War Memorial Hospital

23. Burnham Hospital ann 007

During the first World War, some of the larger houses in Burnham had been used as makeshift hospitals for injured troops. When the war ended the War Memorial Committee was set up and at a meeting in 1919 the proposal that a cottage hospital be set up as a fitting and useful memorial to those who lost their lives in the conflict. (On the grounds opposite the main entrance, a block of Cornish granite has been erected which contains, on a brass plate, the names of the fallen.)

By August 1921  £2690 of the £3000 needed had been raised and work began in earnest on the site which had previously been an orchard. The Hospital was opened on October 4th 1922 by the Marquis of Bath.

The girl guides, British Legion, boy scouts, school children, ex-servicemen, veteran soldiers and VAD nurses were among those who came to watch the opening despite pouring rain.  However due to the mud and dirt caused by the weather, the public was asked to defer any internal inspection of the new hospital.

Originally there were 2 wards and only two or three beds in each but as early as 1925 the children’s ward was added and also in 1925 an operating theatre was added.

In 1938 a further expansion was the opening of the King George IV coronation extension.

Above: a slightly later photo.

During the Second World War the hospital was used to care for American army personnel stationed in the area. When the war ended and the American soldiers were ordered to bury all their surplus tinned food, knowing of the acute food shortages in Britain the Officer in charge could not being himself to do this. Instead in the middle of the night they brought the supplies to Burnham Hospital and gave them to the Matron. As many of the labels on the tins had been lost patients and staff found themselves eating chilli con carne and other foods which they had never even heard of let alone tasted!

Opening of Holmes Memorial Clinic 1953

In 1953 the Holmes Memorial Clinic was opened in memory of Dr Holmes who was a well known and loved practitioner at the hospital.

Dr Holmes’ son became one of the founding members of the League of Friends, which was formed in 1966, and continues to raise cash by organising an annual fete which is held each August in the Manor Gardens. Other groups also contribute greatly to the hospital funds by provided refreshments for visitors and patients and also in holding coffee mornings.

(Extract from Mr Lloyd Olive’s booklet- ‘‘Brief history of Burnham Hospital and The League of Friends’’)

During the late 1960s and early 1970s the children’s ward and operating theatre were closed. ‘White Walls’, the nurses home that stood on the site was demolished and new facilities  such as a day room were added.

A short archive film from the Norman Gobey collection, originally filmed on 9.5mm.

To see some memories of the hospital staff click here.

Discover the next location on the trail: 18. Tregunter

Return to the heritage trail index page.