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HOSPITALS

DEVON AND CORNWALL HOMOEOPATHIC HOSPITAL

Updated:  27 February 2012 

Homoeopathic medicine had been practised in Plymouth since the 1858  [1], when a Doctor Morgan moved to the Town from Bath and set up a practice  [2].  A dispensary was opened in 1870  [2] in an upper room in Bank of England Place  [1] and such was the demand that in 1881 it had to move to larger premises in Princess Street  [0].  Again, such was the demand that people used to have to wait in the street outside.

In 1883 it was decided to search for a house more centrally situated that could be converted into a cottage hospital and dispensary.  Thanks to the generous gift of 1,000 from a Mr Tyeth premises in Union Street were acquired.  The highest number of patients they had dealt with before moving to Union Street was 1,072 in a year.  In their new home this steadily rose to over 4,000 patients, 10,218 attendances, 3,840 home visits to patients, 268 accidents and 48 hospital cases during 1892.  Thanks to the voluntary staff, including medical staff, this was achieved at a cost of just 450.  [1]

At that time it was known as The Devon and Cornwall Homoeopathic Dispensary and Cottage Hospital.  [3]

In 1893 number 15 Lockyer Street was purchased and converted into a hospital under the guiding hands of Messrs King & Lister, the architects, and Mr W H Lethbridge, the contractor.  The painting work was carried out by Mr A J Osborne.  [1]

Te property was not in a good state of repair and all the ceilings had sunk several inches so that they had to be strengthened with iron girders and columns.  In the basement were the kitchen, scullery, pantries, larder and nurses' dining-room.  On the ground floor were the board-room, a men's ward of six beds, and a nurses' sitting-room.  Up stairs on the first floor were the women's ward, again with six beds, a children's ward and a bath-room.  Above that again, on the second floor, were two private wards for paying patients, a matron's-room and an operating-room.  Finally, on the third floor were four bed-rooms for nurses and servants.  [1]

At the rear of the building, approached from Mulgrave Street, the former stables had been partially demolished and converted into a dispensary.  It was linked to the main building by a glazed corridor.  In the dispensary were a waiting-room, a doctors' room, an accident-room, an operating-room and the dispensary.  [1] 

Now known as The Devon and Cornwall Homoeopathic Hospital and Three Towns Dispensary, it was opened by Earl of Morley, in the absence of the Countess of Morley, on Tuesday October 10th 1893.  Among the guests were Professor Chapman, the chairman of the institution, and Doctors Alexander, Cash Reed, Cook, Nield and Vawdrey.  [1]

The full-time staff comprised a Matron, four nurses and two probationary nurses who supported the two physicians, one surgeon, a medical officer looking after the Dispensary and a dentist, all of whom held honorary appointments.  [3]

The first year was quite a successful, with over 12,000 patients using the Dispensary and in 1902 it took on its own resident doctors so that it ceased to be a "Cottage Hospital".  Doctor Philip Wilmot became the Consulting Physician.  [2]

But the interest in homoeopathy began to decline soon after and the Hospital had trouble finding doctors.  As a result it started to take on more conventional medical doctors and patients.  In 1911 the two adjacent houses were purchased for 6,000 and the Hospital was extended.  [3]

In 1919 it was renamed The Devon and Cornwall Homeopathic and General Hospital.  [2]

By the time that Doctor Wilmot retired in 1925 only ten percent of the patients were receiving homoeopathic treatment.  The Hospital acknowledged this fact in 1929 by changing the name yet again, to simply the Central Hospital, although it still provided homoeopathic treatment if requested.  [3]

At the end of 1925 work started on reconstructing the interior of the Hospital.  The floor of the former out-patient's department was lowered and a small doctor's room added.  A small mortuary would also be added and in the increased height accommodation for nurses was to be added.  A passage-way had been enlarged to provide a room for the most up-to-date X-ray equipment.  There was already a patient's lift but this was now supplemented with a small passenger lift for the use of staff and walking patients.  The roof had been lifted so that the tiny garret-like rooms could be transformed into modern quarters for nurses and domestic staff.   A new ward for 12 beds was opened on the third floor and it was planned to extend the women's ward to accommodate 20 beds.  On several floors small kitchens had been installed.  Until now the house surgeon had been one of the local doctors but the Hospital had now appointed a resident house surgeon who would be accommodated in the bungalow at the rear of the property.  [4]

Finally, in July 1934 it was amalgamated with the South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital and the Royal Albert Hospital to become part of The Prince of Wales's Hospital  [2].  However, it was known by most residents as the Lockyer Street Hospital and still retained the legend "Homoeopathic Hospital" on the end facing Mulgrave Street.

Part of the Hospital was destroyed during the night raid of March 21st 1941 and the remainder suffered blast damage.  The patients had to be moved to other hospitals in the City.  The missing accommodation was rebuilt almost immediately and the Hospital re-opened again in June 1942.  [3]

During the 1960s the premises were used as a gynaecological unit, with two busy wards and an active operating theatre but as there were no resident medical staff it was once again, technically, a "Cottage Hospital".  [2]

In March 1973 the Hospital was closed by strike action and it was feared that it would not be re-opened.  It did re-open, however, but was not maintained and when the patient lift finally broke down in 1977 the Hospital was closed for good.  [3]

The building was sold to the Devon and Cornwall Housing Association in April 1979 for 55,000 and in September 1980 work started on converting it back to residential use, as 16 two-person flats for old people.  [3][5]


Sources:

[1]  "Devon and Cornwall Homoeopathic Hospital: Opening by Lord Morley", Western Daily Mercury, Plymouth, October 11th 1893.

[2]  Holcombe, Doctor D R, "The History of Homoeopathy in Plymouth", Journal of the British Homoeopathic Association, February 1994.

[3]  Grier, John and Mole, Doreen, "A Brief History of Plymouth Hospitals", Old Plymouth Society, Plymouth, 2004, ISBN 1-900457-06-7.

[4]  "The Homoeopathic Hospital: Progress of Work on Reconstruction", Western Morning News, Plymouth, March 3rd 1926.

[5]  "40-Flat Plan for Aged on Church Site", Western Evening Herald, Plymouth, April 3rd 1979.

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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