September 1793 – September 2018
The original Infirmary in George Row started from being a residential property and was extended to the side and upwards so it went from a capacity for treating 30 patients to 70 over 50 yrs. It had outgrown its usefulness and plans were put into action to build a new Infirmary.
An eight-acre parcel of land with a good supply of spring water was purchased for £1,000, situated in the Northampton fields just outside the old town ditch. Money started to be raised for the building project and plans were invited from architects. The general principles to be observed were:-
- Accommodation required for 100 patients, an apothecary, his pupil matron, porter, three maid servants and four nurses.
- Not more than ten patients per ward. North and south aspects to the wards.
- Several rooms to contain only two beds each.
- The main wards to be lit and ventilated by windows placed on opposite sides of the house to allow good ventilation.
- Water closets and cisterns for the patients to wash be placed outside the wards.
- No patients to be lodged on the ground floor.
- The brew-house, bake-house and wash-house to be housed in a separate building.
Mr S. Saxon was the appointed architect to supervise the building and he employed Mr King as his clerk of works. Messrs. Adson and Gordon appointed for the masonry and brick laying, Messrs. Moores and Lewis as carpenters and joiners, Mr James Whitney as plumber and glazier and Mitchell and Dadford were the plasterers.
It was estimated that the total cost of the land, completing and furnishing the building would amount to £10,583, more than anticipated, and so the fundraising began.
It appears that the architect seldom came to observe the building, leaving Mr King in charge, but all the small alterations to the building as work progressed had not been quoted for and so the masons were the losers and ultimately went bankrupt a few years later.
The total cost of the Infirmary, estimated at £10,583, was surpassed with costs mounting to nearly £15,000.
A description of the building given in 1840 (the same date as the picture above) is: ‘The lower subterranean story is occupied by Kitchens, Store rooms, offices etc; the ground floor by the House Surgeons, Matron’s and Pupils’ rooms, the Chapel, the Library and the Committee Room; the two upper storeys by the Sick Wards which afford comfortable accommodation for 114 patients’.
The Infirmary opened its doors to the public in September 1793.
There is no record of a grand opening. A musical evening was suggested, according to the minutes, but was dismissed. This was probably because of the empty coffers or possibly because of the ongoing dispute with the builders.
Finances to run a hospital has always been, and still is a headache for administrators. Money had to be found for bedding and bandages; bread, meat and beer to feed patients; equipment, medicines, candles and wages; building maintenance.
Not much difference to today, except for the beer!
Foot note; The matron, Mary Knapton, retired in 1794 at the grand age of 80. She was granted a pension of £30 per annum and lived to be 91.
Volunteer at NGH Historic Archive and Museum.