matron was Jane Berry whose annual salary was £25 + free board and lodging and the first nurse was Elizabeth Bristol.  Also employed were a cook, a gardener and a porter.


30th April It was decided there would always be one bed available for the use of Lord Ailesbury (not necessarily personally I believe but for family/staff estate workers etc check facts)


28th June (some reports state 30th )  The formal opening of the six bedded hospital took place – the building (the Old Training Institution) having been converted at a cost of £473.  This is thought to be the third cottage hospital in England.


July 2nd Patients were admitted.


Report (adopted 25th January 1867) at first Annual Meeting of Subscribers stated 6 beds were made available on July 2nd 1866.


1867 10th Jan Two further beds were provided by Lady Ailesbury as six were not enough.


1870 23rd July Meeting “On behalf of New Hospital”. Plans made for new 20 bedded hospital made.  Land provided by Marquis of Ailesbury and Mr G Scott (soon to be knighted) was appointed to provide plans and specifications.


August 13th  Re. siting of new hospital


Lord Ailesbury “As I told you before, I do not of course care where I give the ground, provided it is not in or near the town of Marlborough, as the object is to have a cottage hospital which implies naturally a rural district, not a suburban district”.


Further on…..


“At the same time I think it will be fine to place it, that it shall be within easy reach of the Railway and sufficiently near to Marlborough to dispose altogether of the project of a Town Infirmary in addition”.


24th September It was decided by sub-committee that the new hospital should have South & South East aspect – the benefits of good light and morning sunshine were realised it seems.


1871 June 1st & 2nd  (or May 31st & June 1st) a Fancy Fair was held in the grounds of Savernake Forest House (known now as Tottenham House) where it is reported that and estimated 10,000 people attended and the receipts amounted to £1,182..0s..1d.  Thomas Lavington, (was he a relation of Matron Lavington we wonder?) Manager of North Wilts Bank examined the accounts.


The hospital was built at cost of £4,960 18s 10d (including Porter’s Lodge). The building was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott RA (1811-1878) who also designed St Pancras Station and Albert Memorial


6th November Indentures signed.


1872 22nd January the formation of rules governing the running of hospital were signed.


20th May  “Garden Fete” in Savernake Forest House was attended by upward of 5,000 people and despite the rain took £470..15s..0d  (see Hurdle leaping picture) There was also an event the following day.


Wednesday 22nd May the Savernake Cottage Hospital officially opened by Lord Bishop of Salisbury.


6th July Patients were transferred to new Savernake Hospital designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott – even today it is still referred to as the Gilbert Scott building.


Special donation recorded – two smaller wards built and furnished by Mrs Merriman as a memorial to her late husband Thomas Baverstock Merriman.


1873 January report on last 6 months since patients accepted and accounts balanced and free of debt. The committee rejoiced “to add that no death had occurred in the hospital”.


1873 – 1899 Records of Professional consultation – samples in file.


1874 Charges made for out patients prescriptions.


1876 10th Annual Meeting and request for portrait of JO Stephens.  2 further beds had been added as “it is too painful to refuse the continually increasing applications for admissions”.


1878 24th April Presentation of portrait of J O Stephens


22nd June Tribute was paid to George William Frederick, Marquis of Ailesbury KG who had recently died.  The new Marquis was asked to take office as President.  Tribute also paid to Mr William Merriman, Treasurer who had died. Mr E Merriman became the new Treasurer and Mr RW Merriman a member of the committee.


1879 13th annual meeting – Mary Caroline Marchioness of Ailesbury, offered a new Accident Ward in memory of her husband.


1881 15th annual meeting discussing strain being put on hospital by railway construction men with disease and injuries.


1882 13th March committee meeting received letter from Dr J B Maurice concerning the proposed unsanitary positioning of the Closet under the window of the Fever Ward!


1884 p19 Marlborough Doctors the Memoirs of Life and Work of Charles J.B. Williams, a physician and professor of medicine at University College, London having been elected at the age of thirty-four, was interested in chest diseases and was also on the staff of the Brompton Hospital.  Chapter XXXV of the book is headed ‘Country Journeys and Country Practitioners’.  See Marlborough Doctors Book – on sale at White Horse Book Shop.


1889 Telephone connection between Hospital and medical officers  – saved many a journey “up that tiresome hill”.


1890 First probationer nurse – annual salary £6.


1893 New operating room (plus ward & 2 bedrooms) opened as a result of bequest from Lady Mary Caroline, Marchioness of Ailesbury.  First Medical Officer rota was established to cover medical and casualty work.


1894 The water supply from the well was threatened by waterworks carried out for the town of Marlborough. (Alan Rix from Minutes)


1899 Report referred to the difficulty of getting water from 250 foot deep well without pump – raised by means of gearwork by a donkey or a man.


1900 Annual Meeting – Proposal for pumping apparatus either for connection to well or possible connection to town water supply.


1901 Gift of shoes for the donkey.


1902 Huge amount of committee work on the Water Supply – on 13/12/02 it was resolved that “the present well be made deeper, as funds will permit, in order that a sufficient supply of water may be obtained in case of emergency or temporary breakdown of the engine should such occur.”


1903 Report of water connection with town mains – now an ample supply of “good, pure water instead of the somewhat chalky, muddy compound which in time of drought used to be served up as water”.  The cost was £340.  “There is one being who would, I feel sure, join very heartily in the note of thanks for having the water laid on at the hospital and that is the old hospital donkey!”


1904 Catchment had been widened.  Sir Godfrey Lushington had given an outdoor glass shelter in order patients may sit in sun and fresh air – sited facing South for maximum sun.


1905 It was decided to close the Hospital for the annual cleaning and repairs for one month from August 4th.  During this time only the most urgent cases would be admitted.  This seemed to be an annual event.


1907 Electricity installed  (prior to that they operated using petroleum lamps).


Postcard picture of hospital from Wilts Archives – the man driving the donkey cart in the photo was identified by Buster Cox as his grandfather, Harry Douglas from High Walls in Marlborough.


Dr Haydon started fund for Rontgen rays apparatus.


X-ray installation discussed in minutes June 28th


1911 – 1916 There seemed to be a series of incidents with a succession of hospital porters ranging from a porter who sold hay to the Roebuck illegally in 1911, a porter who refused to work in the garden in 1912, a porter who did not do his work satisfactorily in 1914 and a porter found drunk in 1916 and one going AWOL in 1919!!


1914  Annual Meeting moved to Marlborough College as the Town Hall was required for military purposes.  The effect of the war on income and expenditure was alluded to with the inevitable reduction in contributions, subscriptions and collections.


1915 War mentioned March 20th


1916 The hospital donkey was sadly killed by a motor car  –  so soon after his retirement.  Also this year a decision was taken to insure the hospital against damage by Zeppelin raids.


1917 Discussion about taking soldiers as patients


1919 Patients who could afford it were asked to pay. Telephone linked to Post Office Trunk line.  Miss Davis – Matron resigned and the committee recognised her work during a time when nurses had been almost unobtainable and house keeping was carried out under trying conditions. (ie first World War) Mr Giffard, who had been Hon Sec since 1904 also resigned.


1919 Matron Lavington appointed – she had previously been working for the Red Cross Hospital in Wesley Hall.  The Annual Meeting discussed the increased expenditure with maintenance because of economies of war.  The financial position was so serious that the hospital considered re-opening, after closing for the annual maintenance month, with only 10 beds


The first election of lady members to the committee!


1921 Pathology commenced – part time staff from Swindon manned Path Lab twice a week in Alan Rix’s time.


1922 Additional nurses bedrooms.


1925 Drainage linked up to public sewer On  May 18th a contract was signed for Electric light and energy to be supplied.


1925 Deeds of Trust were changed.


1927 Physiotherapy commenced & new Men’s Ward, Children’s Ward, Out Patients Department, Dental Department, Mortuary Chapel and small number of Isolation Wards.


1928 Hospital Contributory Scheme began – as was happening in other hospitals – and the discussion about who could be treated where etc. Scrapbook of cuttings in History Centre  (A few of these have been digitally photographed, cuttings made on computer and then reproduced, sadly lack of time caught us out!)


1929 9thMay Agreement signed for mains Gas to be supplied.  Dr Monnington (a physician from Salisbury) became a Consultant at Savernake.


1930’s Mr Tait, an oculist from Windsor was appointed and Mr Atkinson, an ENT surgeon from Bath came.


1931 Farmer Memorial Nurses Home and new Boiler House completed – see Samuel William Farmer.


1932  Engineer’s cottage.


1935 Haydon Memorial Theatre Suite and Recovery Ward opened.


1936 Will of Miss Parsons – big chunk of money!


1936 July 1st Wireless for patients and staff – newspaper


Taken from Wilts Berks & Hants County Paper Nov 13th , extract from a speech made by the Chairman of Savernake Hospital, Mr EFC Trench.

Of Marlborough’s people he said,

“They were proud of their town, proud of the ancient charters and the beautiful High Street – especially when the Mop was on – and they were proud of their Town Crier and his melodious bell and his melodious voice.  They were proud of all the other institutions connected with the town.  But he flattered himself that there were no institutions of which they were prouder than that of Savernake Hospital”   Having referred to it as an Institution he then  said, “He would rather call it a friendly home” and elaborating on the subject, “It was a home to which sick people come with a sigh of relief and left, when they were cured, with a sigh of regret.”  These words may indeed be sentimental but some 70 years later the sentiments remain unchanged.


1938 Mr JC Scott, an orthopaedic surgeon at Oxford, joined Professor Girdlestone who was about to retire.


1939 Steam Laundry.


Littlecote Fete raised £1,123 for Savernake Hospital.


During the war years there was a large increase of numbers of babies born in Savernake due to the difficulty of finding carers for a home delivery.  The war had costly implications for the hospital – see 1939 and 1940 Snapshots of the Year taken from newspapers.


1940 First registration as training school for nurses.


1942 Child patients.


1946 NHS Bill – Hospital would lose its Trust Funds and local control.


1948 July Absorbed into the National Health Service  – came under Swindon & District Management Committee – the beginning of remote control.


1950 Hutted Out Patient Dept.


1950 Swindon & District management report   Hospital Porter’s death / Xmas in hospital / ad for dispensing opticians.


1951 Kitchen extended.


1952 Waiting Room and Physiotherapy Hut (located on land in front of walkway between wards).


1954 New Surgery for Casualty.


1955 Maternity Labour Ward – new.


1956 New Dispensary.


1958 League of Friends of the Marlborough Hospitals  (Savernake & Children’s) formed on January 24th  to make good some of the deficiencies and services which the State did not provide  folder for AGMs from 1958 – 1998 including silver jubilee(note in Jan) Report on Xmas in Hospital.


Madge and Flo Slade (sisters) manned the hospital trolley.


1961 Pupil Nurse Training School opened – said to be one of the best in the country. From Alan Rix book “Savernake Hospital is fortunate in having one of the best Pupil Nurse Training Schools in the country and much of its success can be attributed to the energy, drive and enthusiasm of Miss M. S. Blackwell”.  The Savernake Badge was designed by Matron Blackwell.


1964 Nurses Recreation Hall opened.


1966 Catered for 72 in-patients (this had at one time reached over 100) in this predominantly rural and farming region within about a 10 mile radius for the hospital.  The catchment area was around 40,000. (Marlborough, Ramsbury, Pewsey, Hungerford Burbage, Bedwyn, Aldbourne etc)  It was to cover all these rural districts that Lord Ailesbury had insisted that the hospital should not be sited in the town of Marlborough.


Pamphlet for the 100th anniversary of Savernake and form of service.  Alan Rix researched and wrote the first hundred years worth of history.


1968 Lavington Ward Day Room opened.


1970 Dec 5th  Official opening of Mens’ Ward Day Room.


1972 Nov 4th Official opening of Geriatric Ward – Ailesbury Ward – picture of key being handed over.  Provision of Day Hospital said to be next logical step in order to be able to discharge patients and have them return for therapy and rehabilitation but not taking up bed space.


1980 Work on building Day Hospital halted by discovery of huge Sarsen stone.


1981 Day Hospital opened.


1982 Opening of Ailesbury Ward extension.


1982 Silver Jubilee for League of Friends.


1984 Rumours about closures of Maternity, Surgery and Casualty begin – hotly denied by management.


1986 Maternity to close, much to fury of local people and GPs complain of lack of consultation and lack of space for Savernake catchment patients, fears that beds would go to people from outside the area.  The District Administrator could not see what the fuss was about as there were plans to also open an £800,000 mental health unit and jobs would be created.


1987 January       Stroke Unit opened.

May   Day Surgery facilities proposed.

May  “By virtue of its location and history, the local hospital should continue to provide for the needs of the local population of Marlborough and surrounding area” said Mr David Pokora, Unit General manager of Acute Services”.


1988 January 29th Re-opening of Main Operating Theatre Suite after £150,000 modernisation. £40,000 given by the League of Friends to equip it.


1989 £¾ million spent on Farmer Memorial Unit  for patients with Mental Health problems.



From 1990 onward – see Scrapbooks for news


1990 March Proposal to close the Operating Theatre (which League of Friends had given just given £40,000 toward improvement scheme two years earlier) even though 200 operations per year were carried out.  Proposal to close the 21 beds in Lavington Ward.  Swindon Health Authority more than £5000,000 in the red and need to cut back £1m.


1990 April Despite 1000 people from the area turning out to protest – Surgery services are reduced.  Private ward suggested to create revenue.  Petition with nearly 13,000 signatures.  David Pakora backtracked at meeting on closure of ward and talked about day surgery.  Casualty now open daytime only.

May  Stroke Unit (Stroke and Neuro Rehabilitation Unit) to move into Lavington Ward.


1990 Savernake Hospital was under threat, a group known as Savernake Hospital Inquiry Fund Trust (SHIFT) was set up and commissioned a report on the need (or otherwise) for a hospital in the area.


1991 Feb Swindon HA consider axing the departments

Feb Swindon HA do a U-turn but Casualty under threat


1992  Second operating theatre opened to help meet Government demands to reduce waiting lists


1992  HACAS report – Management and financial consultants to the social housing, health and care sectors  said;


“It is recommended that Savernake Hospital is developed as a Community Hospital”

They further recommended services to be included, one of which was “Casualty”


SHIFT was in process of raising £15,000.  £12,000 raised already


1995 May  GPs agree plans to take over the threatened Casualty Dept – became MIU


1996 July Wiltshire Health Authority bid to recoup £6m overspend – cuts of £500,000 proposed in Marlborough area

October  Over past 16months the MIU has treated 12,760 patients. Grant of £8,000 given.  X-ray on site.  League of Friends grant £22,112 for waiting area and lift at new Farmer Memorial Unit


1998 May NHS Trust considering moving Stroke Unit to Swindon


1999 Feb £121,000 (part of Government £2m investment in the SW) pumped in to Savernake Hospital reduce waiting lists


The Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care produced a “Review of the Future of Savernake Hospital”, commissioned by SHIFT following much community fundraising.  Amongst the Services recommended for inclusion was Minor Injuries Service


July  Fears that part of Savernake Hospital may be used for housing.


October Suggestion of a GP Surgery moving to Savernake Hospital to be part of “Health Village”  by Ridgeway Primary Care Group (forunner of Kennet & North Wilts PCT).


December Decision not to move Surgery.


2000 League of Friends buy replacement Defibrillator.

(we wondered if this was because there seems to be a high proportion of the population about to have a heart attack over Savernake!)


2001 March Private Finance partner sought to fund re-build.


August Kennet District Council support land for houses on hospital site in principle.


November Suggestion to ask Queen to open new hospital in 2004 to coincide with Charter Celebrations.


2003 Stained glass window retrieved from chapel.


2003 Business Case for the redevelopment of Savernake Hospital was written by Kennet and North Wiltshire Primary Care Trust.

“ The strategic context within which these proposals have been developed include:

Provision of local access to a wider range of services for the people of the locality, including diagnostics, outpatients, rehabilitation and minor injuries.”


2003 The Avon and Wiltshire Strategic Health Authority approved the plan for Savernake Hospital for £9.8m  PFI Redevelopment along with:

“full ICT cabling to facilitate “telemedicine” links with clinical centres (PACS radiology system already operational).”


Contract signed with Chiltern Securities and Prince Charles expected to lay a foundation stone at the 800 year Charter Celebrations.


2004 January Nurse Betty Yates cuts first turf at start of work.


August   Time capsule buried. Click here to read more.


2005  June Work delayed by house martin’s nest.

July hospital opened  (Legionella struck!) but no ceremony planned until October.


2005 Without any official opening ceremony, the 9.5million pound Savernake Hospital re-build was completed and it was once again fully functioning. It included a fully staffed MIU open from 8am -10pm 365 days per year run by highly qualified Nurse Practitioners who could prescribe drugs and request X-rays. The X-ray Unit was digitally linked with Great Western Hospital allowing remote opinion to be sought.


Local GPs used the unit for minor surgery (with MIU nurses on hand) and nurses also triaged for Marlborough Medical Practice.  In return the GPs supplied medical cover when required.  The Out of Hours Service was run from the MIU and the nurses were integrated with this service, seeing and treating  minor illnesses thus allowing Doctors to concentrate on patients with more acute needs.


2005 July 4th  The Chief Executive of Kennet & North Wilts PCT, Carol Clark said:

“I am delighted that, after 15 years of dedication and commitment to this scheme by the community, the local NHS is now able to provide a significant health care resource for the people of Marlborough and district.” ……….. then nine months later….


2006 April  K & NW PCT produced a consultation document called “Pathways for Change”.


All three options involved the closure of the Minor Injuries Unit.


“Minor Injuries Unit:  concentrating all Minor Injuries Unit activity onto two sites, we will be able to offer a more comprehensive Minor Injuries service.”


These existing “two sites” were in Chippenham (21.4miles from Savernake) and Trowbridge (26.5miles from Savernake). Neither were newly built and neither had digital X-ray link at the time Savernake MIU closed.


2006 December  The “Impact of service change on patient journey” was published by Wiltshire PCT  it acknowledged that:

the closure of the minor injury unit (MIU) in all three options would mean that journeys to any other alternative provision for patients living in parts of the existing catchment area for Savernake would be the most significant in terms of mileage and time travelled.  Patients needing the services of a Minor Injury Unit would be more likely to attend an acute unit.  Accident and Emergency department (A&E) which would be nearer than either of the MIUs in Trowbridge or Chippenham


Clover Unit was not in the plan at this stage.


2007 January  Wiltshire PCT Board Meeting took the decision to close Savernake MIU.


2007 May The news came like a bolt from the blue that the Day Hospital (Dept that gave treatment and therapy to elderly people) was also to close.


2007 June Action started to be taken and meetings called as we now realised that three departments within the brand new hospital were closing – Farmer Unit (Mental Health), MIU and Day Hospital.


2007 July  We searched for someone to lead an action group, for a Solicitor to act pro bono should we need one and for possible sources of funding.  We drew a complete blank on all three!!


However, Community Action for Savernake Hospital (CASH) was born out of this – a group with no constitution, no chair, no committee, no meetings and no money!


2007  Day Hospital closed, Minor Injuries Unit closed, Farmer Unit closed.


The following part is ongoing and therefore cannot be considered as history yet, so we have decided not to include it in this timeline………. 

All information was gathered at speed for an exhibition and although we tried to be accurate we know that mistakes will have occurred.  Please let us know when you find one and we will alter the timeline accordingly!


Janet Louth & Val Compton

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