We love a bit of history at the Friends – particularly about our much-loved hospital.
And with hospitals in general currently in the nation’s hearts and minds during the coronavirus pandemic,it is a fitting time to remind us of health care from an earlier age, back in the 1930s.
News footage is currently showing footage of hi-tech ventilators in intensive care units, and staff wearing protective gear.
But things were different – simpler but just as caring – back in 1937 as an official booklet from the time shows.
It was just 13 years after the hospital opened, built through a public appeal after the First World War to honour the local men who gave their lives.
Inside the plain fabric cover of the 1937 there are wonderful facts, figures and phrases that capture the hospital – including sentiment about why it was built in the first place.
“What could be more fitting than that the physical sacrifices and sufferings, so nobly endured, should be remember for all time through a hospital dedicated to the healing of diseases and the relief of human distress?” it proclaims.
The introduction recalls that 1919 meeting which voted unanimously to build the hospital for a cost of £4000.
It is not just in modern times when hospitals are built, then immediately found to be too small. It happened in the first year (1924-25) at North Walsham too where the “accommodation proved inadequate” and two extra beds were put in each of the public wards.
In 1932 a Premises Improvement Fund was started and in 1935-36 the two main wards were extended, while a new emergency ward and children’s ward of three cots were added.
In 1937-38 there were 400 patients admitted, 300 operations and 128 x-rays carried out. The average stay was 13 1/3 days at a weekly cost of £2 13s 8d per bed.
The booklet says the hospital’s location has “the additional advantage of the bracing airs of the East Coast” just a short distance away.
There are pictures of the wards and operating theatres of the time with their cast iron beds and basic facilities. But letters from grateful patients talk of them appreciating “happy and cheerful” stays.
There is a list of officers and staff, including chairman Dr CD H W Page and matron Miss R J Sampson.
And some fabulous adverts show the traders of the time including Rackstraws “high class grocer and provision merchant”, Oliver and Griston surgical and medical suppliers, W F Leeder (printers, bookbinders and paper bag merchants), and Fayers “the hygienic bakers”.
We hope you enjoy looking back at the hospital’s earlier days. The Friends are continuing to provide support for the hospital with regular goody parcels for hard working staff during this unprecedented time, and will be tackling projects such as some new outside wall art and an overnight room for patients’ relatives once the Covid-19 crisis is over.
*This copy of the booklet is held at the Norfolk libraries service archive in Norwich. The publisher and copyright owner of the book is untraced but it appears to be by the hospital officials of the time, so we hope it is ok to publish a snapshot of it here, as a reminder of the hospital’s fascinating past and strong community support.