When it was finally confirmed that St. George’s Hospital was going to close in the early 90’s, there was tremendous public concern in and around Rothwell. And rightly so: for there have been some form of hospital facilities – for much of the period a workhouse – in the town since the 18th century.
The St. George’s complex that was eventually demolished in 1991 dated from the earliest days of the 20th century. The premises were built for the Hunslet District Poor Law Guardians and the foundations were laid in 1900. Phase One of the new workhouse was brought into use two years later and in 1903 the whole new development, built at a cost of £475,000, was officially opened by the Chairman of the Board of Guar-dians Mr. John Farrer, from Oulton.
The opening must have been quite an occasion, for to celebrate this historic event the Rothwell Temperance Band (Conductor Mr. T. Barthram) played daily on October 1, 2 and 3. The popular light music in their programme includ-ed Rimmer’s waltz “Bacchanale”, and a selection from Mozart’s “II Seraglio” (The Harem) – hopefully not a reflection on life in the workhouse!
A host of new facilities were included in the new unit – wards for the elderly; a vagrants department (with a tramps ward for both male and female residents); a workhouse; Darby and Joan cottages; a hospital for infectious diseases; and a Lunatic Block.
Under the care of the master and matron there were also styes for pigkeeping, stables for horses and a horse ambulance. Piped water was laid on from Leeds. There was even a pump house for sea water therapy, with the sea water brought from Scarborough to Rothwell!
In the early 1970s extensive modernisation was carried out to bring conditions at St. George’s up to more acceptable levels. But as standards improved nation-ally and treatment methods changed, the need for Rothwell in its present form had to be re-examined and closure loomed.
St. George’s, despite its somewhat grim exterior and workhouse past, was always a happy hospital. Excellent staff more than compensated for the superficially dour facilities. St. George’s always had a reputation as being the friendliest of hospitals: staff eager to do their best for patients and also to support the hospital itself by organising and attending summer galas and various fetes.
In between times civic visits for “milestone” birthdays among the patients and entertainment of varying degrees of hilarity and fancy dress all added to a rich vein of com-munity spirit within St. George’s. That sort of camaraderie, of course, is the life blood of a local hospital.
The proud days of St. George’s Hospital, Rothwell may be past, but the tower still remains as a proud mark on the local landscape.
Did you work at St. George’s? What memories do you have of the old hospital, please let us know in the comments box below.