Monday, 2 July 2018

Wembley’s hospitals and the NHS 70th Birthday

Guest blog by Philip Grant

July 5th 2018 sees the 70th anniversary of the founding of the National Health Service, and there will be a community tea party in Wembley’s Yellow Pavilion the following day (Friday 6th July, from 1pm to 4pm) to celebrate the event:-

But what medical facilities did the ordinary folk of Wembley have before the NHS was set up, and who provided these? I was invited to provide some “local history” information for this NHS70 event, and I would like to share some of it with “Wembley Matters” readers here.

Ever since Tudor times (after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries who had often provided some health care to the areas around them) the Church of England parishes were expected to provide care to poor people within their district. Every year each parish appointed two or three local men to serve as Overseers of the Poor, raising money to meet the costs of providing “relief” and (if they were lucky) some basic medical care.

Most of Wembley was in the Harrow parish, but in the 1840’s two spinster sisters, Anne and Francis Copland, who had inherited their father’s estate at what is now Barham Park, campaigned for Wembley and Sudbury to be made a separate parish, and paid to have St John’s Church built in Harrow Road, not far from their home. They were great philanthropists, providing money for a school, and a workmens hall (including a small library).

Anne Copland, c.1860

In 1871 (the year before she died) Anne Copland gave money to build and endow a Village Hospital. The site is now Wilkinsons, in Wembley High Road, near the junction with Park Lane.

Charles Goddard, 

Unfortunately, Anne had said that only the interest (at 4%) from the investments she had given the hospital could be used to fund its running costs, and the hospital had to stop taking inpatients in 1883. After that, the building became a doctor’s house, at which the sick could be seen, and given medicines from a dispensary.

The doctor living in the former cottage hospital, Charles Goddard, became Wembleys first Medical Officer of Health, when it was made a separate District Council in 1895. He held that post for around forty years, and in 1924 he called a public meeting to propose that a new hospital be built. There was a lot of support from local people, and Titus Barham (who owned the Express Dairy Company, and lived at Sudbury Park, which had been the home of the Copland sisters) donated land at Chaplin Road, which was part of his own dairy farm, as a site for the new Wembley Hospital. Barham also donated £2,000 towards the cost of building it, and he and his wife Florence were active in organising fund-raising events for the project as well.

The foundation stone for the hospital was laid in October 1926, a Board of Management for the hospital was set up, and the new hospital was opened on 2 June 1928 by the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who became the Queen Mother when their daughter succeeded to the throne in 1952).

Wembley Hospital, around 1950.

When Titus Barham, who had been the hospitals president, died in 1937, he left a further £20,000 to Wembley Hospital in his will. But as a charity (a bit like St Lukes Hospice today), it needed to regularly raise money from other sources. One of the ways this was done was by holding an annual hospital carnival week, with a Carnival Queen, street parade and various fundraising events. Another important source of funds was a “hospital savings scheme”, where by paying contributions of sixpence a month (made by 20,000 of the 90,000 residents in Wembley and Kingsbury in the late 1930’s) local people were entitled to free treatment in the “public wards”.

The Anne Copland Ward at Wembley Hospital, around 1950.

When the NHS was set up in 1948, Wembley Hospital was absorbed into this new service, but although its management had changed, it still provided the same type of care to its patients. Like many other hospitals, as well as training local young women as nurses (under the supervision of the Matron), Wembley also benefitted from some who came from the Caribbean (another 70th Anniversary! – LINK
Christmas time in the Children’s Ward, Wembley Hospital, 1950’s

Wembley Hospital’s role diminished over time, especially after the new District Hospital at Northwick Park was built in the late 1960’s, but its site in Chaplin Road is still providing a range of health services for local people (me included!) as the Wembley Centre for Health and Care. So, Happy 70th birthday NHS, and thank you.

Philip Grant

All images are  from the Wembley History Society Collection at Brent Archives.



Paul Lorber said...

Thank you Phil for reminding local people about local history and tge important contribution made by the Copland and Barham families. It seems sad that as you walk around Barham Park (currently so badly neglected by Brent Council) there is no information about the two local families - Copland and Barhams - whose home it was for around 136 years from 1801 until 1937 and to whose generosity we owe so much. We at Barham Community Library are keen to provide some lasting memorials and information boards about the local history and the people who contributed so much of it.

Philip Grant said...

Dear Paul,

Thanks for your comment.

I agree that our local history is often overlooked by the Council, who sometimes even seem to forget that they have a Museum and Archives hidden away at Willesden Green Library (I recently dealt with an email enquiry to Wembley History Society from an employee at the Civic Centre, who could have asked "in house" for the information!).

I am currently pressing to get some local history information panels included in the refurbishment of Kingsbury Road (I did suggest this in a consultation in March 2017, but my suggestion, and offer of free help to design the panels, appeared to have gone unnoticed).

Wembley History Society has been pushing since April for the tile murals on the walls of the Bobby Moore Bridge subway at Wembley Park to be put back on public display, as part of the Olympic Way public realm improvements, but so far without any substantive response from Brent's Chief Executive, its Regeneration Lead Member, or Quintain.

I wish you luck with Barham Community Library's efforts to get a lasting memotial and information boards about the Copland and Barham families in Barham Park (named after Titus Barham, because he gave it to the people of Wembley in his will!). You know that you can count on me to support that project in any way I can.

Unknown said...

Thank you for such an wonderful and informative article, I've been living in the area for the last 12 years and there were times when I wondered where the names of some of the roads and areas came from whenever I passed by. After finding about the Copland sisters in an article online, I've been searching for more information about them and now I've got another family to add to the list, Barham. Is there some place local where I can more information on them as I'm genuinely interested about the history of the area I live in.