Minister of Health Neville Chamberlain visits
Frenchay in 1925. Photo courtesy Mike Hooper
Nurses and children. Mid-1940s
American casualties arriving in 1944
Nursing School Badge awarded to Jane Flower
(now Coombes) in 1967
Geese on Frenchay Park Farm
The American PX at Frenchay in the 1940s
|80 Years of Healing
at Frenchay Hospital
The story of Frenchay Hospital began in 1921, and although today the hospital is famous in such fields as plastic surgery and head injuries, its beginnings were very different.
A 1913 Act of Parliament required councils such as Bristol to provide Tuberculosis Hospitals for children. After the First World War, the corporation acquired Frenchay Park, a large country estate at Frenchay, and in 1921 they opened up the mansion house as a 43-bed hospital known as Frenchay Sanatorium.
The only treatment for TB in those days was fresh air, sunshine, and good food - all of which could be found at Frenchay Park. The fertile soil of the estate was put to good use by establishing Frenchay Park Farm, which provided vegetables, eggs, chicken, and TB free milk.
In 1925 the Minister of Health, Neville Chamberlain, came to see for himself that the children were being well looked after.
In 1931 new purpose built accommodation was opened which increased the number of beds to 100. In the new Treatment Block, sun lamps and showers were provided, and the two new wards had panel walls so that beds could be wheeled out onto the veranda to maximise the "fresh air" element of the treatment.
As war clouds were gathering in 1938, Bristol responded to the threat of mass bombing of the city by building an Emergency Medical Hospital with 15 wards and operating theatres in the grounds of Frenchay Park. Thankfully, it was never required and remained unused, so that when the Americans arrived in the UK in 1942, the city handed the hospital over to the US authorities to use as a military hospital.
A further 15 wards were added by the Americans in late 1942, and they were to use the hospital until after the war was over. Throughout the American occupation, the children's TB hospital was still functioning alongside the military one.
When Bristol Corporation took over again in 1945, the hospital was in a very poor state of repair, but the Health Committee set about trying to rebuild and expand the facilities. In 1948, with the founding of the NHS, the general hospital was combined with the Children's TB Hospital.
Meanwhile, the farm continued to supply most of the food required until in the 1960s it was closed as uneconomic.
Frenchay's reputation grew and "Frenchay" became a well-respected name, especially in the fields of burns and neuro-surgery. Facilities were improved, the 150 coal stoves gave way to central heating, new theatres were added, and in 1990 the new Phase 1 was opened to replace many of the war-time wards.
The hospital has always stood in a fine park, and the new gardens being developed and maintained provide a pleasant environment for patients, staff, and visitors.
On the afternoon of Saturday 21st July 2001, our exhibition telling the story of the hospital openned in Frenchay Village Museum. Wartime American military vehicles were present to lend a period atmosphere, and there was plenty of nostalgia! Now come and see for yourself, or order the book...