Stroud Hospital – The Origins

First published in ‘A Millennium Miscellany’ in 2000 by Stroud Local History Society


Compiled by C G Burcher of Stroud Local History Society 1999                                                             Copyright copyright logo

The Dispensary, Casualty Hospital and Medical Institutions at George Street, together with notes on some of the people who made it all possible.

While carrying out a research project, on behalf of the previous Town Clerk, Alan Kirby, which provided details of interesting and prominent people who were buried in the Bisley Road Cemetery, we were struck by the number of past citizens who had been associated with the Hospital. Knowing the wide interest in the Hospital’s history, we thought an article which coupled the two together would make a suitable subject for our Millennium Magazine.

The origins of the Stroud Dispensary and the Casualty Hospital were recorded in considerable detail by the local historian, Paul Hawkins Fisher, as outlined below.

Paul Hawkins Fisher describes how a building, which formed the angle of Bedford Street and George Street, was erected in 1823 for the old Institution called the Stroud Dispensary. He also adds that the origins of the Dispensary are earlier than 1755 with a reference in a pamphlet printed in that year to a “laudable scheme began in this neighbourhood for fitting and supporting a Dispensary in Stroud”.

A Samuel Jones, M.D., the resident Physician of Stroud, was regarded as the chief promoter in 1771 of “a Society for providing gratuitous medical advice and medicine for the poor of the town and neighbourhood”. He received subscriptions for its support, prescribed for the patients and kept the accounts. A Mr Thomas Hughes was the apothecary who dispensed the medicines, which were free with the funding provided by subscribers.

Originally, subscribers were able to nominate any number of patients in respect of the annual subscription but, in 1784, it was found necessary to resolve “that no subscriber should recommend more than one patient per week for each guinea he might subscribe”. Even this proved too generous and in 1785 further restrictions were introduced.

From the early 1780s there are records of regular meetings being held by subscribers in the Old George Inn and patients being received in a single hired room in a variety of locations. Patients were kept waiting in the open air, exposed to all weathers, while their medicines were being prepared. At a meeting of the subscribers of the Dispensary held at the Old George Inn, on 11th August 1783, Sir George Onesiphorous Paul, Bart., was chosen as the President.

In 1805 larger premises were rented in a house at St Briavel’s, opposite Rowcroft, which bore the name of the Dispensary for many years after.

While the main source of funds was the annual subscription of one guinea, additional contributions were provided by donations, legacies and the transfer by magistrates of fines levied for offences and misdemeanours.

In May 1823 the various donations and legacies made to the charity, now totalling over seven hundred and eighty six pounds, were consolidated into a fund. This enabled the society to carry out a long desired object of possessing a house of their own with suitable accommodation for the physician, surgeon and patients. Accordingly they purchased a plot of land in Kendricks Orchard and, in the same year, they erected and furnished a convenient building for the Dispensary. This was done for the outlay of seven hundred and forty one pounds and eleven shillings.

By 1833 there had arisen a strong desire to establish a Hospital for the reception of persons who might meet with accidents and injuries requiring immediate surgical aid, in order to avoid exposing them to the painful and dangerous journey to the Infirmary at Gloucester.

Having built up a significant list of interested parties, a meeting was held in the Town Hall on the 12th December 1833, at which it was decided that a Casualty Hospital should be formed in union with the Dispensary and a Committee was appointed to apply to the Friends of the Dispensary on the subject. After mutual discussions the proposition was agreed and it was resolved to enlarge the Dispensary to provide accommodation for the planned Hospital and the trustees of the Dispensary funds were authorised to provide the necessary money.

In 1835 that object was met by building a stone extension, which adjoined the original brick built Dispensary. The total cost was approximately three hundred and fifty pounds, with two hundred and twenty seven pounds and eight shillings coming from the Dispensary funds and the balance from collections in the parish and neighbouring churches, dissenting chapels and from private donations.

The Casualty Ward, as it was known, was opened on the 19th September 1836, with a Mr Washbourn as surgeon and a single nurse as staff. It had been agreed that the funds, subscriptions and accounts of both the charities should be kept separate but that, in all other respects, they should be one and the same. An annual rent of sixteen pounds was made payable to the Dispensary for the use of the Casualty Ward.

From that time a General Meeting of the subscribers to both of the Societies was held once a year, at which business was transacted and reports were made of the proceedings and accounts of each division of the Institution for the previous year.

At the first meeting of the United Establishment, held on the 17th May 1837, it appeared that the Dispensary had treated four hundred and eight patients at a cost of five shillings and seven pence half penny each. In the Casualty Department, twenty-one patients had been admitted in the preceding eight months, twelve had been discharged cured (three following amputations), three had died, and the remainder were still being treated. Of the fourteen outpatients, twelve had been discharged, with two remaining on the books.

At a special meeting of the subscribers (then called Governors), held on the 8th November 1837, it was decided to provide a separate permanent fund for the maintenance of the Casualty Hospital.

At the quarterly meeting of the Committee, 16th November 1841, the Nurse reported that a patient who had been cured and discharged by the medical officers had refused to leave as he had found the hospital more to his taste than the previous out-of-door life. After his food had been cut off she reported that the lazy drone had departed.

The General Meeting of May 1842 was the last to be held in the George Inn — all subsequent meetings being held at the Dispensary and Casualty Hospital.

At an adjourned General Meeting held on 18th June 1851, Doctor W H Paine was appointed assistant Physician and, shortly afterwards, he became the sole Physician, following the retirement of his predecessor, Doctor J Sandys.

At the General Meeting on the 25th May 1854, the limitations of the present premises and the desirability of converting the two institutions into one were discussed.

A Notice in the Stroud Journal of the 31st March 1855 called for a Special General Meeting of Subscribers and other Friends of Stroud Dispensary and Casualty Hospital to be held on the 5th April “to take into consideration the Propriety of forming these separate Institutions into one United Institution; and of Altering and Enlarging the Hospital Buildings; Raising Additional Funds for the Benefit and Permanent Support of the valuable Institutions; and other matters relating thereto”. Signed G Holmes, Secretary.

Mr Joseph Franklin, who had been an eminent architect, late of Liverpool, and had retired to Cooper’s Hill, which he had purchased to be near his native town, then made a survey of the premises. He was regarded as a man of great taste, judgement and kindness. After surveying the premises, he produced a report which showed that the desired improvement could be obtained by some changes to the existing stone portion of the building, plus some small additions to it. He kindly furnished the necessary plans and offered to supervise the works without charge.

At the Special General Meeting of subscribers and friends, held on 5th April 1855, it was resolved to form the Dispensary and Casualty Hospital into one; and that the funds of both should be amalgamated, and applied without distinction for the general purposes of the United Institution and that the Casualty Hospital should be forthwith enlarged and alterations made in it according to the plans of Mr Franklin. It was further resolved that the money should be raised by general subscriptions, for defraying the expenses of the intended improvements, and for adding to the permanent fund, which should be available for the support of the United Establishment.

A later edition of the Stroud Journal, dated 5th May 1855, carried a lengthy Notice referring to the Special General Meeting held on the 5th April, which had agreed that the combined Institutions should be enlarged to a plan prepared by Joseph Franklin, Esq. The notice stated that – “the alterations will provide for seven beds etc, for patients; an operating room for the Surgeons who have hitherto been obliged to operate in one of the wards in the presence of patients; and various conveniences much wanted, of which the present building is destitute”.

A Building Committee comprised of William Capel, Charles Stanton and John Biddle was appointed to raise donations and to supervise the building alterations.  Also in the Stroud Journal dated 5th June 1855, was a Notice addressed to “Builders and Others to submit Tenders in accordance with existing plans and Specifications”.

At the General Meeting of 19th May 1856 it was reported that the alterations and additions had cost two hundred and ninety five pounds, eight shillings and seven pence. The new wards were furnished and surgical instruments procured at the cost of forty-eight pounds and three shillings and that the Hospital had fourteen beds and contained a physician’s room, a patient’s waiting room, a kitchen, pantry, wash house, sleeping room, and other accommodation for the nurse; besides a properly lighted operation room, a dead room, water closet etc.

The various funds, legacies and donations were united and the committee purchased two thousands pounds worth of 3% Console in the names of William Capel, Joseph Watts Hallewell, Rev. Arthur John Biddell, and Alfred John Stanton, who were appointed trustees.

The last Annual General Meeting of the subscribers to the United Establishment was held on the 27th May 1858. Rules were drawn up on the admission of poor sick persons supported by certificates from medical officers and on subscribers of a guinea or more being entitled to recommend and send one poor person as a patient to the hospital. These changes eventually led to a proposal that the Institution should be converted to a General Hospital. At a Special General Meeting on the 25th January 1859 it was agreed that the name should be changed to Stroud General Hospital.

The printed report for the year ending 31st December 1867 shows the administration as follows: –

“Of the Stroud General Hospital:- The president is the Earl of Ducie; vice president, William Capel, Esq; treasurer, J C Hallewell, Esq; physician, William Henry Paine, M.D; member of Royal College of Physicians, London; consulting surgeon, E. A. Uthwatt; surgeons, Charles Wethered and G. R. Cubitt; house-surgeon and secretary, Alfred S. Cooke. The attention of the medical officers to the whole of their duties has been worthy of praise, and has earned the thankful acknowledgements of the community.”

Paul Hawkins Fisher’s concluding paragraph in which he stresses the importance of Stroud General Hospital is still relevant today: –

“The public advantage of a General Hospital for poor persons suffering from sickness, or from accidental or other bodily calamities, is so obvious and so great that it can hardly be over-rated. Indeed, of all benevolent institutions it is one of the most valuable on all accounts and the least exceptionable on any; thus commending itself to the general sympathies of mankind. It cannot be doubted, therefore, that ample funds will always be forthcoming from this populous and wealthy neighbourhood, to maintain and even increase the efficiency and reputation of the STROUD GENERAL HOSPITAL, for a century-aye, for centuries to come”.

Finally, “Libby’s Twenty Year History of Stroud” states that, following the construction of a new Hospital at Trinity Road in Stroud in 1874, the old hospital premises at George Street were sold for one thousand, nine hundred and ten pounds. This was a significant contribution towards the cost of the new hospital — but that is another story!

Appendix One

We would like to acknowledge the help provided by the Management of the present Stroud General Hospital in allowing us access to their archives. Some of the items relevant to the period are detailed below: –

1. A Ledger entitled “Dispensary” — Accounts commencing 19th May 1841 giving details of County of Gloucester Bank at Stroud. Expenditures and Receipts, Rates and Taxes paid, names mentioned — Bishop, Stanton, Wyatt, Townsend, Marling, P.H.Fisher, Hale, Hallewell, and Ferrabee.

2.  A Pamphlet Headed “Stroud Hospital — Rules for a House Surgeon” — stating “The House Surgeon shall be a salaried officer with qualifications in Medicine and Surgery, registered under The Medical Act, 1858. He shall be unmarried and shall constantly reside in the hospital”. Rules were also stated for assistant surgeons and nurses.

3.  A small hand written ledger entitled “Casualty Hospital” — this contains the hand written Minutes of Committee Meetings held at the Hospital and, it is interesting to note that, on the 19th May 1856 those present at the meeting were — W.H.Stanton, Chas.Stanton, Wm.Bishop, J.Biddle, J.C.Hallewell, Dr.Paine, with P.H.Fisher in the chair.

4.  A hand written record entitled “House Committee Book” covering the period 1862-1867. This committee comprised R.Lacey, H. Smith, J.W.Hallewell, Wm. Wheeler, A.S.Cooke, F.Roberts, Hon. Sec., and, under the Chairmanship of Wm.Capel, (who signed the reports), on one occasion the following advertisement for a Matron was approved: –

MATRON WANTED — WANTED immediately for a small country infirmary, containing twelve beds, a respectable and well educated women, not under forty years of age to act as MATRON. No menial service required. Board and attendance with £20 a year salary. No washing. The above is best suited to a widow lady, and reduced in circumstances. Copy of testimonials to be forwarded, which will not be returned. Apply to Frederick Roberts, Hon, Secretary, The Woodlands, Stroud, Glos. Forty six applicants replied.

5. A ledger entitled “Stroud General Hospital, Quarterly Accounts 1866-1906” which included details of patients in hospital at any given time.

6. Another interesting record was the “Visitors Book”, which stipulated that “One or more Member of the Committee, not being Officers of the Institution, shall visit the Hospital at least once in each week. Such visitors shall, at each visit, sign their names, with dates, in a book to be kept for that purpose, and enter therein a report of the State of the Hospital, and any other information which they may deem material, and this book the Secretary shall lay before the Committee at all their meetings”. The first visit took place February 1859 and the final visit was February 1974.

Appendix Two


Amongst some of the interesting or significant people who were buried in the Bisley Road Cemetery and also had an association with Stroud General Hospital at George Street were John Biddell of Stratford Abbey and James Chew, Professor of Music and Organist. Both of these gentlemen were renowned for their zeal in raising funds for the Hospital. James Chew was also connected with the Stroud Choral Society and in March 1851 conducted a concert to raise funds for the Casualty Hospital. A subsequent item in the Stroud Free Press dated 28th March reported that the concert was very successful and “upwards of five pounds have been handed over in aid of the funds of the Casualty Hospital, for whose benefit the concert was given’.

The Medical fraternity was represented by Edolph Andrews Uthwatt, Esq; (who died in January 1882), described as Consulting Surgeon in the Annual Report for the year ending December 1869.  Also Alfred Square Cook (who died in 1907), described in his detailed obituary as “joining the old hospital at the corner of Bedford and George Street in 1865 where he was House-Surgeon and Secretary”.

Another member of staff was William Henry Paine, Physician of Rodney House, Stroud, who died in June 1890. Dr Paine’s obituary refers to his involvement with Stroud Hospital as Physician and also to his extensive civic role as Justice of the Peace, Chairman of the Feoffees, Guardian of the Poor, Member of Stroud School Board, enthusiastic supporter of the Scientific and Educational Institutions. His Public Health campaigns lead to the sanitary reforms, including the closing of the Parish Churchyard and the purchase of the new cemetery at Bisley Road.

Dr Paine joined the United Hospital in 1851 as Assistant Physician and shortly afterwards was appointed sole physician at the old hospital in George Street. He eventually became one the most earnest and active promoters of the scheme for building the new Hospital in 1874, at Trinity Road.

Dr. Thomas Partridge, M.R.C.S; M.R.C.P.I; of Bowbridge House (Born September 17th, 1830 – died November 1906) was appointed Medical Officer for the Urban District of Stroud and Nailsworth, and the Rural District Council in 1870. Interestingly he was one of the first Medical Officers of Health to be appointed in the country.

A research note from the SLHS digital archive added 2010. Copyright copyright logo

More History of Stroud Hospitals

More information about the Dispensary

Back to top