HistoryMuch of this ‘History’ is taken from Warminster in the Twentieth Century by Celia Lane and Pauline White,
The Cottage Hospital Movement started in Surrey in 1859. Seven years later the Marquess of Bath gave a small farm and garden in Warminster’s Portway which became our Cottage Hospital, employing a local doctor and two nurses. During the 1890s the Hospital was enlarged and by 1911 there were 15 beds (and two cots) provided by funds from local benefactors. There was also a generous gift of a “complete Roentgen Ray apparatus [X-ray machine] of the very best quality” given by a Miss Susanna Smith who lived in the town.
At this time, patients visiting a doctor or entering the hospital paid as best they could for their treatment. In the 1920s, a Hospital League was formed which might be described as a savings club where its members (soon totalling 4,000) paid a regular small amount entitling them to hospital treatment. However, demand for the hospital increased quickly, the existing Hospital had become dilapidated, and Lord Bath kindly donated a field close by on which Messrs Butchers, a local firm, built a new hospital funded (£14,000) by donations from the people of the town and the surrounding villages. The new Cottage Hospital was opened by the 5th Marquess of Bath in 1929.
The introduction of the National Health Service in 1948 (the year that the then League of Friends of Warminster Hospital was founded) left the hospital almost unchanged but the Hospital Plan of 1962 proposed the virtual extinction of all Cottage Hospitals. Furious protest from the doctors of Warminster and from all over the country led to the closures not taking place.
The League of Friends of Warminster Hospital became a registered Charity in 1962, and five years later gave money for a new Outpatients’ Department to be built. This comprised a consulting room, two examination rooms, changing cubicles, a waiting room and purpose-built X-ray and dark rooms. The next extension to Warminster Hospital was opened in 1989/90 when patients were transferred from Sambourne Hospital providing two new wards, one of which was for elderly people with mental illness. At this time the Hospital also had a purpose-built physiotherapy department and a Monday to Friday day-patients facility for 20. Further Government threats of closure to what is now named Warminster Community Hospital came in 1993 and 1996. Both were met with angry demonstrations and all-night vigils at the Hospital and in the town, with the Hospital being ultimately saved through pressure on the Wiltshire Primary Care (NHS) Trust.
Warminster Community Hospital now includes the Longleat Ward (24 beds), a vigorous Outpatients’ Department staffed by visiting consultants from the Royal United Hospital, Bath, Salisbury District Hospital, and the National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, Bath, as well as being the base for local Community Care.
published by The Warminster History Society, 1999
The Friends of Warminster Hospital-Registered Charity No: 207384