Blake’s Isolation Hospital Researched and Presented by Dot Bedenham 2017
I live near Blake’s, once an isolation hospital and later a maternity hospital in Ham Lane, Elson. When a small estate was built on the site the one building of the hospital that was retained was converted into flats for the young single homeless. This was in 1996. I wasn’t living in Gosport in 1996 but I’m given to understand that not everyone in the neighbourhood was happy about the conversion at the time.
Not everyone was happy that there was to be an isolation hospital built in Elson one hundred years before that date. There was said to be alarm in the village especially from property owners concerned about the future sale of their houses but also by people who were worried about what they expected to be ‘sickening sights and odours’. There was a protest meeting in the church hall in 1895. The Hampshire Telegraph of 15 February 1896 reported that there were arguments for and against the Elson site. “People from Elson have been expressing strong opinions such as ‘put it near the Workhouse”. However, the District Council considered that the Elson site was best for drainage, isolation and convenience. Brewer, Thomas Naish Blake, was reported as offering to put up two buildings, each capable of containing six beds, at a cost not exceeding £500, provided that the Council erected the Administrative block.
Now £500 was possibly a mistake by the newspaper and it should have been £5000. I have based most of my research on evidence from the local newspapers and unfortunately there is no Portsmouth Evening News for that date online in order for me to check the figure.
Thomas Naish Blake was a brewer and brewers in the 19th century usually made a lot of money. He gave money for other causes so was obviously very flush.
Other sites for the hospital were considered
HT 16 May 1896
The Hospital – Battle of the Sites
Upper Mill Lane and Grove Road had been considered but the Committee were of the opinion that the Elson site was most desirable. The plan was to erect a block to contain 12 beds in four separate wards so that two diseases and patients of both sexes might be treated at the same time.
Now the next article will show why I think the newspaper printed the wrong figure:
HT 16 January 1897
Gosport Isolation Hospital Committee
Report of the Urban District Council
The Local Government Board weren’t altogether happy with the plans put forward by Gosport and suggested new plans for which the estimated cost was £7000. There would be 16 beds, nurse’s accommodation, kitchen, recreation room, isolation and discharge blocks, laundry, disinfecting chamber and mortuary. The Committee had tried to keep the expenses down but the Local Government Board forced their hands. The cost of the isolation and discharge blocks added a further £1385, the laundry block £390, the disinfecting chamber £175 and better sewage £868. The Committee had to make an application to borrow the extra money.
There was another problem reported by the Telegraph in September 1897.
The Local Government Board would not sanction a loan unless an undertaking was made not to treat small-pox cases at the Hospital. A suggestion was made that the County Council apply for assistance to erect a small-pox hospital for the Alverstoke district.
Things were moving on though and in April 1898 it was reported that the Gas Company were willing to lay the gas mains to the Isolation Hospital free of charge and on 01 April 1899 there was an article in the Telegraph about the formal opening ceremony of Gosport Hospital.
“The Infectious Diseases Hospital, presented to the parish of Alverstoke by Mr TN Blake of Gosport, was formally opened on Thursday in the presence of a large gathering which included the majority of the public men of the town. The building is situate at Elson, in the highest point of ground attainable, and in the event of an epidemic of sickness in the district would prove of inestimable benefit to the sufferers and to the community at large. There are four wards, which are capable of accommodating 16 patients.
Various attempts had been made by the governing body of the town to obtain an infectious diseases hospital. At last Mr Blake kindly came forward to bear the entire cost of constructing the much needed institution. Mrs Blake provided the much-needed furniture. Mrs Blake declared the building open.
Today a plaque on the one remaining building commemorates Blake’s gift to the town and one of the roads leading off Ham Lane is named Naish Drive in his honour. In April 1899 Mr Blake was entertained to a complimentary banquet at the India Arms for his munificent gift. The Telegraph reported that “The poor had always found Mr Blake most kind and sympathetic, and he was a true type of the English gentleman.” “As far as the annals of Gosport showed, Mr Blake’s gift was the largest ever given to the parish.”
HT 15 July 1899
The appointment of Mr and Mrs Gundry as caretakers of the Isolation Hospital was confirmed. The same newspaper reported that “The Council resolved upon the payment of the assistant nurse at the Hospital at a rate of 30s a month.”
The Portsmouth Evening News reported one of many small gifts to the Hospital on 28 February 1900. “Gifts of books and plants were received for the patients of the Isolation Hospital.”
PEN 05 May 1900
Mr and Mrs Lee of Bembridge, Isle of Wight, were appointed caretakers of the Isolation Hospital after the resignation of Mr and Mrs Sims. Notice that the last time reported it was Mr and Mrs Gundry!
PEN 11 May 1900
Mr Gilmore commented upon the fact that there had been no fewer than four caretakers and their wives at the Institution in little more than 12 months. The changes seemed to be unusually frequent, and he thought there appeared to be something behind the surface.
PEN 03 July 1900
The Matron acknowledged the gifts of flowers from Miss Walters of Hardway and the King’s Street Mission, plants from Mr Legg, books from Mr Dove
You often pick up valuable information from the job vacancies columns of newspapers:
PEN 03 September 1900
Wanted housemaid £10 per annum. Apply Matron Isolation Hospital, Elson
PEN 06 December 1900
A Probationer Nurse is required for the Elson Isolation Hospital, aged 20 to 25, salary £10 for first year, £15 for the second, board, residence, washing, medical attendance and uniform included.
A month earlier the Hospital had gone very high-tech
PEN 09 November 1900
Researched and Presented by Dot Bedenham 2017
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