DUDLEY ROAD HOSPITAL
© COLIN BAKER 2007
The New Birmingham Workhouse, located on Western Road, Winson Green was opened 29th March 1852. Built at a cost of £44,476, from a design by C.E.Bateman, it was to replace the old Lichfield Street, Workhouse. It was built to accommodate 1,160, although by the time of the census of 1881 it housed 2,291 inmates plus 86 staff.
In January 1889, a new infirmary that would become Dudley Road Hospital was opened, at a cost of £120,000, more than twice its original estimate, this included £3,000 allocated for the laying out of the grounds.
It consisted of nine Nightingale style wards, built along a single corridor nearly ¼ mile in length. This corridor still claims to be the longest hospital corridor, although Llandough Hospital in Cardiff, also lays claim to this title.
It was originally known as the Birmingham Union Infirmary which later changed to the Dudley Road Infirmary before becoming Dudley Road Hospital in 1912, and is now known as City Hospital. Also in 1912, the workhouse became known as Western Road House, no longer seen as a workhouse it became a Poor Law Institution caring for elderly and infirm paupers, this became Summerfield Hospital in 1948. The first Matron of the new infirmary was Anne Gibson who had trained at the Nightingale School; she was responsible for founding the Nurse Training School at the hospital.
During May 1917, the hospital was taken over as a military hospital, with the first casualties arriving on the 10th May. The wounded were transported to Winson Green Railway Station and then transferred by ambulance to the hospital. With a capacity of 1560 beds it became one of the largest military hospitals and became the 2nd/1st Southern General Hospital, having previously been an annexe to the 1st Southern General Hospital. The last casualties arrived on 19th July 1919. A total of 53,896 patients were treated over the four years, and with only 268 deaths, it would suggest that the majority of patients had passed the acute stages before being transferred to the hospital. The military authorities paid a total of £294,584, for the services provided during the war.
The hospital continued to grow including the addition of three extra operating theatre suites.
In 1939, with the outbreak of World War 2, it was decided Dudley Road would remain a civil hospital, but would admit Service and air raid casualties under the Emergency Medical Service regulations, which would allow for reimbursement of costs. The first air raid casualties were received on 26th August 1940, with two dead on arrival, and a number of fractures, lacerations and abrasions to others.
During the bombing of Birmingham the hospital was hit twice, the Maids’ Home was destroyed, although no casualties were reported, and the on the second occasion the pig sties were destroyed with fatal casualties to the occupants. Casualties were not kept at the hospital as long term patients, once stabilised, they would be transferred to peripheral hospitals using single deck Birmingham Corporation ‘buses converted to take stretchers. With there being no major bombing after July 1942, the hospital was used for the treatment of battle casualties, with the first patients arriving on 10th & 11th June 1944, following the D-Day landings.
Following the end of the war, the hospital returned to its peace time role as a general hospital, with a capacity of 1068 beds, and out-patient facilities.
In 1948, with the introduction of the National Health Service, the hospital came under the control of the Regional Hospital Board, who administered the funds derived from the government.
The Front Block and Tower of the hospital built in 1863 was demolished in 1964, where a new out-patient department was built.
This site is also the location of the Birmingham & Midland Eye Hospital.
Details extracted from the book Dudley Road Hospital 1887-1987 by G.W.Hearn