NHS at 70: Photos give us insight into early days of Rugby's St Cross

A reader contacted the Advertiser to inform us that the woman at the back wearing glasses was called Jean Smith. She served in the Army during the Second World War before training as a nurse at Northampton General. She went on to manage St Cross's sun pavilion for many years.
A reader contacted the Advertiser to inform us that the woman at the back wearing glasses was called Jean Smith. She served in the Army during the Second World War before training as a nurse at Northampton General. She went on to manage St Cross's sun pavilion for many years.

A successful appeal for pictures to mark 70 years of the NHS has provided Rugbeians with an insight into the early days of the Hospital of St Cross.

St Cross Hospital manager Juliet Starkey previously called for photos of the hospital as she prepared to compile an exhibition to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS, which is today, July 5.

In a photo possibly dating to the Second World War, medical staff (or volunteers) appear to be demonstrating  bandaging techniques to onlookers. The Maltese crosses and the military-style rank slides on the uniforms mean the women are likely to be St Johns Ambulance volunteers. St Johns Ambulance volunteers are credited with saving thousands of lives during the Second World War.

In a photo possibly dating to the Second World War, medical staff (or volunteers) appear to be demonstrating bandaging techniques to onlookers. The Maltese crosses and the military-style rank slides on the uniforms mean the women are likely to be St Johns Ambulance volunteers. St Johns Ambulance volunteers are credited with saving thousands of lives during the Second World War.

The photos submitted give a seldom seen insight into the earlier days of the hospital, which opened in 1884.

One picture shows one of the wards as it would have appeared in the early to mid- twentieth century while others appear to show some sort of training taking place – with staff bandaging and splinting ‘patients’.

Another shows what appears to be a senior nurse demonstrating a piece of equipment to observers.

Yesterday, Wednesday July 4, the hospital marked the NHS’s 70th anniversary with a thanksgiving service for staff and volunteers at the Elizabeth Chapel.

Medical staff appear to be demonstrating the use of a splint.

Medical staff appear to be demonstrating the use of a splint.

And today a staff tea party was held to thank all those who work at the hospital for their commitment.

St Cross was built thanks to the generosity of Mr and Mrs Wood, who came to Rugby in 1874.

How the death of a Rugby railway worker spurred a generous couple to

According to Rugby Local History Group , the couple saw a need for more medical facilities for Rugbeians when they heard of a railway engineer who died in Rugby during an amputation.

A woman who looks to be a senior nurse, owing to the dark uniform, demonstrates a piece of medical equipment.

A woman who looks to be a senior nurse, owing to the dark uniform, demonstrates a piece of medical equipment.

Ordinarily, those with serious injuries would be taken to other towns or cities, but the engineer’s case was so urgent an amputation was attempted in Castle Street.

The Castle Street hospital did not have an operating table so the attempted amputation was performed on a bed.

When Mrs Wood heard of the death she donated an operating table to the hospital.

Mr and Mrs Wood eventually donated land and funds for the construction of the Hospital of St Cross – an act of kindness that would see them become a beloved part of the town’s history.

A glimpse of one of St Cross's wards.

A glimpse of one of St Cross's wards.

When the NHS was created in 1948 St Cross was included in the new health service – although donations from the public continued to aid the hospital’s development.

To see more vintage photographs of the hospital, visit https://bit.ly/2KK6O11.
Anyone wishing to share their photographs of St Cross is asked to email communications@uhcw.nhs.uk

Do you have any more information about the photographs in this story? Please email alex.green@jpress.co.uk or call 01788 539969.

The NHS is 70 years old today – here’s how it came to be

In 1948 a war-ravaged Britain embarked on a project which would prove to revolutionalise access to healthcare .

Today (July 5) that project marks its 70th anniversary. The idea of a health service for all was not born in the 1940s, but a significant step towards the establishment of one was made during the height of the Second World War when William Beveridge published a report named ‘Social Insurance and Allied Services’ – many of us know this as the Beveridge Report.

We're not quite sure what's going on here - but they both look very pleased!

We're not quite sure what's going on here - but they both look very pleased!

Mr Beveridge used the report to propose the creation of a national health service and a vast expansion of the welfare system.

The report proved popular with the public and, when Clement Atlee’s Labour government was elected in 1945, Beveridge’s vision would become reality.

Friends of St Cross continue to support our hospital

St Cross has its roots in the community, and nothing has really changed. The hospital has its roots in the community, being founded by townspeople to help others, and then given a new home by wealthy philanthropists from Rugby.

Throughout much of its early life the Hospital of St Cross relied on the kindness of local people and their charity to keep going.

While healthcare was not guaranteed to be free before the NHS came along in 1948, people could still get care in emergencies and other situations for reduced rates according to their ability to pay.

This was thanks to the support of people from the community and their charitable spirits which saw them help raise money for their hospital or volunteer their time to help patients.

When the NHS was brought in and St Cross joined the new national service paid for by general taxation, some people thought that would mean the end of the need for communities to support their local healthcare facilities.

But at St Cross it soon became clear that the community wanted to continue helping their hospital.

In 1955, just seven years after the NHS was founded, the Friends of St Cross were set up.

The group has existed ever since as a way to coordinate the various fundraising events, offers of voluntary work, bequeaths and appeals for help from the hospital.

The Friends go beyond what the NHS can provide – working to ensure patients and staff at St Cross have a comfortable experience in a clean and modern surrounding. When the NHS says an upgrade to a ward may take years to save up for, the Friends have helped shorten that time.

Their work is on display throughout the hospital, from the brightly painted walls on the wards, to new chairs for families to use, special rooms for people with dementia, and far more than can be listed here.

And to this day they are still supported by the community.

This photo looks to have been taken in the early twentieth century.

This photo looks to have been taken in the early twentieth century.

What appears to be a wedding celebration.

What appears to be a wedding celebration.