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Ruthin Community Hospital

One question which immediately comes to mind is how did our cherished and much loved hospital come to be built in the first place, and how was it run when, unlike in this more ailment age, we were all much poorer? For the answer we have to go back to the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which required the Poorlaw Commissioners to build Workhouses and look after the poor. It was not until three years later, on 2nd March 1837, that the Ruthin Board of Guardians, made up of the local worthies, met to consider the matter. The question which soon arose was, where would the Workhouse be built and how large would Ruthin’s be? One has to remember the lack of water and sewerage facilities of those days, and that upwards of 100 residents would be involved, with space for some 25 vagrants. There were factors which had to be considered before any building work could commence. Local landowners ranging from Sir Watkin Williams Wynn to Harriet Myddelton and Sir Robert Vaughan, with sites such as Galchog Dingle and other sites north of Llanfwrog, near a timber yard at the foot of Prior Street, and in Well Street, were all approached to sell, and all refused. There was also a very strong movement for land near the Telpyn Bridge in Rhewl to be purchased. After years of wrangling and pressure from local residents on the Board, the croft belonging to the Anchor Inn in Rhos Street was finally purchased for the sum of even. By 1837 the Workhouse was completed. Soon after 1910,  the Board of Guardians decided that facilities needed to be improved by the provision of improved medical facilities. The project went ahead and the hospital opened in 1915. It consisted of two wards of 16 beds for males and females, two private wards, a maternity theatre, an operating theatre and an x-ray department. The x-ray unit had been generously gifted by Sir Henry Tate (of Tate and Lyle) who leased Pool Park until 1934 when it was taken over by the District Health Board. As it was wartime and space was available, its facilities were made available by the Board of Guardians to the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) of the Red Cross as a convalescent home for injured servicemen.
The first matron or Commandant was Mrs Violet Springman of Bryn Mair, Llanfair D C. She was the wife of a Liverpool cotton broker, H H Springman, an international Rugby player. I have a precious postcard dated 16th December 1916 of the hospital, from Mrs Springman and addressed to a friend in Rhyl. The card clearly shows the size of the original building and a glimpse of the soldier patients and staff. After the World War, with the blessing of the then Welsh Board of HeaIth, it became a general hospital. A surgeon who had moved into the area in 1918, Hugh Morriston Coote Davies, to be Superintendent of the Vale of Clwyd Sanatorium, Llanbedr Hall provided valuable encouragement and assistance. Ruthin also had a very well endowed private hospital at the Castle under the direction of Sir Edmubd Spriggs. He and his staff, Mr Patterson, Anderson and surgeons from Liverpool, Chester and Wrexham were on hand with practical advice. When the National Health Service was set up n 1948 to provide a free medical service to all, Ruthin Hospital became a General Practitioner Hospital. The Denbighshire Archives had not been set up. During the changeover to the NHS and due to the lack of storage space most of the records held at the hospital were destroyed. Over time additional building was carried out to extend the hospital by the addition of new and more modern facilities. It is now a very much appreciated Community Hospital with virtually a full range of both inpatient and outpatient services ranging from the minor injuries and the x-ray department to physio and occupational therapy, foot clinics, a centre for district nurses and a much valued day centre. It would be tragic to lose them.
GWYNNE MORRIS considered its future in December 2012 and looked back to its past