The History of Frenchay Hospital


The evolution of the village and its surrounds is an integral part of the story of the hospital itself. It is difficult to better Vera Wilson's description of the start of things:

Frenchay village was one of many small settlements that grew up on the banks of the River Frome. Earlier settlers used the fast-flowing water for their crafts and industries, and pennant sandstone has been quarried from the river banks since the Roman occupation.

The infant Frome runs westward out of Sodbury, for approximately three miles, to Frampton Cotterell where it turns southward to flow to Winterbourne. At Hambrook it is joined by the Bradley Brook. It then continues its journey skirting the old village of Frenchay and flowing onward through Stapleton before reaching the City of Bristol.

The name Frenchay is thought to be a corruption of Fromeshaw which means a small wood by the Frome. The spelling of the name has changed from time to time. The village was recorded as Fromscawe in 1257, Froomshaw in 1397 and Fremshawe in 1436. The Winterbourne Register occasionally refers to it as Frenchhay.

The village grew in three stages. The first inhabitants built their cottages deep down into the valley, extending up the hillside to the higher ground. The second stage in the growth of the village occurred in the latter part of the seventeenth century when religious dissenters fled to the relative peace of the Gloucestershire countryside as a place of refuge against persecution

The third stage mentioned involved the expansion of the community into the elegant Georgian one that today dominates the area around the Common.

The Quakers and Unitarians built elegant new houses on the high ground around the Common or converted cottages and farmhouses to accommodate their families. Many of these dwelling places are occupied today. Frenchay House and Clarendon House have recently been converted into residential homes for elderly citizens, and the Manor House has been a children's home for several years. Several other Georgian houses are privately owned.

One of these new houses grew over the next century and a half to become what is known in the 1990s as the 'Trust Headquarters' but which earlier had been the 'District Headquarters' and before that the 'Sisters House'. Alan Grynyer, Works Officer, produced the following résumé in the 1980s:

Frenchay Park Mansion ( The Sisters' House) circa 1930 - now Trust HQ


(Certain of the entries of this chronicle remain in part unsubstantiated)

Before c.1780
Original tenure (or holding) possibly earlier dwelling house was held by one Fitzherbert Yeoman.

Evidence suggests that one Esther Phelps of Dursley paid a William Perry £1,200 for the messuage formerly in the occupation of Ann Wraxall on 4th July, 1778. It appears that Perry maintained a land holding on the site which he subsequently passed on to one H. Harford on 7th July, 1779. Later in that same month, 30th July to be precise, William Perry was paid a further £1,040 by Harford for 'a messuage erected but not finished on the site of the messuage'.

1780 - 1813
House owned by Alderman Deane on whose death in 1798 the property was sold to Hugh Vaughan who in turn died in 1813 when the property was conveyed to George Worrell.

1813 - 1840
During this period George Worrell added two wings to the original house. He died in 1840 whereupon his wife continued to live in the house until her death in 1864.

1864 - 1887
The estate passed to William Tanner and subsequently to his son (W.G. Tanner). It was during the early part of this period that the house was further enlarged to its present configuration which would have included the addition of the Stable Block. The house then became known as FRENCHAY PARK, when previously it had been known as the 'Big House' of Frenchay Common. N.B. It is likely that successive owners had increased the land holding by 'taking-in' surrounding common land.

The 1870 OS map. Note the modern road lay-out.
In the late 1860s the current main road to Hambrook was diverted westward to allow the estate to expand, i.e part of the 'taking-in' mentioned above .

1887 - 1921
During this period W.G. Tanner sold out to one Captain W.H.P. Jenkins who in turn leased the estate to a J.A. Taylor and Another for 3 years. J.A. Taylor and Another then assigned the lease to Cosmos Consolidated Ltd. with an option to purchase. In April, 1921 a Captain W.R.H. Jenkins (presumably the son of Captain W.H.P.Jenkins) and Cosmos Consolidated Ltd. conveyed the estate to a Victor Osmond who in turn sold the property to the Corporation of Bristol in July,1921.
[A relative of the man who was the butler in the house at the time told me that Capt. W.H.P. Jenkins married his nurse. When he died he left all his money to his wife and the house to his son (W.H.R.) by a previous marriage. With no money, the son was forced to sell the house.]
[In May 2005 Jeff Evans wrote the following:
"I have just found your website & was intrigued by the details of the history of Frenchay Park. I rather think I maybe the source of the bracketed note to the period 1887 - 1921. It was my step-grandfather Arthur Henry Channon who was butler at Frenchay Park, working for the Jenkins family. Arising from the 're-discovery' a couple of weeks ago of a biographical note written by my mother, I have spent some time on the internet 'digging' around. Apart from access to the 1881 & 1901 census, I have very recently been able to access The Dictionary of National Biography & The Times Digital Archive on-line, and have learned a lot more. Relevant in part are the histories of the Earl of Jersey, Lord Willoughby de Broke and Mr. (Capt?) William Henry Phillips Jenkins.

Arthur Channon, born c1870, originally came from Buckerell, Devon. He was certainly at Frenchay Park between 1904 & 1908 (family postcards) and possibly started there in 1902, and was there until 1916 (anecdotal & other family information) when William Henry Phillips Jenkins died (27/12/1916). Previously Arthur Channon (1901 census) was butler at Kineton House, near Stratford-on-Avon for Lord Willoughby-de-Broke, the 18th Baron. The 18th Baron died aboard a P.O. liner in 1902 and was buried at sea. Living nearby at Upton House, Ratley, in 1881 was William Jenkins and family. On June 16th, 1894 there is an advert in The Times for the sale of Frenchay Park; the vendors name is not mentioned. It seems distinctly possible that it was then bought by William Jenkins. His 1st wife was Lady Caroline Jenkins, sister of the 7th Earl of Jersey, who died in 1912. His son was Captain William Reginald Haldane Jenkins, 7th Dragoon Guards, born c1877. There were two daughters Caroline born c1885, and Evelyn born c1886. Caroline appears to have been unmarried by 1916. Evelyn married a John Kendall Rashleigh in S. Africa on 27th May 1903. There is extensive and very interesting reporting in The Times of 22nd to 24th November 1917 regarding William Jenkins' disputed will. The dispute being between his son and Mrs. Kathleen Rose Jenkins (nee Abernathy?), William Jenkins second wife, who he married by special licence (at Frenchay?) on the 16th September 1914. The court found in her favour, which left the son I think short of cash, possibly prompting a subsequent sale of the property which had been willed to him. William Jenkins' second wife had been his nurse after periods of illness going back to 1902.

I can't see any suggestion of a sale of the property in 1905 as your website states, and in any case there is a conflict of information. There must be some explanation. Who bought Frenchay Park in 1905? [
I believe that it was never sold then, perhaps not reaching a reserve price. JCB].

My grandmother Jessie moved to Bristol in about 1911 to work in a drapers, in Castle Street, owned by cousins, following the death of my grandfather from Cardiff in 1910. She met Arthur Channon sometime before 1913, when they married. I believe my grandmother was acquainted with the housekeeper at Frenchay Park, who hailed from Baglan, Port Talbot, as indeed did my grandmother. My mother, born 1906, apparently visited Frenchay Park as a child, somewhere I would think between 1911 & 1916. Subsequently the family moved to South Wales.

I have two PC photos of Frenchay Park House, one being similar to one on your website, but with Arthur Channon and a valet, plus dog, in the middle distance.

I also attach some paragraphs of my mother's note which started me off on this search, which add a personal, near first hand, touch. She would have been around 80 when she wrote the note, and her memory was pretty good but not perfect.

A few other points. William Jenkins seems to have been born at Llantarnam near Newport, Mon. I don't know where his money came from. A theme running through the connections between all the big families is horses and hunting and the social connections that can produce. The Times entries refer to obituaries of William Jenkins in Baily's Magazine of Sports & Pastimes, & the Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes. I will try and track down these obituaries via the library system."

Notes by Caroline Evans (1906 – 1996) Step-Daughter of Arthur Channon

In 1913 Mother married Grandpa Channon who was butler and valet at Frenchay Park, now a hospital, and she met him through an old friend from Baglan – I have forgotten her name now – who was housekeeper, and invited mother there to tea. I went there a few times to tea and have a little wooden box (round) upstairs, which she gave me. The kitchen there was enormous, with 3 huge fireplaces (ranges). There was a lot of staff, as they were wealthy people, and Grandpa Channon had a very good job there.
The owner was a Mr. Jenkins and his wife, Lady Caroline, was a sister of the Earl of Jersey – who owned a house in Baglan and land in and around Briton Ferry and Jersey Marine, etc. However she died before him, and when he died in about 1916, it was found he had (secretly) married the nurse, who had looked after him when he was ill, and left her all his money, cancelling his previous will, which had left money to the staff. The estate was entailed, which meant it had to go to his son Arthur (
No, his name was William Reginald Haldane Jenkins. JE). But as he had no money for the upkeep, he had to sell it, which is the reason it is now a hospital. Of course the will was contested, but the nurse won, and all the staff lost their jobs.
So Grandpa Channon went to Llantwit Major as butler to R. H. Williams at The Ham. He had been a visitor to Frenchay and wanted to marry Evelyn Jenkins (the daughter of Caroline and Mr. Jenkins). She was a beautiful girl, it was a pity she wouldn't marry him. He married a horrible woman and she (Evelyn) didn't make a good choice, I understand. In the meantime Grandpa Johns had died in June 1912. Come to think of it I must have spent that summer at Baglan, as I can remember us waking up one morning and he had died in his sleep. He was 80 having been born in Dec. 1831 and was in good health. I can remember him running upstairs.]

1921 - 1931

The Bristol Corporation upon acquisition opened the house for 35 in-patients (sanatorium and orthopaedic hospital for tuberculous children). In 1931 the Frenchay site had taken a fresh dimension with the completion of purpose built ward accommodation (Blocks 28, 29 and 30 as we know them). It was at this time that the house was converted into an administration centre with accommodation for the resident medical officer, matron, 6 sisters, 21 nurses and 12 maids. At the same time the West Wing was altered to provide an additional floor.

Structural problems identified in front façade resulting in the installation of structural tie rods.

1977 - 1983
Evening Post 29th March, 1977- 'Staff moved from "danger" hospital'. As a result of substantial structural deterioration remedial work commenced. Various contracts were let (Phases I, II, III & IV totalling £250,000); the latter of these phases included elements of alteration. During this period the residential accommodation provided within the house was greatly reduced until finally in September 1983 the 'Sisters House' became the District Headquarters as we now know it.

On the 23rd July, 1984, the Stable Block was officially Listed as being a building of special architectural and historical interest. Similarly, Sisters House (formerly known as Frenchay Park) was Listed on 3rd August, 1984.

Although there are no early plans of the house, a number of descriptive abstracts exist and these are appended below.

(i) The Sisters' House is the Georgian Frenchay Park Mansion, the biggest of the old houses in Georgian Frenchay.
(ii) A three-storeyed building with ashlar front, five bays, with moulded architraves to the windows, chamfered quoins, a balustraded parapet supporting eight carved urns, a porch with Ionic columns and two-storeyed three bay, bows on either side(1804).
(iii) The ashlar front has three storeys and five bays with moulded architraves to the windows, chamfered quoins, a balustraded parapet supporting eight carved urns, and a porch with Ionic columns. Two storey three bay, bows either side. The main block has panels under the window sills all joined vertically. The hall is panelled. Contemporary staircase with twisted balusters.
(iv) STABLE BLOCK - mid C19 rubble, freestone, brick dressings, double Roman tile roof. Two ranges at right angles. Principal range: Two storeys, five windows, central door in round-headed rusticated surround, similar surrounds to windows with cast iron glazing bars, at each end a large elliptical arch, that to right open, that to left contains lower opening now blocked, first floor dressed pitching eyes with keystones, small brick dressed eye to right of open arch, hipped roof; plain left range has one small, one large gabled extension; at rear only wall remains of third side of courtyard. (Extract of listing dated 23rd July, 1984)
(v) SISTERS' HOUSE - House, now offices. Mid/late C18, extended early C19 Ashlar, slate roofs. Main block, 3 storeys and attic, 5 windows, later wings, 2 storeys, 3 windows in cylindrical bays, all windows are glazing bar sashes, central Ionic glazed porch, fanlight over door behind, windows of main block have moulded architraves joined vertically by fielded panels, end rusticated pilasters rise to cornice below tall parapet with balustrade, newels and urns; later wings, moulded architraves, cornice and low parapet, break forward at outer edge to rusticated corner pilaster with urn; these wings return plainly around earlier house, they are joined at rear by a later low wing to make an undistinguished garden front. Interior: panelled entrance hall, fluted square columns, Doric cornice, marble floor with black dots; 3 floor open well staircase, moulded handrail, turned and barley sugar balusters; early C19 rear staircase off vestibule, top lit, and with Ionic columns. (Extract of listing dated 3rd August, 1984).

Additional to the above details is the fact that the house and estate was auctioned on June 22nd 1905. I had donated to me the auction prospectus (now in the Monica Britton Hall of Medical History at the hospital). This showed that the estate then measured 70 acres 2 rods and 4 perches. It consisted of Kitchen Garden, The Orchard, East Park, Pleasure Grounds, Home Park (including Entrance Lodge and Drive), Mansion, Grounds and Outbuildings, etc, Plantation, Garden, Nath Park, Home Park (including West Lodge and Cottage). The prospectus details the various facilities, including a 'noble dining room' in the house which, itself, was described as a 'Family Mansion'. The auction was arranged by the firm of solicitors Oswald, Ward, Vassal & Co of 41 Broad Street, Bristol. The successor of the firm still existed in the late 1980s but, unfortunately, they were not able to ascertain from their records the price which the sale achieved.
[ Bill Mustoe reminded me in December 1994 that it was he who had donated the auction prospectus. He had had it given to him by a Mr Brown of the local smallholding family with land still opposite the hospital. Mr Brown had had an interest in the 1905 auction. When he handed the prospectus to Mr Mustoe he apparently said: "I could have had the whole lot for £17,000!". Bill Mustoe died on 15th March 1996 aged 92. As of December 2004 the Museum contents are being rehoused. The prospectus will probably go to the Frenchay Village Museum.]

West Lodge, circa 1910

The firm of Cosmos Consolidated has an interesting history in its own right. In fact it unwittingly made a major contribution to the economy of Bristol. John Penny, of the Fishponds Local History Society, gave me the following story:

At the outbreak of World War 1 the firm of Brazil Straker located in Lodge Causeway, Fishponds, were manufacturing Straker Squire cars and lorries. Their excellent engineering capabilities (having produced an number of successful racing cars pre-war) came to the notice of the Royal Naval Air Service who soon charged them with re-designing and producing their American made, and notoriously unreliable, OX-5 aircraft engines. A contract to produce Rolls-Royce aircraft engines under licence soon followed and over 300 French Renault engines were also manufactured, bringing their total wartime output to rather more than 1500 complete engines plus a much larger quantity of spares.

During 1917 the R.N.A.S. drew up a specification for a static radial engine, with air cooling, having a diameter not greater than 42 inches, a weight not greater than 600lbs and a maximum power of not less than 300hp. Straker Squire decided to enter the competition and their Technical Director, Roy Fedden, together with L.F.G. 'Bunny' Butler, the Chief Designer, swiftly created the 300hp 'Mercury', only to be followed later in the year by the world beating 450hp 'Jupiter'.

In 1918 and 1919, to Fedden's distress, the Brazil Straker group was progressively dispersed with the Fishponds works being bought by a newly-formed Anglo-American financial group called Cosmos, which had big interests in shipping and coal. Fedden was instructed by letter that his works was henceforth the Cosmos Engineering Co., and that he should carry on as before, but no Cosmos director came to see what was being done. Had they visited the factory they would have discovered not only the 'Mercury' and 'Jupiter', but also a little 100hp engine called the 'Lucifer'.

At the end of 1919 came the shocking news that Cosmos had gone into liquidation. The cause was a wild financial gamble on a colossal scale involving the sale of household goods to White Russia. Goods and ships were seized by the Bolsheviks, and Fedden suddenly found himself holding the Fishponds works for the Receiver. The Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton then became interested and on July 29th 1920 purchased for £15,000, Fedden and whatever members of his engineering team were left, plus the goodwill, a promised Air Ministry order for 10 'Jupiters', all drawings, patterns, tools, 5 'Jupiter' engines, numerous parts, and 50 sets of raw material with a book value of £60,000. Thus was formed the Engine Department of the Bristol Aeroplane Co.

This was quoted from 'By Jupiter,The Life of Sir Roy Fedden', by Bill Gunston, Royal Aeronautical Society. The title gives away the fact that Roy Fedden was knighted in recognition of his skill as an engine designer. This skill allowed the Bristol Aeroplane Company to achieve international fame for their aero engines after World War 1.

Back to the hospital... In 1921 the Corporation of Bristol owned Frenchay Park. The house was out in the Gloucestershire countryside, which was the next best thing to Switzerland, there being no real treatment for tuberculosis other than fresh air and good food. And so the house was converted for use as a sanatorium for tuberculous children. Because the period of treatment was often measured in years, a school teacher was part of the staff, a tradition retained for very many years. For instance, the teacher when I arrived in 1966 looked after the children on the Plastics ward, some of whom had to stay for many months until their burns healed. Part of the adjoining lands continued to produce food, to such an extent that the sanatorium was almost self-sufficient. However, the number of patients increased and the house began to be too small. In consequence plans were drawn up for an extension to the sanatorium in the form of purpose built wards. Such planning started in 1927 and came to fruition in 1931.

The Sanatorium in the 1920s, with beds outside on the terrace.

Sanatorium children in the 1920s. The adult is almost certainly the school teacher.

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