Cornelia Hospital 1907: walk the wards and corridors with the architect

Cornelia frontage RE8b_0001.preview

The frontage of the old Cornelia Hospital in Longfleet Road (previously Ringwood Road) can still be pictured in the memories of many of Poole’s older inhabitants. Until it was demolished with the building of the new Poole General Hospital in the 1960s, it still had the basic look of the original design from its opening as a small 17-bed hospital in 1907. The hospital buildings obviously changed and grew in size and complexity in its 60 years’ life, a process begun early with the changes brought by necessity by the hospital’s role in the First World War. But nobody today can remember the original interior of the building – although a plan of the 1907 hospital is available, showing the layout of the wards, consulting and other rooms.

Ground floor plan of the 1907 Cornelia Hospital

However a local newspaper helpfully published a narrative description, which makes it possible to try to visualise the interior. (This was written in July 1906, before construction had begun, and therefore there may have been alterations to some aspects.)

In our issue last week we announced that a tender had been accepted for the building of the new Cornelia Hospital at Poole and that work would be commenced without delay……..

Through the courtesy of Mr Walter Andrew, architect, of Parkstone, who has designed the new buildings, we have been able to inspect the plans and are this week able to give our readers some idea of what sort of building is about to be erected. As most of our readers are aware, the site upon which the hospital is to be built is situate on the Ringwood-road. It is high and dry, and well suited for the purposes of such an institution as will be there erected.

The building is to be of red brick with stone dressings to windows, and the main entrance carried out in stone with the Poole coat of arms carved in a panel over. The main corridor is a good width and is carried through to another corridor six feet wide running at right angles and forming the letter T. From this corridor the three wards can be approached by wide doors to allow of patients being wheeled in. The Operating Room is entered from this corridor and is conveniently near the wards. The children’s ward will be bright, cheerful, and roomy, being 17 feet by 20, and provides for five cots. The male and female wards are 24 feet square, and allowance is made for five beds to be placed in each ward. At one end of each of these wards a corridor, well lighted and ventilated, separates a special ward for males and females. From these corridors the bath rooms are entered, also nurses’ sink in a separate compartment, with w.c.’s adjoining. The small but important adjuncts are fitted with “up-to-date” modern sanitary fittings. The wards are placed south, and are designed so as to admit of as much sunlight as possible with windows on each side and end to allow of cross ventilation.

The floors are to be in terrazzo (composed of marble chippings of various marbles), so as to form a soft, rich hue, resembling a carpet. The whole of the building is to be fitted with electric light and warmed by means of hot water pipes and radiators. Great care has apparently been taken by the architect in designing the doors, skirting and ceiling, so as to minimise the accumulation of dust. The junctions of skirting and walls are to be rounded in terrazzo, the ceiling coved, and the doors perfectly flat on the surface. The kitchen is to be a roomy one, separated from the main corridor by a useful nurse’s ward pantry, where all the food will be taken through a hatchway from the kitchen. The Matron will have a cheerful room, which is entered from the main corridor, close to the main entrance. On the other side is a common room, proposed to be used either for nurses’ dining room, sitting room, or committee room. The doctors appear to be well provided for by a good consulting room, which leads out into an ante-room where patients can prepare themselves while a patient is being examined, the object evidently being to save the time of the doctors in having to wait for the patient undressing. From this ante-room a dispensary is reached with a hatchway through to the waiting room, which is also reached from the ante-room. The out-patients’ comfort has not been forgotten. They will have a well warmed and ventilated room with a shelter outside for wet weather and a protection from the sun in the hot parts of the season. The operating room has received special attention by the architect. The floor is to be in terrazzo, with a slight incline to the outer wall, so that the whole place can be flushed by water. A half channel pipe is to be laid to empty outside, so as to carry off the water. The walls are to be tiled, top light is provided for, an up-to-date operating sink is to be fitted, and altogether this room is to be an up-to-date room for the surgeons to apply their skill. Bedroom accommodation is to be provided for nurses, servants, and Matron on the first floor; sanitary conveniences are provided for male and females near the waiting room, a shed for three motors is provided off the main drive, and a mortuary is to be built, fitted with sink, tilted floor and all conveniences for post mortem examinations. There is to be a circular drive to main entrance with “in” and “out” gates.

The architect of the new Cornelia Hospital building was Walter Andrew, a young architect at just 37, who had a practice in Lower Parkstone.  The Hospital Committee had invited him along with George Augustus Bligh Livesay to to put forward designs for the new hospital.  Livesay would probably have been thought the front runner, both as the more established architect, and because he worked on the hospital at nearby Boscombe. He is now perhaps best known for his early work on St Osmunds Church, Parkstone.  Walter Andrew’s design was the one chosen, however,  although he seemingly had no history of designing any hospitals at that point. But perhaps the fact he was a regular architect for the Canford Estate was a major factor – Lord Wimborne, as the Lord of the Manor,  was after all providing the land and part of the building costs.

Walter Andrew was a well-known character in Poole – he was a local councillor, and was a sportsman of repute – he was a county hockey player, captain of the local cricket team,  he also played for both Dorset CCC and Hampshire CCC. He had perhaps taken advice for his designs from the eminent hospital architect Keith Downes Young, who had earlier advised Lord and Lady Wimborne on the feasibility of rebuilding the existing Cornelia Hospital building in Market Street rather than moving to a new site. Walter Andrew did not charge for his work on the hospital, but then he had plenty of commissions locally from Lord Wimborne, notably on new schools. Andrew, however died from pleurisy only 4 years later while on a trip to Ireland. His junior partner in 1907 was Herbert Kendall, who later started his own practice and became architect to the Salisbury Diocese. Kendall also served many years as Cornelia Hospital’s Honorary Secretary, involved in every aspect of its management. He also took over as the hospital’s consulting architect after Andrew’s death, at a time of frequent developments. In his obituary in 1934 it was said that it was actually Kendall who designed the greater part of the hospital buildings. Either way, the hospital was designed by Walter Andrew’s architectural practice.


Transcript of the newspaper article taken from Poole and Dorset Herald 19 July 1906

For the early sporting exploits of Walter Andrew see the Bournemouth Guardian 14 August 1897


The first woman doctor in Poole?

The people of Poole had to wait longer than many others to be able to consult a female doctor in their town. It was well into the twentieth century that the first ones crop up, although there were 495 women doctors in the whole of England and Wales by 1911. It is also far from clear just who was the first in Poole.

There are, however, two who stand out:

Dr Enid Walters was living in Broadstone in 1911, and the census that year clearly recorded her occupation as Doctor. But Broadstone was then not part of Poole; it wasn’t until 1933 that it was incorporated into the Borough. Also there is no evidence that she actually practised in Poole, or even Broadstone.

Dr Mary Jeremy was definitely a doctor, but was a resident of Bournemouth. However there are reports in the local newspapers from 1909 about her involvement in a professional capacity with the Poole School of Mothers. This was, however, probably a voluntary role.

If both of these women are discounted, then we turn to Dr Ruth Scutt, who was born in Poole in 1892, qualifying as a doctor in 1919. She certainly lived in the town for a while after qualifying, but again it’s not clear she ever practised in Poole. But perhaps she was the first woman doctor born in Poole.

Dr Laura Horne didn’t arrive in Poole until 1922, surely far too late to count as the first? But she did stay in Poole from that time on, did practice as a doctor in the town, and became well known for her contribution to healthcare in Poole.

Dr Emmie Fenwick was another later arrival, coming to Poole in 1924, and then practising from premises in Parkstone Road. She achieved much during the Second World War, and returned to Poole late in life.

History doesn’t have to provide clear answers. What stands out from each of their stories is the remarkable things they achieved as pioneering women doctors.

Enid Margaret Walters was born in Dover in 1882, daughter of a clerical schoolmaster, who took his family to the Isle of Man when he was appointed to King William’s College. He died in post there in 1899, and Enid moved to Nottingham to be Lady Dispenser at the Children’s Hospital. She enrolled at the London School of Medicine for Women, qualifying in 1908. She was briefly in Cheltenham, before moving to Broadstone, where the census records her living with her widowed mother at Foxtons, a large house. However her mother died that year and Enid took up short term medical posts in Hull, at Devon County Asylum and the New Hospital for Women in London, despite still being listed as living in Broadstone. Then in July 1916 she volunteered, along with other women doctors, to join the Royal Army Medical Corps as a civilian doctor and work at hospitals in Malta with the wounded evacuated from the Gallipoli disaster. The next year she joined the Scottish Women’s Hospital group who ran the hospital at Villers-Cotterets, an outpost of the Royamount Abbey Hospital, close to the front line in Normandy. Reports state the surrounding countryside was stripped of trees, trenches lined the roads, and shell holes up to 30 feet deep splattered the fields, villages being reduced to piles of stone. As one of only 3 doctors at the time at Villers-Cotterets, this must have been a terrifying experience. She was eventually sent home, apparently exhausted, in September 1918. Her postwar career included working again in Hull, although strangely still listed in directories as living in Broadstone,  By 1929, finally, there is clear evidence of a local medical post, as an assistant medical officer for Dorset County Council, though unclear where. By 1939 she had retired and died in 1960 living in Wimborne.

Mary Ethel Jeremy was living with her widowed mother in the 1911 Census, listed as a Medical Practitioner. She was born in Dublin in 1865 to an Irish mother and a Welsh father, but in 1901 was living in Surrey after the death of her father. It was in her mid-30s when Mary  took the plunge and enrolled at the London School of Medicine for Women in London, qualifying in 1905. She worked at the Evalina Children’s Hospital in Southwark before taking the huge step of travelling to take up a post at the Memorial Hospital, Ludhiana in India. She was back within a few years, however, as in October 1909  she is recorded as being at a fundraising concert for the Poole Mothers’ Association, and the next year as judging a baby contest at the Association with 2 male doctors. The Mothers’ Association became Poole School for Mothers providing antenatal and child care advice and support for the poorer townsfolk, linked to council-run services, but run as a voluntary agency. It had branches in the Poole districts of Newtown, Hamworthy and Longfleet. In 1915 Mary was still involved, giving a talk to the mothers on diphtheria, and examining the physique of babies at the School; that year she also did similar work in Bournemouth at the Free Church Babies Home. During the First World War Mary was also active in supporting the work of the British hospital at St Malo, and she spent some time working at the Southampton University War Hospital. In 1919 she was awarded the OBE, presumably for her wartime work. She was an active participant in the local branch of the British Medical Association, alongside Dr Evelyn Bond, probably Bournemouth’s first woman doctor. Mary retired to live in Colehill, and died in 1935.

Ruth Mary Scutt was born in Poole on 26th December 1892 to a well-known local family, living at Seldown Towers in Seldown Road.  Her father was a wealthy corn merchant and Ruth was educated at Bournemouth High School and went on to London University. She was a medical student there in 1914 at the London School of Medicine for Women and qualified as a doctor in 1919. She worked as House Physician and Resident Medical Officer at the Westminster Hospital and the Children’s Hospital in Bethnal Green. She was listed as living in Poole up to 1923, but in 1924 she altered her life completely by travelling to India to take up a post there. She married Richard Purssell OBE, a high-ranking official in the Indian Government Telegraph Service and Director of Calcutta Tramways, and returned to England in 1928 with a husband and 2 children. Their address was then St Ann’s Court, Canford Cliffs, Poole. Ruth may not have practised again and is shown as retired in 1939. She died in 1984 living in Guildford.

Laura Katherine Maule Horne may be remembered today primarily as the wife of the town’s Medical Officer of Health, Robert Maule Horne, but should be better known as being the driving force behind the East Dorset Shilling Fund, which raised funds for Cornelia Hospital’s new maternity ward in 1930. She was Welsh, and the sister of Clement Davies, one-time leader of the Liberal Party. She had qualified in 1913, and worked at a war hospital in Edinburgh and then as an Assistant Medical Officer of Health in Burnley. Like Mary Jeremy she worked with local groups in child health, until the Second World War when she became a casualty officer in Poole. She certainly supported her husband’s public health work, and in 1927 actually took over from him for several weeks when he was injured after an accident at work. Poole never had another female Medical Officer of Health, even Acting! She died in Poole in 1967.

Emmie Dorothy Vivian Fenwick was born in 1896 in London, daughter of Dr Samuel Fenwick. She followed him into the medical profession, studying at the London School of Medicine for Women and qualifying in 1922. She held posts at St Mary’s Hospital in London. By 1924 she was living at 94 Parkstone Road, Poole, listed as surgeon and physician, which means she was in practice. By 1930 she was back in London. However in 1941 she joined the RAF Medical Branch, and by the end of the Second World War had been promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader, and was awarded the MBE.  After the war she worked for London County Council, but returned later to Poole, as she died in the town in 1972.

These were the first lady doctors in Poole, very few in number. It wasn’t until the Second World War when the town’s main hospital, the Cornelia, employed female medical staff. The first was probably Miss M. Ostererreicher, a Czechoslovak citizen appointed as House Physician in 1939. The same year the hospital took on Dr Laura Horne, Dr Katherine Andrew, and Dr Hilda de Peyer as Casualty Officers.

Today of course the gender composition of doctors in the country is near parity, and female medical students have outnumbered males. The early decades of the twentieth century saw women only very slowly enter Poole’s medical profession. However, if the identity of the first lady doctor is unclear, perhaps it is better just to contemplate their stories.


Written to coincide with Poole Museum’s exhibition Her Story: Tales of Poole Women Past and Present.

Why hasn’t Dorset got a hospital? The question in 1825.

In 1825 Poole doctor Joseph Timewell was campaigning in the local newspapers  about what he saw as Dorset’s deficiency compared with neighbouring counties – the lack of a hospital in any of the county’s towns.

This is a transcript of what he wrote:

Proposal for Establishing a Hospital and Infirmary in Dorset

To be supported by Voluntary Contribution

Poole, Dorset. June 7, 1825

To the Nobility, Gentry, Clergy and Inhabitants generally of the County of Dorset

My Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen,

The well-known respectability and liberality of the people of Dorsetshire stimulates my hope that you, my Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen, will condescend to excuse the liberty I am about to take in addressing you upon a subject of vital importance: I allude to the want of a PUBLIC HOSPITAL or INFIRMARY in this highly respectable county. Doubtless you are aware that in the adjoining counties of Somerset, Devon, Hants and Wilts, there are institutions in almost every large and respectable town. For instance, in Bath, Bristol, Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth, Salisbury, Bridgwater, Southampton, Portsmouth, and even the small town of Wiveliscombe, to the infinite honor (sic) and credit of the inhabitants of these towns, there are institutions where the industrious labourer and his family are supplied with medical and surgical assistance gratuitously; and when I acquaint you, my Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen, that I have assisted and sometimes performed almost all the great operations of surgery – not cataract, aneurism, amputation, or stone excepted – in Country Hospitals, independent of 6 years’ practice in the Metropolises of England and France, and have had the pleasure of witnessing the superior success even over London practice (arising, no doubt, from the crowded state of the hospitals in the Metropolis) in the treatment of compound fractures and the savings of limbs, which is almost next to impossible to do in a London hospital – indeed it is hardly ever attempted – you cannot but be convinced of the utility of such an institution in the county of Dorset.

The perfectly disinterested individual who now has the honor of addressing you, my Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen, has never spent but three years of his professional life, but has either had access or belonged to some public institution, and these three years have been spent in the county of Dorset. During his residence abroad with that truly excellent nobleman the late Right Hon. Lord Somerville, he could always find time to attend the hospitals, especially in Paris and Genoa. In the latter magnificent city, Count O. de Bertie, physician in ordinary to his late Majesty the King of Sardinia, conducted him over eight establishments in one week, (one containing 1,000 patients). Contrasting, therefore, Dorset with the counties surrounding, indeed, almost all other counties in England, and combining them with Catholic public charities, it appears singular no hospital should ever have been established in the county. Should you, my Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen, turn your thoughts to the subject, I beg you will do me the honor to command me in any situation I can fill, from the professor to the mortar-boy; and should I be so fortunate as to be ultimately the humble individual in accomplishing my wishes in establishing a hospital or infirmary in Dorsetshire, under your auspices, it will be the proudest act of my life.

Before I thus ventured before the public on this most important subject, I consulted a gentleman of the highest respectability in the county, who gave me great encouragement to hope I may ultimately be successful; and he agrees with me, that unless there are abundant subscriptions, it would be better not to build at first, but to rent some appropriate building for the purpose. For my personal and professional character I beg leave to refer you, my Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen, to Sir Astley Cooper, Bart., Benjamin Travers, Esq. FRS, my Lords Somerville and Harcourt, the Countess of Harcourt, Sir T B Lethbridge, Bart., and Wm. Dickinson, Esq. MP for the county of Somerset.

I have the honour to be, my Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen, your obedient humble servant,

Joseph Timewell, Surgeon and Oculist


Joseph Timewell practised in Poole for probably just a few years from 1822. He always proclaimed himself as a surgeon and oculist, which was the term for what is now an ophthalmologist.  He was clearly a self-publicist, which perhaps was not unusual for doctors at a time when they needed to be seen to be worth the fees they charged. He seems to have ensured the newspapers heard about his successful treatments, and that he treated charity cases gratis. Clearly he needed wealthy patients for his practice, and he charged them 1 guinea for his work as an oculist.

There is little information yet traced which describes his career. He was in London in 1819 and 1820, when he was said to be treating the homeless poor and those in debtors’ prisons. He certainly practised on the Continent for some years, as he states in the article. He is now remembered (faintly) for a pamphlet Observations on the cow pox : the causes of the failure of vaccination, and modes of prevention, first published in London in 1820, then in a 2nd edition published in Poole by Moore and Sydenham in 1825. He laid claim to being in contact with Dr Edward Jenner about vaccination (although apparently not Dorset’s own Benjamin Jesty). His flair for self-publicity included informing the local press in 1822 that he had written to the Duke of York about the need to educate all soldiers in how to apply pressure to arterial wounds during battle, and a letter to an MP suggesting the bodies of suicide victims should be used for dissections by local surgeons.

His place in Poole’s health history – and in that for Dorset as a whole – is based on this public declaration of the need for a local hospital for the people of Dorset, published in local newspapers and possibly as a handbill. He was correct that hospitals had previously been established in Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon, although they were mostly in cities rather than towns. His plea had no dramatic impact. Weymouth was the first Dorset town to have a hospital, in 1835, followed by the Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester in 1841. Poole did not get a hospital until 1889, even later than smaller towns such as Bridport and Sherborne.  Hospitals were not set up by public bodies; to found a hospital a town needed a local public-spirited and wealthy individual – the people Timewell was addressing.

But he apparently didn’t stay long in Poole to find out if his plea would have any effect: by 1827 he was advertising his services in Chester, including the publication of a 3rd edition of his work on vaccination, plus a new work on purulent “ophthalmic” (ophthalmia?).

Joseph Timewell was only a minor medical figure in his time, and may not have been the first to promote the notion of a Dorset hospital. However his flair for self-publicity and his readiness to use the names of his patrons made his campaign stand out, and be worth recalling in Dorset’s health history.

The transcript was taken from the Salisbury and Winchester Journal June 20th 1825.

Timewell’s pamphlet on vaccination is available online at the Wellcome Library.

Harriet Raven: the first hospital matron in Poole

Aged just 29, a widow and a single mother, Harriet Raven probably doesn’t fit the stereotype of a Florence Nightingale-style Victorian hospital matron. However in 1889 this was the young nurse recruited to be the first matron at the Cornelia Cottage Hospital in Poole.

The hospital had opened during 1889 without any fanfare, meaning no date is recorded.  However on 4th July that year a newspaper report described the hospital, recording the staff as 2 nurses and a Mrs Raven –  the kind and obliging matron of the Hospital.

Harriet Raven was not local to Poole – she was born in 1860 in Fillongley, near Coventry in Warwickshire, the daughter of farmer Charles Gilbert and his wife Elizabeth. Her future had looked as if it was to be on a farm when she married Henry Raven, a farm labourer, in July 1880. The 1881 census shows them living in the cottage next door to Harriet’s parents at Holly Fast Farm, with a baby son, Charles. But by November that year, Harriet was a widow. Henry had been killed in an accident while driving a heavily-laden wagon, reportedly drunk at the time.

Following her bereavement, it is not clear how Harriet made the move from farm girl to hospital nurse. Whilst it may have been natural to move away from the scene of the tragedy, she did have a son to raise. However by 1883 she was listed as on the staff of Tamworth Cottage Hospital, and in April 1884 Nurse Raven was reported giving evidence at an inquest. She presumably started as a probationer and was then accepted on the nursing staff. She then went on to make such a good impression and forge the reputation that persuaded Lady Wimborne that Harriet was the right nurse to be the Matron at the new hospital she was setting up in Poole. The Tamworth Herald reported:

The hospital staff suffered a great loss by the appointment of Nurse Raven to be matron of the Poole Cottage Hospital. Much as we regretted the loss of her faithful services, we could only congratulate her on gaining so well deserved a step in her profession.

Harriet was now a hospital matron, still only 29 years of age, and with just 6 years’ experience. But young Charles was only 9 years old – did she bring him with her to Poole? She may well have left him in the care of her parents back in Warwickshire – certainly the 1891 census shows Charles with them at Holly Fast Farm. In which case how daunting for her to be in charge of Poole’s hospital at so young an age and separated from her young son.

Despite her limited experience at Tamworth, Harriet now faced the practicalities of establishing the new hospital. Lady Wimborne funded it, but would hardly be involved in its running. There was no resident doctor – the medical superintendent, Dr Robinson, was basically a GP with responsibilities to the local Friendly Medical Society. So probably Harriet had to organise equipping the hospital and setting out the routines on the wards. She must have been in charge of obtaining and managing supplies of medicines and dressings, and in the voluntary hospital system she probably had to make decisions about who was eligible to be admitted. Then there was the 24-hour patient care, assisted by just 2 nurses, one of whom was basically a district nurse. It was not in a purpose-built hospital either, with 14 beds in 3 small wards split over several floors. Further, her role was by no means confined to working on the wards of the hospital in West Street. Her name crops up in the local newspapers in attending the homes of some of the poorer families to see the sick, and dealing with casualties of accidents.

But the challenges continued to confront her. After just a year or so in post, the West Street building was recognised as unsuitable for a cottage hospital. By May 1890 Lord Wimborne had bought the nearby mansion known as Sir Peter Thompson House in Market Street. This was an eighteenth century house in a grand style, now a listed building. It was up and running as a hospital within months – again no ceremonial opening is reported. This was a very different home for the hospital.

SirPT House 7096578137_74a9500cb7_z
The hospital in Sir Peter Thompson house a few years later.

Having organised things as best she could in West Street, Harriet  now had to work out how to run a hospital in what was a grand house, how to turn its large rooms into hospital wards. There were now 18 beds to manage. The 1891 census shows Harriet as matron, plus 2 nurses, a housemaid, a cook and a porter living in.

The respect for Harriet as Matron is shown by the tributes on her birthday that year. Strangely it was the Tamworth Herald again that reported it:

 A Dorset contemporary says that Mrs H Raven, the respected Matron of the Cornelia Hospital, Poole Dorset, and who for many years was associated with the nursing staff of the Tamworth Cottage Hospital, has been the recipient of a handsome marble timepiece, a 5 o’clock tea service and a pair of valuable antique vases, presented to her by Dr McNicoll, on behalf of the medical and nursing staff, and past and present patients of the Poole Hospital, as a mark of respect and esteem. The presentation was made to Mrs Raven on her birthday, amidst many manifestations of goodwill and well wishes for a long and useful life in connection with the Institution, now so very admirably managed under her able superintendence.

But by the end of 1893 Harriet had resigned and left Poole.

The Nursing Record journal recorded in January 1894 that she had been appointed matron of the new cottage hospital in Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire. Harriet had returned to the Midlands, and presumably had Charles with her again. After her work in setting up 2 hospital buildings in Poole, she was well-suited to doing the same in Ashby. H Raven AshbyThe hospital there was opened in March 1894, and this time there was a grand opening. Harriet is recorded as being at the ceremony as its matron. But again, as in Poole, this initial building was soon superseded by another, presumably better one, which opened in March 1898. However Harriet is no longer mentioned as matron, so perhaps she had left by then.

Her life certainly changed in Ashby, as she met and married a local butcher in the town, William Walker. They did not stay in Ashby, as by 1900 they were living in Croydon, with Harriet working as a Sick Nurse. Perhaps this move was linked to another tragedy, as her son Charles died in 1900, aged only 19. Harriet started a new family in Croydon with William, though again not without great heartache. Two children died in infancy, before the birth of William and Edith, who are seen in the 1911 census aged 7 and 5 respectively. Harriet was now working as a hospital nurse again. Unfortunately nothing further has been found on Harriet, although the death of a Harriet Walker in 1937 in Coventry is quite likely to be her.

Her personal life was anything but smooth, marked by frequent grief. But she certainly achieved much as a hospital matron. Her role in setting up Poole’s first hospital is well worth recording – perhaps the plaque in Ashby should be matched by one in Poole?

Sources; newspaper records, census reports, nursing directories and journals. Regrettably no image of Harriet has yet been traced.

Thomas Salter: Poole’s first doctor in print?

George Langdown, sailor, 35 years of age, of a sanguinous temperament, in March 1813, waded up to his waist in the water, to unmoor a boat made fast to a post at a considerable distance from the shore. It was in the early part of the day; and, notwithstanding he felt cold and uncomfortable, he did not change his clothes.  In a day or two he complained of pain in the head…..

Thus starts not a gothic novel, but quite possibly the first contribution to a medical journal to emanate from Poole:

Salter, T. Case of disease in the brain, with pathological observations. Edinb Med & Surg J 1815 Oct (xlv) 469-77.

The author, Thomas Salter, was a surgeon with a practice in the High Street. He was born in Somerset, though from a family with Dorset connections. He had arrived in Poole to be apprenticed to Thomas Bell, and after the requisite training at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, attending lectures in anatomy and surgery, he returned to Poole and became a partner to Bell. To cement the partnership further, he married Bell’s daughter Eliza. Salter continued to practice in Poole until the very day of his death in 1856, when he died visiting a patient on a cold February night.. His Lancet obituary colourfully described it as Death found him where life had long held him – at the laborious discharge of his duty.

Salter had become a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1810 and was then elected as an Honorary Fellow (FRCS) in 1844. He was a well-known citizen and magistrate in Poole and developed a reputation beyond the town, not only as a doctor, but also as a geologist and botanist – he was also a Fellow of the Linnaean Society (FLS).  His 3 sons followed him into medical practice, one dying tragically at sea but two acquiring prominence in the profession. He also trained, by taking into his practice, several other future doctors. His life and career have featured on the Poole High Street blog as well as the Royal College’s Lives of the Fellows.

Today articles written, or at least co-authored, by medical and clinical professionals based in Poole appear almost every month. Publishing has become part of the normal career path, with far more journals to write for, more research to write up, and the need for an impressive CV.  But there had to be a very first article from Poole: was Thomas Salter’s article that first one?

At the time of publication in 1815 the Lancet and the British Medical Journal were not yet in existence. The Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal had been founded in 1805. Whilst there were some medical journals in existence by then, in the main doctors tended to correspond directly with colleagues about interesting cases or new procedures, presenting at local meetings – possibly paying for publication of a leaflet to allow a wider audience for their talk. It is quite likely that doctors and apothecaries from Poole had published well before 1815, but in the form of a treatise or pamphlet.

Salter’s journal article is clearly very different from modern literature. It is, as most such contemporary articles were, a case report, describing in some detail the clinical condition of Mr Langdown while under Salter’s care. He admits that the patient decided to leave his care and eventually, needing “parochial assistance” came under the care of a fellow practitioner. After Langdown’s death, Salter was allowed to dissect the brain, and much of the article describes in detail his pathological findings. There is also report of another similar case known to Dr Salter, and he makes reference to two other items of medical literature. Salter makes no attempt to put a definite diagnosis to the condition. He explains the decision to publish as due to the need to accurately record all instances of organic derangement affecting the brain, and the dearth of any other similar cases recorded in the literature. It should be said that Salter had a reputation of having read all important medical works.  Patient confidentiality seems completely missing when the patient is named at the very start of the article, but in fact the second patient is only referred to as Mrs -.

Thomas Salter went on to publish at least another 10 journal articles. Topics covered included carditis, puerperal mania, breast cancer, use of arsenic in cure of chorea, and delirium. He was, however, not the most prolific medical author from Poole in the first half of the nineteenth century. John Wickens West seemed to be in competition with him, achieving 14 publications in that period. He practised, appropriately, in West Street, and then later in New Street. As with Salter, nearly all the articles are case reports. The two of them actually argued in print over the diagnosis of cholera. The only other Poole doctor in print 1800-1850 seems to be Alfred Crabbe. There were in total no more than 25 physicians, surgeons and apothecaries practising in Poole during the whole of the first half of the nineteen century, with no hospitals in the town.

Thomas Salter’s reputation is secure as a major figure in Poole during the first half of the nineteenth century, and as a scientist of some import. His stature is shown in the obituaries which appeared not only in local newspapers, but also in the Lancet. His funeral was widely reported, recording that hundreds of townspeople lined the streets, with shops closed as the procession passed.

Perhaps he has this further credit to his name of producing Poole’s first contribution to world medical journal literature.

Obituary: Lancet 1856 i 257.

The 1815 article can be found online via search engines.


Alderney Manor Sanatorium: Poole’s castellated bungalow for tuberculosis patients

During the first half of the twentieth century, when tuberculosis was still a disease feared by all, facilities in Poole for sufferers included the exotically named Rizwan nursing home in Broadstone and Nirvana in Parkstone. The King Street Dispensary on the other hand had a much more mundane name.  Dr Johns’ Sanatorium was very literally named – a sanatorium run by a Dr Johns. But this institution had another and much grander name – Alderney Manor Sanatorium. This grander name matched the sort of patients that the sanatorium was aimed at, which the always-informative Historic Hospitals website has featured previously as huntin-shootin-and-fishin-at-an-upper-crust-prefab-sanatorium.

Dr Johns was Walter Denton Johns, born in Norfolk and educated professionally in Durham. He was one of several doctors drawn to the Bournemouth area in the later years of Victoria’s reign to open sanatoria for tuberculosis sufferers. Whilst tuberculosis was more prevalent in the poor, they were little provided for in terms of hospital treatment. Poole’s Medical Officer of Health had unsuccessfully proposed that a small sanatorium should be provided at Baiter Hospital for local residents, but generally the poorer residents received little more than advice. But all classes were vulnerable to the condition; those who could afford to sought relief in seaside areas like Bournemouth or Torquay, or in Germany or Switzerland  where the air was dryer. Bournemouth was quick to highlight its climate for treatment of advanced cases of pulmonary tuberculosis, particularly with the open-air treatment methods. Advertisements in the British Medical Journal on June 30 1906 include several sanatoria in Bournemouth, plus just one in Poole – Dr Johns’ Sanatorium.  Less well-off sufferers from across the country were still advised to visit the south coast if possible, to obtain the advantages of the climate, and some certainly reached Poole,  as the Medical Officer of Health report in 1902 made the point that  lodgings for them were cheaper in the Parkstone and Branksome districts than staying in Bournemouth. By 1896 Dr Johns was running a sanatorium in Southbourne, Bournemouth, described as being for the upper middle classes. Perhaps he wasn’t successful enough in that location, or perhaps Dr Johns saw the potential in opening a sanatorium for the wealthy in open country rather than the seaside. He identified a location in north Poole, more inland and on higher ground, but subject still to the prevailing south westerlies. This offered him the chance to sell it to potential patients as a country estate-style of treatment centre.

The site was Alderney Manor, off Ringwood Road, in what was then variously named as part of Newtown, Branksome or Parkstone. Now it is the Poole district of Alderney, very much made up of suburban streets, but at that time a mix of woodland and heathland, part of the Canford Estate.

‘Alderney Cottage as shown on Ordnance Survey map published 1899. Alderney Manor not named on this or other maps. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

It was late in 1900 when Dr Johns began negotiations with Lord Wimborne to take a lease on the land, which was almost directly across the road from Alderney Isolation Hospital – an infectious diseases hospital that did not treat tuberculosis cases. A previous tenant of Alderney Manor had been an eccentric MP -Grantley Fitzhardinge Berkeley, who described it as a shooting lodge. The tenant who came after Dr Johns was the coincidentally-named Augustus John, the painter. He set up home at Alderney Manor in 1911, and his bohemian lifestyle is fortunately interesting enough for several biographies, which include descriptions of Alderney Manor. These reveal that it consisted of 2 buildings, the larger of which was actually known as Alderney Cottage. Some distance apart, hidden by rhododendron bushes, was the Alderney Manor building itself. This was clearly very distinctive, described as… a curious low pink building, an elongated bungalow with Gothick windows and a fantastic castellated parapet… It looked at first sight, like a cardboard castle from some Hans Andersen story – a fragile fortress… alderney Manor (2)The smooth stucco surface, once a proud red, had faded leaving patches here and there of a cardboard colour…With its single row of windows pointing loftily nowhere, the house seemed embarrassed by its own absurdity.¹

Dr John
Advertisement for the sanatorium – with thanks to Dai and Katie at Poole Museum History Centre

The lease signed by Dr Johns in December 1900 was for 21 years at a yearly rent of £75; the purpose listed to carry on an open-air sanatorium for the treatment of consumptive patients.  The major feature of Dr Johns’ Sanatorium was open air treatment –  based on the principles of treatment begun by Dr Otto Walter of Nordrach in Germany, whereby patients were exposed to fresh air at all times, in all weathers, were fed an extensive diet, and submitted to an exercise regime determined by the patient’s temperature.  Dr Johns’ claim was that he offered the “hut system”. He placed 11 double sleeping huts around the site for the male patients to live in, all year round. They measured 24 foot by 12 foot, and were wooden but with corrugated iron cladding,  heated with anthracite stoves.

Ald Manor
The huts at Alderney Manor. From Walters: Sanatoria for Consumptives 3ed.

There were 3 double day huts for female patients, but they slept in bedrooms in the Cottage – presumably with permanently open windows to achieve the same effect. The huts were aligned in rows with clear space between them. There was also a sun garden, with what were called ‘sun baths’. A lake is also shown on maps of the Manor. Meals were taken in the Manor building. The Manor also consisted of consulting rooms, administration area, kitchens, and staff accommodation.

The lease specifically granted Dr Johns “the shooting and sporting rights” over the land. The country around within the Canford Estate was an area used by Lord Wimborne for country pursuits, with shooting parties and hunting expeditions. The facilities on offer at Dr Johns’ Sanatorium were described in a contemporary work: For amusements, croquet, sea-bathing (under medical supervision), fishing on Lord Wimborne’s preserves, and rabbit shooting on the estate itself, are provided. A bandstand has been erected for occasional concerts. A local land agent gives lessons by arrangement in the management of landed property”.²  The Manor also featured a wine cellar, probably not common in infectious disease hospitals.  The advertisement in the British Medical Journal had described it as in an ideal spot, specifically built for the cure on the Hut system, with sun bathing all the year round. Do the current residents of Alderney realise they can sun bathe all year round?

The sanatorium opened at the beginning of 1901 and closed during 1911. As no other patient lists seem to have survived, it is convenient that the censuses taken in 1901 and 1911 make it possible to obtain some idea about Dr Johns’ success in admitting wealthy patients. The census taken on 31st March 1901 was literally a few weeks after the opening, and it reveals just 11 patients against its 25 patient capacity. Of these, 7 are said to be living by their own means ie had no work as such, and therefore quite likely to be well off. The others were listed as a doctor, railway manager, timber merchant and inspector of schools – certainly middle class patients, though not necessarily wealthy. The census on 2nd April 1911 was just before the closure, and there were now only 4 patients. The 2 men listed were a mining engineer and schoolmaster; one of the women has no work listed, but the other is a housekeeper, which may be a mistake, or a special case. It seems rather unlikely that such people needed advice on the management of landed property! Perhaps in the intervening years the patient profile had been wealthier. None of the patients listed were local. Their ages show the oldest patient was 50, but most were in their 20s and 30s.

A list of the staffing of the Sanatorium shows 1 doctor, 6 nurses, 1 secretary, 1 cook, 5 maids, 3 general staff, 1 gardener and 4 hut cleaners. ³  Just the one doctor was not perhaps the original plan, as at an early stage there had also been an Assistant Medical Officer.  Dr Egbert Coleby Morland listed that role at Alderney Manor in his qualifications for writing a prize essay in 1902 on the design of sanatoria. Dr Moreland later achieved the more prestigious position of Editor of the Lancet medical journal. The 1901 census shows a Matron, Sarah Payne, and one nurse living in, and Matron Laura Purdon but no other nurses in the 1911 census. An extra staff member was the dairyman sought in 1907, to look after 8 cows.

The lease was given up in 1911, when Augustus John was able to take it on (at a lower rent) the pink castellated bungalow and turn the former sanatorium into a bohemian home for his entourage, lady friends and guests. Did they know its previous use? Dr Johns had to make good the premises and take away all the huts and sun baths. By December of that year he was advertising for sale a billiard table, a piano, and several anthracite stoves probably from Alderney Manor. Presumably the sanatorium had not been a long-lasting success.

Dr Johns’ future career is somewhat unclear. He certainly stayed in the area and is listed as living in nearby Longham at Lawn Farm by 1920. After 1911 he may have opened a sanatorium at Deep Dene in West Howe, just a short distance from Alderney Manor. The Red Triangle Farm Colony for tuberculous soldiers from World War One was opened in 1917 there, named as the site of a sanatorium. and one source names Dr Johns as being involved in that venture, although other sources fail to include him in lists of staff. Whether Lawn Farm was a sanatorium of any kind is not known. He died on 11th August 1938, living in Hermitage Road, Parkstone. His wife Ellen had died in 1905 living at Alderney Manor, and they are both buried at St John the Baptist Church, Moordown. Unfortunately no image has yet been found of Dr Johns.


¹Michael Holroyd: Augusts John. Chatto & Windus 1996.

²Frederick Rufenacht Walters: Sanatoria for consumptives 3ed. 1905.  Available at the Wellcome Library.

³ Particulars of Dr Johns’ sanatorium at Alderney Manor. May 1902. D-WIM/JO-877E at Dorset History Centre.

In Search of Alderney Manor is an excellent comprehensive history of Alderney Manor itself on the Poole Museum Society blog.

Other sources: local newspapers, online censuses, information at Poole History Centre  and Dorset History Centre.


Medical Officer of Health for Poole: the post and the postholders

                                                               1873-77 Heber Dowling Ellis

                                                               1877-80 Herbert Alfred Lawton

                                                               1880-86 Frederick Edwin Vernede

                                                               1886-1903 Herbert Alfred Lawton

                                                               1903-13 George Hedwig Carrington

                                                               1914-15 Austin Threlfall Nankivell

                                                               1915-18 William Gosse (Acting)

                                                               1918-21 Austin Threlfall Nankivell

                                                               1921-42 Robert Maule Horne

                                                               1942-52 George Chesney

                                                               1952-74 James Hutton



For 101 years the Medical Officer of Health for Poole was responsible for improving the public health of the town. These were the people who brought Poole forward from the Victorian days of filthy and smelly streets and alleys, slum housing, frequent epidemics, overflowing cesspits, high infant mortality, no maternity services, no health promotion, no public immunisation campaigns, no isolation hospitals.

Just 8 men held the post in 101 years, plus one as Acting Medical Officer of Health during the war service of Dr Nankivell. No women – although there was a period of some weeks when the postholder was off sick and his doctor wife stood in for him.

The first ones were part-time, working mainly as GPs. Their time as Medical Officer of Health (MoH) would not have been a prestigious appointment – working for the Council afforded much less social prestige than meeting the medical needs of the town’s better-off citizens. Eventually it became a career post, a head of department in local government with a large staff of qualified people in specialised positions.

The post was created by the 1872 Public Health Act, which decreed that municipal boroughs had to appoint both an MoH and an inspector of nuisances. In rural districts the responsibility was placed on the Board of Guardians to appoint an MoH. The profession of public health doctor was thus created. The MoH did not have to be a full-time appointment and In common with most councils, Poole’s first MoHs continued working as GPs. The Local Government Board, forerunner to a Ministry of Health, had offered to subsidise half the salary but with the proviso it had a say in what the MoH actually did. Poole refused this offer, thereby keeping control of the work and, importantly, the expenditure. The council’s expectations about the post were certainly low – in 1873 it laid down that the first MoH need only confer with the Council “from time to time.” No specific qualifications were required beyond being medically qualified, although later the Diploma in Public Health was necessary. Poole initially offered a salary of £60 pa on a 3 year contract.  Most appointments at the time had similar time-limited contracts, but £60 was probably above the average paid.IMG_20170425_104438

In the earlier years the management of public health was in the hands of Urban and Rural Sanitary Authorities. But for Poole this meant merely that the Council was the Sanitary Authority, operating with a separate Sanitary Committee. This committee thus dealt with all the environmental issues that were previously discussed in the full council meetings. Strangely the Fire Brigade was included in the coverage.

The MoH’s patient was not the person but the whole community. The precise duties laid down in detail by the Local Government Board in 1872 numbered 18 separate tasks. These together required the postholder to inspect and report on the local public health, look into the occurrence of epidemic diseases such as cholera and typhoid, and to advise the council on how to deal with them. An annual report was to be produced for the council and the Board, and made public.Ann Rep MoH IMG_20170425_103026 The Public Health Act of 1875 then set the agenda for the sanitary code to be followed. Sanitary is not a word much used in that context today, but then it meant the supply and quality of water, dealing with drains and sewerage and nuisances, food inspection, street cleaning, housing inspections, and regulation of markets and slaughterhouses. These were all matters of great relevance to Poole’s public health, but in many ways were also contentious issues in that they led the MoH into disputes with many local residents and businessmen – landlords, shopkeepers, publicans, factory owners and others. These were influential people, often councillors. The MoH across the country was at risk of removal from office if he upset too many of the wrong people – security of tenure in his post was always a matter of concern. This situation led to one of Poole’s early MoHs not having his contract renewed, being accused by some of having done the job “too well”. Scrutiny by the Local Government Board also had its perils – on several occasions inspectors were sent from London to review how well they performed.

But in dealing with infectious diseases the MoH was at least seen as an expert voice. Poole was no stranger to epidemics and as a port was always at risk of disease being imported into the town. The creation of hospitals to cope with infectious disease was quickly seen as the most important step an MoH could take. In 1872 Poole had no hospital of any kind. The first postholder, Dr Ellis, was able to deal with that, after some false starts, and the isolation hospital at Baiter resulted. Later Alderney Isolation Hospital was added to his responsibilities, having been set up by the Rural Sanitary Authority for Kinson. It was only in relation to the isolation hospitals that the MoH kept direct clinical contact with individual patients.

The extra responsibility that port towns faced was recognised in the creation of Port Sanitary Authorities, with their own MoH. Poole was offered by the Local Government Board the opportunity to be the Sanitary Authority for Poole harbour, which it accepted. Poole’s MoH was then given the extra responsibility for all port health matters, with a small salary of its own to add to his total earnings. But these were still separate posts, with separate contracts.  In fact, as well as being MoH and port MoH, the postholder was also employed as School Medical Officer for the borough – 3 jobs in one, each with a separate salary.

Over time, the duties changed and the MoH post developed, requiring more staff and evolving into a big department of the council. Those staff eventually included such as laboratory staff, veterinary inspectors, community dentists, health visitors and midwives. School health became a major responsibility, and occupied a large part of the annual report. The list of MoHs above are those doctors appointed by the Borough of Poole, but there were other MoHs with responsibilities in what is now Poole. Branksome Urban District Council had its own MoH during its short existence at the turn of the twentieth century, having itself absorbed part of Kinson Urban Sanitary Authority.  Poole Rural Sanitary Authority was responsible for those areas covered by the Poole Board of Guardians outside the town itself, including Canford Magna and the Lytchetts. The medical officer for the workhouse was the first MoH, but as time went on, there were medical officers for different parts of the area, with an MoH in overall charge for the rural districts. One of these, William Gardner Robinson, held the post for nearly 30 years.

In 1974 there was a reorganisation of both local government and the NHS, with a split between personal health and environmental health. The MoH was replaced by the community physician, who was employed in the NHS and not local government. Meanwhile Poole Council now had an Environmental Health Department, which included a responsibility for port health matters. More recently further changes have seen public health return to local government, with Directors of Public Health as  successors to MoHs.

The individual doctors who served as MoH, whether the early GP part-timers or the later career public health specialists, played a huge part in improving the health of Poole for its residents. Their annual reports in themselves serve as detailed histories of Poole’s health record since 1873, with valuable epidemiological statistics. The personal biographies of each MoH, and the events of their  time in office, are worthy of recording – from the light-hearted warning of the health perils of spring cleaning to the sad story of the one struck off; from the member of the Dutch aristocratic family to the proud Scot who was Chieftain of the Dorset Caledonian Society; from the expert on diphtheria immunisation to the one on oyster fisheries. It is planned to tell all their stories in future posts.


Recalling the medical officer of health / Sidney Chave. King’s Fund, 2000.
Poole Borough Corportation. Minutes of council (Public Health Act) 1872-85. DCL-PL/B/1/3/1. Accessed at Dorset History Centre.
Contemporary newspaper reports and directories. Accessed at Poole History Centre.
Annual Reports of the Medical Officer of Health, Poole. Accessed at Poole History Centre.