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4th April 1934 - February 2011 Montagu Hospital Nurses Home
by Julia Ashby  Photo: Ron James

When Montagu Hospital was officially opened by James Montagu, on 18th May 1905, the accommodation provided for both the matron and the nursing staff was believed to be some of the best.
But as the years past and the hospital expanded, with childrens’ wards, more male and female surgery wards, operating theatres, mortuary and post mortem room, porter’s house, electrical treatment dept., plus the opening of the first West Riding County Council Maternity Home, this once first class accommodation, became inadequate and hugely overcrowded.
Thus it was that a need was felt to construct a new Nurses’ Hostel.
The search began firstly, by the Management of the hospital, to obtain finances to fulfil this project which, as the country was in recession like today, was difficult to obtain.
Although many private individuals and smaller firms helped with this, the vast majority of the finances were gained via grants from three sources: £8,109 came from the Miners Welfare Fund; £2,500 from the West Riding County Council; and the smallest of the three, at £314, came from the Barnsley British Co-operative Society.
They began to look for a suitable site and in 1930 purchased three quarters of an area of land, close to the junction of Adwick Road and Cemetery Road, adjacent to the gates of the hospital, for which they paid the princely sum of £500.
The search then went out to find someone who had the expertise to design a building which was good enough for our nurses.
And just to indicate in what high esteem and what value was placed on our ‘Angles’ I can do no better than quote what was stated at the opening by Alderman Probert, of the West Riding County Council, and Mr. W.A. Lewis, Chairman of the Board of Management, who both made comments, the sentiments of which others in positions of power at present could stand to take heed.
Ald. Probert stated that when members found out the purpose of the grant “not a voice was raised in protest against the grant in County Hall” he then went on to say “the hospital had the reputation of being second to none in South Yorkshire”. Mr. W.A. Lewis said “The Board of Management felt that nothing was too good for nurses who were doing their best for the welfare of the public”.
Whereas others commented “No one will grudge them this handsome accommodation.
Their arduous and unpleasant duties entitled them to a far better home life than it has hitherto been able to provide”.
So the designer had to be the best that their money could provide and their knight in shining armour came in the form of a local man, Mr. David Harrop. David William Harrop, to give him his full name, was born in 1889, the son of David Harrop, a carpenter, and his wife Mary Jane, and a couple of years after his birth, in 1891, we find him living at 31 Bank Street with: his parents; brother Frances Horace; plus his three sisters, Edith, Mary and May.
He was educated in Mexborough but studied his craft at Rotherham Technical School and during the 1st WW served partially in Russia. On his return home he was appointed Housing Architect to Mexborough Urban District Council, a post which he later left to become self-employed.
Prior to the drawing of blueprints for the Nurses’ Home he had designed churches in Ashopton, a village later to be flooded by the creation of the Ladybower Dam, plus another in Woodseats, Sheffield.
It appears that their choice of designer could not have been better as everyone who saw the completed Nurses’ Home indicated that it was a valuable piece of architecture in the town, having a neo-Georgian façade with certain art-deco points, such as the datestone and also the stained glass windows.
The interior consisted of : thirty bedrooms, twenty, on the ground floor for day nurses, and ten upstairs for those on the night shift; a large recreation room; large lecture room; separate sitting rooms for the home sister, sisters, and staff nurses; study; two reception rooms; linen room; and thoroughly modern and hygienic kitchen.
The entrance porch lead to a hall with corridors leading off to the right and left and a staircase took you to the first floor. The walls, in the hall, were covered in tiles and the floor was laid with mock marble flooring consisting of tiny chips of ground stone, known as Terrazzo Flooring.
An architect obtained the next person to find was a builder worthy of the project and this came in the form of Messrs G.H. Smith and Sons Ltd., Rock Pottery Yard, Bank Street, Mexborough. The same highly skilled and professional firm that had constructed the hospital itself, some thirty years previously.
By the time the Nurses’ Home was constructed George Henry would have been approx eighty years old and his brother Frank in his late seventies, therefore the Frank Smith, who attended the opening, and made a speech stating how proud they had been to be entrusted with the work, is believed to be the son of George Henry, then running the firm. Last but not least came the finishing touches.
The first of these was the interior design and who better to give hard working nurses, exactly what they wanted in the form of home comforts, than someone with a lifetime of nursing experience, and came in the form of Miss Wesley, the matron of the hospital who was supported in this by the Barnsley British Co-operative Society, who provided most of the items at bare factory price.
Another item not to missed was the garden, where the nurses could sit and relax at the end of long trying day, here Mr. M.C. Martyn, Manager of Wath Main Colliery and member of the hospital management came to the fore and undertook this personally.
He also arranged for the General Electric Comp. to provide and install ‘wirelesses’ in both the hospital and Nurses’ Home. The building completed and everything ready the Montagu Hospital Nurses’ Hostel was opened on Saturday 14th April 1934.
Hundreds of people crammed the entrance of Cemetery Road to see the opening which was accomplished with great aplomb by Mrs. Humble, wife of Mr. W. Humble Chairman of the Doncaster Collieries Association, of Skellow Grange, Carcroft Doncaster.
The ceremonies began by the unveiling of two plaques in the boardroom of the hospital, these being to the late Hon. Mrs. Lindley Wood, who as Mrs. Montagu had been the first patroness and the other to Mrs S.O. Hatherley, who prior to her marriage had been the first matron.
A short preamble, through the thronged crowds, was then taken across the road to the nurses’ home where a short service of dedication took place lead by the Bishop of Sheffield, assisted by the Rev. E.A.A. Somerset, vicar of Mexborough, accompanied by the band of Mexborough Salvation Army. Mr. Harrop then past the keys of the home to Mrs. Humble for the official opening, who in her speech reiterated the deep feelings of love and respect felt towards nurses, on the whole, by stating: “It was fitting that such a home should be provided for the nurses.
Their profession was arduous, and they needed the relaxation it afforded. One gift every nurse seemed to posses was cheerfulness and she felt everyone owed much to them for displaying that spirit. Some time before coming to Mexborough she heard that the Montagu Hospital had a high reputation for the quality of its nurses and the efficiency of its management.
It was an appreciation which she herself would like to offer on this occasion. To the nurses she said, ‘I trust you will always find in this home peace and happiness’”. A bouquet was then presented to Mrs. Humble by Sister O’Callaghan.
This was followed by speeches given by ‘the great and the good’ which consisted of Mr. Ashwin Chairman of the Miners Welfare Fund, Ald. Probert of the County Council, Mr. Lewis Chairman of the Board of Management, Mr. Percy Bannister Treasurer of the hospital, and lastly Mr. D.S. Humphreys J.P. and Vice Chairman of the Board of Management. The last two speech, which were given by Mr. Tom Smith M.P. and the Bishop of Sheffield both carried messages which are noteworthy, by the ‘great and the good’ of today.
Mr. Smith M.P. stated: “Mexborough, above all other districts, needed adequate hospital accommodation because the industries claimed such a heavy toll”. Whereas the Bishop went on to say “There was no more Christlike and worthy of Christian support than the work of the hospitals.
He was sure Mexborough was not going to be behind. It would support its hospital and be sure it was kept on a firm foundation and be a priceless blessing for all time”. Following this they were escorted on a guided tour of the home.
After all the pomp and ceremony of the speeches and official opening the doors were then opened to the general public, many of which had indirectly subscribed to its construction via their weekly payments made to the Welfare Fund, and a wave of humanity surged forth eager to see the home they had worked so hard to provide.
So many were there that it had to remain open from Saturday until the following Monday and hundreds past through its doors, to inspect its interior and what they had managed to provide for their nurses.
The Nurses Home stood, one of the symbols of pride to the working people of this area, from 14th April 1934 to February 2011, when, during that month, it was demolished to make way for housing. Information obtained from: South Yorkshire Times editions dated 13.04.1934, 20. 04.1934. 1891 Census Returns for Mexborough Mexborough Trade Directories. A Short History of Montagu Hospital 1889-1925 The Montagu Hospital Jubilee Handbook 1890-1940 ancestry.com

News From the Local History Room
The Local History Room
As you know the Local History Room, which was opened in 2001 to serve the needs of anyone wishing to know anything of the vast local and family history of the area has had to close.
This despite the efforts of the Hon. Ed. Milliband M.P. and local councillors. The increase in rent asked by DMBC was too excessive for us to cope with.
But this is not the end as both our Microfiche and Microfilm Readers, and one of our metal cabinets, plus some of our archival material is now situated in a more prominent and accessible area of the library, this being to the fore of the reference section of Mexborough Library and everyone will have access there to: South Yorkshire Times 1928-1951 Parish Church Records and Indexes Census Returns Burial Records Mexborough Cemetery Records 1877-c1930
Also as free internet and e-mail facilities have been offered Julia or another member of our hard working committee, will try to be on hand, most afternoons, in order to answer your enquiries.

Many thanks must go to Mr. G. Schofield, ‘The Croft’, Pastures Road, Mex. who came forward with the offer of an office, free of charge at the farm, plus the manpower needed to move everything. Here will be stored items which cannot be contained at the library, such as our computer, printers, scanner, desk, photocopier, stationary, artefacts, and the main source of our archives.

Copyright: This newsletter may not be reproduced, in part or in its entirety, without the permission of J.R. Ashby.