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Stoke-on-Trent Districts: Bradwell


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Bradwell, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire.

Bradwell hospital:

 Bradwell Hospital
Bradwell Hospital
photo c.1980's

Nursing History Group Museum; Staffordshire Arts and Museum Service
Staffordshire Past Track

A history of Bradwell hospital 1885-1988:

In 1885, on June 1st, an agreement was made between the Wolstanton and Burslem Sanitary Authority, and the Local Board of Tunstall to acquire some land and erect a Sanatorium at Bradwell. With the agreement of the Mayor, Alderman and Burgess's of the Borough of Burslem and the Tunstall Local Board this was done. The site cost 3,500 complete with buildings.

The subsequent erection of the Hospital was carried out by a committee consisting of three members of the Sanitary Authority and 2 members each of the Corporation and the Local Board.

The Sanitary Board undertook to do their best to maintain the Hospital in an efficient state of management and provide it with all necessary articles of bedding, clothing and other necessary articles, including food, wines and spirits. Anything in fact needed for the upkeep and care of the patients.

At the time of purchasing the site on Talke Road was an earth packed road, the main road through to the North. The site chosen was in an area rich in history, and by change of uses was to show the changes in medical history in this country.

The land in and around the area is recorded as far back as the time of King Henry III, when it belonged to a knight, Randolph Cnuton, who gave name before moving to Silverdale for the hunting. After several changes of ownership the land came into the ownership of the Sneyd or Snead family, who again lived there for a time before moving to Keele to be nearer to relatives. The Sneyds had met the famous Eler brothers at court in London and did lease Bradwell Hall to them for a time. The Eler brothers, a family of potters, related to quite a few crown heads in Europe, had an interest in pottery, and it was news of the quality of marl obtained locally that attracted them in the first place. Famous for their red teapots, they resided some time at the Hall and I believe some of their decorative work is still in existence over one of the fireplaces. For many years after, the people who farmed the land found bits of pottery in the ground when carrying out farming jobs. When these famous earthenware teapots were sold in London they fetched a guinea a time, an awful lot of money for the time, the 1700's.

Below the Hospital site, now Dimsdale, a battle was fought between the Kings troops and the Roundheads. Not too far away is the village of Chesterton, known in Roman times, and also Red Street which had its name from a battle.

Opening in 1886 as a Fever Hospital and known locally as Brada, the Hospital took patients from a wide area. Scarlet Fever and Diphtheria at this time killed, or left badly disabled, the children of all families, rich or poor, as there was no protection against these diseases. Measles and Whooping Cough also scourged the country. Year after year families lost children to these terrible diseases. Inoculation, vaccination and antibiotics have all but wiped out these diseases in our time. The spread of one of these diseases through a family or village was rapid. With the event of the Hospitals opening, suspected patients were admitted and isolated from family and friends.

One ex-patient admitted with scarlet fever at the age of five in 1917 told the following story:

"My brother, then aged about three, and I were taken to Bradwell in a box like affair, drawn by a horse. I could hear the clip-clop of the horses hooves on the old tram lines coming in from Silverdale, then up Milehouse Lane, which was a dirt track just wide enough for two horse drawn carriages to pass.
The pub was on the opposite side of the road leading to Wolstanton, and only small nothing like the present one. From Milehouse to the hospital building, the road had no other building. (The only other building locally on the road was another small public house about the same distance away from the Hospital going north).
At the time my brother and I had scarlet fever, there was apparently an epidemic in the area. We were put in cots on arrival at the hospital. The only time I saw my mother was when she was sent for because my brother was dying. Mother came into the ward dressed in a long white gown and cap, I put my arms up and cried to my mother, but she was not allowed to come to me. When I was discharged, they made a mistake and nearly did not let me go, as I had contracted chickenpox whilst a patient, but staff felt I was well enough to go home. I remember my mother carrying me to the tram, it stopped at the junction of the road to Talke and the road to Chesterton, from there we went to Newcastle and caught the tram to Silverdale. Though I had been ill and lost a lot of weight, and my legs felt very weak, I must have been a heavy load for my Mother, she was very small. The local butcher saw us getting off the tram and told my Mother I looked fit to go the same way as my brother had. Times were hard then, later on my father was killed and it was just me and my Mother."

Another patient admitted in 1916 aged four years from May Bank had similar memories. He was brought to the hospital on a horse, the only way to the Hospital then being the road through Wolstanton to Milehouse, and then up to Bradwell. He remembered the empty road, the only noise apart from the old steam traffic, which carried heavy loads going distances of ten miles or more. The Hospital itself was surrounded by farmland. A lot of vegetables were grown on site to help with the food supply for patients.

All the persons spoken to remember there was plenty of food, mostly mince meats. At Christmas the children had pillowcases full of toys, all toys brought in had to be equally divided. On discharge the children could not take them home as they could have held infection, but staff presented them with a bag of marbles, which they could take home. One gentleman still has a few left.

Children admitted to the Hospital during the 1940's remember vividly the brick walls built in front of the windows to stop light escaping. This would be the period of the Blackout.

From the beginning visitors were not allowed and could only come to the administration block to make enquiries about their loved ones. Whilst this was done in an effort to prevent the spread of infection, it must have been very hard on all the family. Gifts had to be handed in at the front of the Hospital through a window to the left of the front door.

Enlargement in 1915:
During this time the Hospital had a constant flow of patients and it was found necessary to enlarge it in 1915. These buildings still stand and were in use at the time of writing. Although having had many additional amenities and having been upgraded on occasion, these were the same buildings.

Following the war years vaccination, immunisation and antibiotics, with better diets and hygiene, these diseases became almost eradicated. Only isolated cases now occur and with care are very rarely fatal. All this meant the Hospital had outlived its use. For a time the hospital closed and the staff dispersed. The odd infectious patient went to Bucknall Hospital. Soon a use was found for the Hospital. A new scourge had become treatable. Following the war Tuberculosis was rampant all over Europe. Released prisoners of war, English and other nationalities suffered, families spent hours in air raid shelters where infection was easily spread.

The hospital opened as a 44 bedded sanatoria for male patients. These patients came from all over the Midlands. Medicines came to the Hospital via the City General Pharmacy. Patients went to the City General for x-rays in the hospital ambulance. Many patients came via the Cheshire Joint Hospital, others from sanatoria in the Midlands. Already attitudes towards visitors had started to change. Visitors came from the Black Country every Sunday afternoon come rain or shine. Patients were allowed into Chesterton Village for shopping. On odd occasions, physical conditions maintained, even Newcastle was visited for cream cakes.

Now been found that could help to fight the disease, diet and rest had become an essential part of the treatment. All privileges had to be earned by a sign of improvement.

During this time one of the blocks of wards was named "Bennion Ward" in honour of Dr Bennion who ran the Shelton Chest Clinic and visited the hospital regularly.

The rigid regime the patients had to live by was brightened up by the cheerfulness of staff, the visitors and mostly sedentary amusements. The advent of television and being allowed to watch Saturday afternoon sport is well remembered. Greatly enjoyed was the piano playing and sing songs.

New Bradwell Hospital
New Bradwell Hospital
the A34 Talke Road to the left

The replacement hospital 1987:
By 1975 the hospital had been identified as in need of replacement. Funds had been allocated by the Regional Health Authority to provide a replacement hospital which would also take patients from Lymewood Hospital.

Work began on the site in April 1985 and the building was completed on 30 October 1987. The cost of the hospital was 5.3 million, including 500,000 for furniture and equipment. The single story building provides four wards plus supporting service accommodation.

Bradwell hospital league of friends

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