The Old Cottage Hospital
Part of the Old Cottage Hospital stands in Hospital Street at the entrance to the part of the town know as The Leys, which for centuries was renowned for its famous Orchards. The Old Cottage Hospital, for many years was Tamworth’s main General Hospital, but most of the hospital was demolished in 1996. The remaining part of the building, which can be seen in the picture on this page, is still in tact, but the rest of the site is now a dwelling conversion of flats, called MacGregor Tithe.
The inception of the Old Cottage Hospital was due to the initiative of the Rev. Brooke Lambert, but Tamworth owes its actual foundation in 1880 to the Rev. William MacGregor, who was, from 1878 to 1887, the Vicar of Tamworth. When the hospital was being built, the original costs over ran, worried trustees went to see Tamworth philanthropist, William MacGregor, who told them, I didn’t promise you £300, I promised you a hospital. By the time the building was completed, it had cost well over £1000. So thanks to the far-sighted vicar, Tamworth Cottage Hospital became a reality.
Originally, the hospital was a single storey building, to which a second storey was added by public subscription, a few years later. Then followed in 1889 the gift of the Hutton Wing, paid for by Mrs. Hutton of Dosthill, who also gave the town the Hutton Fountain, which used to stand at the junction of Comberford Road and Ashby Road on the North side of the town. From its foundation, the hospital had been maintained by voluntary subscription and splendidly managed by a committee representing the subscribers, the Borough Council, the doctors, the mining industry, the friendly societies and other public and charitable organisations. For a number of years the Miners Welfare Fund, as well as individual mine owners and the organised mine workers, generously supported the hospital and subscribed to its building fund.
Up until the First World War, the Cottage Hospitals accommodation was 25 beds, when the hospitals resources were taxed to the limit and a movement was initiated for further extensions. In 1924 two new wings were built which bought the number of beds to 50, and again in 1936, further extensions were urgently needed. The 1924 extensions, which cost £12,000, subscribed for by the public, included a grant of £2,500 from the Miners Welfare Fund, and embraced the erection of the Hall of Memory, a striking feature in the English Renaissance style, to the memory of the 608 men of Tamworth and district who fell in the Great War. The interior of the hall, which still stands today, is decorated in a simple and dignified manner, the floor being of black & white marble (although it is rumoured that there are plans afoot to carpet this, which would be a great shame), upon the walls, there are three bronze tablets. The inscription on the central tablet was unveiled by HRH The Duke of York on 29th May 1924, and reads “They whom this hall commemorates were numbered amongst those who at the call of King and Country left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up their lives that others might live in freedom. Let those that come after see to it that their name be not forgotten.”
In 1930 a hostel for the accommodation of hospital nursing staff was built in the grounds adjacent through the generosity of the Miners Welfare Fund. The cost of this new facility amounted to £2,870, giving bedroom accommodation to 9 nurses with bathrooms and other amenities. There was a sitting room for sisters and another room for nurses. In 1932 a thoroughly up to date operating theatre and kitchens were added, again these marvellous improvements were provided by the Miners Welfare Fund. At the laying of the foundation stone by Alderman G.H. Jones, Mayor of Tamworth and Chairman of the hospital committee, it was stated that the latest improvements cost in the region of £4,500. This amount was raised by grants from the Miners Fund, the proceeds of the town carnivals and a donation of £50 in the memory of Dr. A.E. Richardson. The hospital committee reported in its annual report of 1935 “Sincere thanks to various collieries in the area; Kingsbury, Pooley Hall, Tamworth, Birch Coppice and Glascote for their generosity at supplying one hundred and eighty two and half tons of free coal equal to a donation of £191 5s 6d and this gift helped considerably in keeping down the expenses of the hospital.” The committee also offered grateful thanks to the supply of bread for four months free of charge from the Tamworth Cooperative Society Limited.
Few people today realise the virulence of the epidemics such as Cholera and Typhoid that raged through the town, which still suffered from Victorian sanitation and bad housing. The lack of pure water and open drains and cesspits brought many deaths each year from Dysentery and Smallpox. Tamworth’s Cottage Hospital was major benefit to the people of the town, thanks to the kindness and generosity of many people and organisations. For many years served the town and its communities until its closure in the mid 1990’s. Although no longer a hospital, it still serves the residents of the town with splendid sheltered accommodation.
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