Congleton War Memorial Hospital 1924 – 2024

Our hospital – a permanent legacy

In the middle of the nineteenth century, surgery in Congleton was a hit and miss affair.  The first anaesthetics came to this country in 1846 and at least two operations using chloroform took place in Congleton in 1852, but they were performed on the floor in the doctor’s surgery. 

Then in 1866 the Cottage Hospital was opened in Park Street, with provision for just ten beds.  It was supported by voluntary contributions. 

In 1918, most towns throughout  Great Britain were looking for ways to commemorate the sacrifice made by those who had served during World War I.  Congleton was no exception.

At the end of the war, Robert Head printed the Congleton Peace Souvenir, in which he listed all those men and the one woman who had served in the forces during the conflict.  How was Congleton going to commemorate the sacrifice these people had made?  Most towns were planning  war memorials like the one in Lawton Street.

Enter Congleton’s mayor, Councillor  Fred Jackson, one of the town’s principal fustian manufacturers.  He suggested that the town should build a new hospital as a memorial,  which would also benefit present and future  inhabitants of the town.

Despite the restrictions on public meetings owing to the  influenza  epidemic, a group of prominent citizens met on 15th December 1918  to discuss  Councillor Jackson’s proposal. The cost would be £11,000, or £1 for every inhabitant of the town.

As the proposal would require the support of the town’s population,  Mr Charles Russell Hall expressed the view  that ordinary people should be involved  in the management of the new  hospital, as these were “democratic days”.

Mr Henry Goodall, a Manchester fruit importer who originally came from Congleton, then offered a donation of £1,000  on condition it was used to build a new hospital.

The decision was taken. Fundraising continued enthusiastically, with the following personal and corporate donations  being made before the end of 1918:

Mr Henry Goodwin £1,000

Cllr and Mrs Jackson £250

Stott and Smiths £250

Berisfords £250

Mr Hall £100

Mr and Mrs Plant £100

Sir E Tootal Broadhurst  £100

By early 1919 donations had reached £3,000.  In September this had increased to £5,782.10.6d and by November 1920 donations had risen to £7,200.  

It was soon realised that the site of the existing Cottage Hospital was too cramped to allow it to expand and, with more than £7,000 to spend, it was possible to purchase the present hospital site on Canal Street.  This comprised three fields, Garden Field, Clulow’s Field and Banky Field, a total of 7 acres, 2 roods and 2 perches.

Fundraising continued, with a three-day bazaar in October 1922 raising £5,575.14.6d.  More money came from a variety of sources, including worker subscriptions at 10/- (50p) a year for adults and 5/- (25p) for children,  concerts in the town hall and the proceeds from the carnival

By the end of the year a grand total of  £14,000 had been achieved.

Mr J H Walters, a local architect , was commissioned to design the building.  He published his plans at the end of July 1921.

The first milestone was achieved when the mayor, Cllr Samuel Maskery, cut the first sod for the foundations, then on 4th August 1923, Sir Walter Shakerley of Somerford Hall laid the foundation stone.  This stone can still be seen in the wall of the main entrance corridor of the hospital.

The completion of the new hospital was a considerable achievement for a town the size of Congleton.  It had been a whole community effort.  It was with great pride that the town welcomed the Duke of York and future King George VI when he officially opened the hospital on 22nd May 1924.

In 1940 a nurses’ home was constructed but not immediately occupied.  The hospital also ran its own training school for enrolled nurses

The town’s commitment to its hospital never wavered, even during the Second World War, when Congleton and District was tasked to raise £240,000 in ‘Wings for Victory Week’ in June 1943.

Congleton was at the forefront when it came to health insurance.  It had its own system run by ‘The Hospital Industrial Fund Committee’.   Employers and employees could buy stamps every week to cover the expense of using the hospital.

Until its incorporation into the National Health Service in 1948,  the hospital was fully supported by subscriptions and donations.

Some of the documents and pictures relating to the hospital from the museum’s collection can be seen below:

Plaque commemorating the opening of the hospital.
A fundraising postcard printed by Congleton Chronicle proprietor Robert Head
The old hospital building can still be seen overlooking Mountbatten Way
A page from the Peace Souvenir
A page from the Peace Souvenir
Councillor Fred Jackson (from an illuminated address presented to him and his wife at the end of his mayoralty in 1919
Charles Russell Hall
Henry Goodwin’s letter to the mayor offering a donation of £1,000
The Chronicle report of the meeting at which Henry Goodwin's letter was discussed
Plan of the hospital site, showing the land to be purchased marked in red
A fundraising concert held in the Town Hall by the Montana Orchestra
Proceeds from the carnival were directed to the hospital fund
The programme cover for a fundraising concert by Mary Sproston and her pupils
Cutting the first sod for the foundations of the new hospital
The hospital's foundation stone
The completed hospital
The Duke of York in Congleton on the day he formally opened the hospital, 22nd May 1924
The Hospital Industrial Fund Committee
Congleton could be said to be an early adopter of ‘Green Shield Stamps’ as this rare sheet of green Congleton Hospital Industrial Fund receipt stamps testifies