|LOST HOSPITALS OF LONDON|
Epsom and Ewell War Hospital
Epsom Downs Grand Stand, Epsom Downs, Surrey KT18 5LQ
|1914 - 1916
In September 1914, a month after war had begun, the Committee of the Grand Stand Association of the Epsom Downs racecourse offered the Luncheon Annexe to the War Office for use as an auxiliary hospital, on the understanding that it would be handed back for the Epsom Spring and Summer race meetings. The new 4-storey Annexe had been completed in April 1914, just in time for the Derby, and it was assumed that the war would be over by the time of the 1915 Derby.
The building, which ran parallel to the back of the Grand Stand, was about 180 feet (78 metres) long and 32 feet (10 metres) wide. Built of brick and cement, at a cost of £14,000, it had reinforced concrete floors and was fireproof. It had electric lighting and a heating system for hot water. A deep well, some 360 feet (156 metres) below the building, provided water, while an underground fire tank held 36,000 gallons.
The Epsom and Ewell War Hospital opened on 21st September 1914 with 50 beds. It was also known as the Grand Stand Hospital and was the first war hospital to open in the Borough. Designated a Class A Hospital, that is, it took 'cot cases' (bedridden patients), it was affiliated to the Royal Herbert Hospital in Woolwich.
Three wards were named after famous races - the Derby, the Oaks and the City. Derby Ward was on the first floor, and Oaks and City Wards on the second. The Metropolitan Ward was on the third floor, while the ground floor contained the kitchens and storerooms. Accommodation for the medical and nursing staff was provided in other racecourse buildings.
The Hospital was supported financially solely by the local people of Epsom and its surrounding districts, who contributed many thousands of pounds to equip it and to pay for the daily running costs. A local GP, Dr Bayley Peacock, acted as the Resident Medical Officer, and local women provided nursing care.
The first patients arrived on 12th October 1914 - some three weeks after opening - transferred by ambulance from the Royal Herbert Hospital. They had all taken part in the Battle of Mons and had sustained wounds to the lower limbs. Three days later another 31 patients arrived, having been brought by train to Epsom station and then by ambulance to the Hospital.
By November 1914 the Hospital had 63 beds, and 58 patients. An appeal was made for new or second-hand boots, urgently needed as most of the patients had arrived barefoot and a few were well enough to be allowed to go out for walks on the Downs. New-laid eggs were also asked for, and for people with cars to transport nurses home at night after their shifts. Five of the patients were transferred to a house in Burgh Heath, owned by Mrs Coleman, to continue their convalescence and, by the end of the month, 45 patients remained in the Hospital.
Many entertainments and concerts were held for the patients. They were also taken out for drives in the country by volunteer car owners, who were not allowed, by War Office regulations, to offer them alcohol, or to invite them into their homes or to take them to public entertainments.
By Christmas 1914 the Hospital had 39 patients. In January 1915 another 21 were admitted, several suffering from frostbite contracted while living in the trenches. The Hospital also provided out-patient treatment for Royal Fusiliers from the Tattenham Corner camp.
In February 1915, as the lease to the War Office for the Annexe was due to expire on 6th March, the stockbroker and politician Sir Edward Coates, M.P. (1853-1921), offered his former residence, Tayles Hill in Ewell, for use as an auxiliary hospital so that the Spring racing meeting would not suffer. However, it was decided not to move the 42 patients in the Hospital for the six days of the race meeting, as this would cause public outrage. A compromise was proposed that two of the floors - the ground (with the kitchens) and the second (containing City and Oaks Wards) - would be given up for the duration of the racing. The second floor would be used as a luncheon room as it was connected to the Grand Stand by a bridge. The first floor (Derby Ward) and the third floor (Metropolitan Ward) would continue in hospital use. Special arrangements would be made to provide meals for the patients during the racing period.
In the event, the Grand Stand Association decided not to use the Annexe and, following the Spring race meeting, donated a quantity of provisions to the Hospital. By the end of March 1915 the Hospital had 65 beds and all were occupied. In April 1915 the Hospital had received the donation of a refrigerator, while several local women had volunteered to give lifts to nurses coming off duty. An urgent appeal had to be made for more funds for the running costs of the Hospital, which were about £90 a month (in January, when it was believed that the Hospital would be closing in March, all the collecting boxes in the Borough had been removed). More rooms had been converted for patient use and the Hospital had about 88 beds.
By April 1915 the Hospital had treated 144 patients, the low number reflecting the seriousness of the cases. Of these, 3 had died in October 1914 and were buried in Epsom Cemetery, and 87 had been discharged. The remaining 54 were still undergoing treatment. Some 116 of the 144 patients were British (of whom 26 were Royal Fusiliers from the University and Public Schools Brigade who, by April 1915, occupied Oaks Ward), 27 were Belgian and 1 was French.
Following an operation on 12th April on an officer from the City of London Royal Fusiliers stationed at Tattenham Corner, the Hospital Committee received special permission to treat officers taken ill nearby - an unusual arrangement as officers and servicemen were treated in separate establishments.
At the beginning of July the Hospital had 38 patients. In August 15 ANZAC troops were admitted.
On 25th September 1915 the Hospital was affiliated with the newly opened Horton (County of London) War Hospital.
The Hospital closed on 29th February 1916 due to shortage of medical staff.
Present status (November 2010)
The Luncheon Annexe was demolished in 2007 as part of the £38m redevelopment of the Epsom Downs racecourse. In 2009 the Duchess of Cornwall officially opened the new Duchess's Stand, named in her honour.
The new Duchess's Stand (above and below), as seen from the east, occupies the site of the former Hospital.
(Author unstated) 1915 News in brief. The Red Cross 2, 52.
A Lover of Racing 1915 The Epsom Grand Stand Hospital. The Times, 17th February (40780), 9.
(Author unstated) 1915 Epsom Grand Stand Hospital. A conference at the War Office. The Times, 20th February (40783), 5.
(Author unstated) 1915 Epsom Grand Stand Hospital. No removal of patients. A solution of the difficulty. The Times, 24th February (40786), 5.
(Author unstated) 1915 Racing and War. Decision of the Jockey Club. The Times, 17th March (40804), 9.
Lord JR 1920 The Story of the Horton (County of London) War Hospital, Epsom - Its Inception and Work and Some Reflections. London, W. Heinemann.
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