The History of Frenchay Hospital


Information compiled in June 1996.

The earliest days of the sanatorium have been hard to uncover. Resort to the Bristol Corporation minutes for 1921-1928 and the  Medical Officer of Health's Reports for 1920-25 give the following overall picture.

The Corporation  was very worried about cases of untreated TB after the War. This worry was shared by the Ministry of Health who offered to part sponsor new TB facilities. As a result, in September 1920, the Corporation put up a plan to appropriate 60 beds at Lord Mayor Treloar's Hospital at Alton in Hampshire, where a Sanatorium already existed. In October a further plan to accommodate 100 pre tubercular children at Nover's Hill on land already owned by the Corporation was proposed. This scheme, reckoned to cost 78,000 but also to include a smallpox hospital for a further 20,000, was not approved by the Ministry and, as a result, an alternative to develop a 100 bedded facility for non pulmonary TB at Frenchay Park was proposed. At the same time the Ministry said that it would not allow the full Alton scheme. Eventually compromise plans were drawn up which included reducing the Alton beds and housing 35 children in the Manor House at Frenchay Park, with a view to a later increase in numbers. In May 1921 the Corporation agreed to purchase Frenchay Park and its attached 70.507 acres of land for 15,000, exclusive of the timber, electric lighting installation and fixtures and fittings, which they purchased for a further 2,350.

In spite of the above information the precise details of the Sanatorium and when it exactly opened remained unclear. The Deeds of the House, now held by Frenchay Health care Trust, merely mention "July 1921" as the date of purchase by the Corporation. The 1921 Report by the Medical Officer of Health shows that only 20 of the planned 35 TB beds were  available at Frenchay Park. A footnote to the bed lists says that on the 14th of October 18 patients were transferred from Snowdon House Sanatorium, Fishponds to the Sanatorium at Frenchay Park and Snowdon House closed down.  Since there was only a total of 20 beds available, then it likely that the Sanatorium was empty prior to 14th October. Search of the microfilmed copies of the Bristol Times and Mirror for October 1921 held in the Central Library, Bristol showed that an elaborate opening ceremony was carried out on Wednesday 5th October. The edition for the 6th carried a major editorial on page 4, a detailed account of the ceremonies on page 5 and two large photographs of the dignitaries on page 9. The edition for Saturday 8th carried a short piece about the appointment of the Matron for the Sanatorium, Miss Lucy Allen, currently working as night superintendent at Ham Green Hospital and Sanatorium. It is thus clear that although the House and lands were purchased in July the Sanatorium facilities were not available until October, the intervening period probably being used for internal modifications to the House.   The 35 beds, which were ready by 1922, indeed proved too small a number and in March 1924 the Corporation again approached the Ministry of Health with a view to enlarging the facilities. On this occasion the Ministry agreed for the provision of an additional 65 beds; the Corporation produced plans for two 44 bedded ward pavilions, a 12 bedded isolation pavilion and a school for 100 children. The children would be moved from the Manor House into the new wards and the House be used for administration. The plans were exhibited in the Council Chamber. The estimated cost was 45,800, with the Ministry paying a significant proportion.  The Council minutes for September 1928 show that the estimated cost was later revised downwards to 33,200, 29,397 of which was for the new buildings and the rest for refurbishment of the House. A subsequent tender for 28,450 for the building was accepted. These facilities were opened on 17th June 1931, buildings which by the 1990s had become Wards 29 and 30, Occupational Health and the Laser Centre. Also opened in 1931 was a Treatment Block which became part of the Plastic Surgery operating theatres.

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