Articles, History, Places

The Oldham Infirmary

In 1889 two times great grandfather, Charles Henry Stott visited various places around the Manchester area and wrote articles for the Oldham Express. He published them in a book called Various Subjects in 1889.

This is one of his visits. It is written in a different style to what we are used to. I’ve broken it down to make it more legible. If you make it to the end, you’ll have done well. Even my eyes glazed a little.the content, as with all local history is fascinating.

In this article we find out a hospital works in the 1880s.

We are now home. In July we were at the City of London Orthopaedic Hospital, where poor persons of every nation who are afflicted with clubfoot, contortions, or distortions of the limbs, curvature of the spine, or other bodily deformities have attention. On the 1st November we were in the adjoining city, at the Manchester Clinical Hospital for Women and Children, where we found prostate women and infantile sufferers; no, as we say, ci-dessus, we are at home at the Oldham Infirmary.

It is perhaps well always to begin a good work at home, but, for reasons that we need not give, our hospital visits have been commenced a long way from it; we, however, are now here for the purpose of looking round and of informing our readers of what we see. Our visit, we admit, is a special one, not as subscribers, nor yet to see patients in whom we are particularly of interest, but, as we say, it is for the purpose of looking round and of recording something of what we see.

Many persons visit hospitals during a year. Some go to see sick and poor, but dear relatives and friends; others are attracted by the love they have for those who are helpless, in order that they may cheer, comfort, and sympathise. On the other hand, there are many persons who never think of hospital work, of the silent work that is diurnally and nocturnally going on – nurses always at their post, always in attendance, and always at hand. Untold work is continuously being done, but to which thousands are indifferent until they themselves become prostrate, and then they are full of thanks.

Here is a talkative and communicative patient. He is suffering-perhaps we should say he has suffered –from a broken leg, as he is now not only talkative and communicative, but very comfortable in a comfortable bed with comfortable surroundings; this patient is waiting-impatiently waiting we are glad to say, notwithstanding the comfortable surrounding-to leave the Infirmary. He wants to be busily and profitably engaged. He, however, is in good hands, and when those who understand his position better than he does consider him well enough, he will be promptly discharged.

On our inquiring about the attention that was paid to him, and if he would again know the doctor when he was out of the Infirmary, his prompt reply was, “Yes; I shall not forget him. I don’t think I can do anything too much for him.” Now the man is full of thanks. Oral thanks are valuable, but let us hope that some day he may return his thankfulness, if he be in a position to do so, in a more substantial way. Our progress, however, is too rapid; we will retrace our steps.

When we wrote of the Italian Exhibition we referred to books as guides, and noticed an attendant who had guided us well. What could we do with a guide-book in and Infirmary.

At the Orthopaedic Hospital the secretary very kindly took us by the hand; at the Clinical the matron first listened to our inquiries, then she and the house surgeon, jointly, very willingly gave us attention. Here at home at the Oldham Infirmary – we cannot detach the prefix Oldham – here, we repeat, at the Oldham Infirmary we were first taken by the hand by the obliging and cheerful matron, Miss Thompson, who, let us record for the guidance and satisfaction of subscribers to the Infirmary, “that, notwithstanding increased adequate house accommodation,” the members of the board are pleased to say of this lady that she “continues to discharge her manifold duties efficiently, and with that regard to economy which is consistent with the well-being of those committed to her care, maintaining harmony amongst those who very cheerfully assist her in the nursing department, as well as amongst those who render domestic service.”

Here, as at the Clinical, the house surgeon, Mr. Tomlinson, also subsequently came to our aid. With guides of house surgeon and matron, we felt that we were well taken by the hand. But what do you say of Mr. Tomlinson? We shall say nothing of him here, as the members of the board know him much better than we, and as we have thanked him many times for his kindness to us, we will merely repeat the words of the board as a record, and also, as we say above, for the guidance and satisfaction of subscribers.

These words are that “Mr. W.H. Tomlinson has discharged his duties with so much assiduity and proficiency as to command the confidence of the staff and the gratitude of the patients.” After these words are approbation ours may be deferred. Although the Oldham Infirmary is not an old institution, it is, we are proud to say, an acknowledged one, a popular one, and a successful one.

The foundation stone was laid on April 23rd 1870, and the building was opened on September 20th, 1872. In the year 1878 the Infirmary was enlarged by the erection of the Nichols Ward, the gift of Harry Clegg, Esq., and further enlarged in the year 1883 by the erection of Richardson Ward, the gift of Wm. Richardson, Esq. Our object, however, in the visit to this valuable and noble institution is not to notice the doings of benefactors, or we might refer to the present extension, the noble act of a noble man. The object of the Oldham Infirmary, the name of which is clear and well understood by everybody – the object, we repeat, of the Oldham Infirmary is, according to an extract from the trust deeds, “for relief and cure of persons either as in-patients or otherwise, whether male or female, infant or adult for the time being residing or employed, or having been employed with the town of Oldham aforesaid, who should be suffering from any accident or disease whatever requiring surgical or medical treatment.”

We are glad to say that our visit commenced with a blunder; although it was only a slight one, we were delighted with its occurrence. Miss Thompson had been informed of our visit, but this very active lady, from some cause or other, had forgotten the day so that our visit caused surprise. We were delighted, not because Miss Thompson was distressed, as she did not exhibit any. We were pleased, as we wanted to see the Infirmary in its ordinary state. We expressed our delight to the matron, who calmly said, “It is all the same, as we are always ready.” Later on, however, the good matron, as if to get some mental relief, complained to us of what she called the dirty condition of the hospital. We, however did not see any dirt; but perhaps we are not so accustomed to see very clean places as hospital matrons are.

We, nevertheless, know what cleanliness is, and are always comfortable in places that are clean. We could quite understand the matron’s feelings, as we know the Infirmary had been visited the day precious to our “look around” by an unusually large number of visitors, and that entertainments of a miscellaneous character had been given; we, however, cause disorganisations, but with a good manager and well-trained assistants order is very quickly restored.

The Oldham Infirmary is a general hospital’ its work is not confined to deformities and to suffering women and children, but to, as the trust words say, “any accident or disease whatsoever requiring surgical or medical treatment.” We try to particularize the work hereafter, and when we get into the wards our readers shall be told something of the sufferers whom we found there. The Oldham Infirmary seems to have everything large wards, large operating room, large matron’s room, large room for the head nurses, large dispensary, large laundry, large kitchen, &c. The corridors, however, are dark and narrow, and the boardroom is perhaps too small.

With an institution of which all Oldham is proud we should like to see cheerful surroundings, but as the land that is “round the Infirmary reserved to secure adequate ventilation is not in perfect condition,” let us hope that when an attempt is made to get it into something like perfect condition the surroundings of the institution will be made to appear as cheerful and as pleasing as the other wards that are within.

The mural list of “contributions for building this Infirmary” that is fixed at the entrance, the aggregate of which amounts to £13,296 0s 1d, and the many princely and willing gifts that have since been made, loudly tell us that were there is a defect, that were there is an ugly spot, a proper appeal for money if money could remove it, the appeal would not be made in vain. Let us look again at this list, as we cannot go else where in the present article, and let us see where the penny comes from. Seeing that the list commences with several noble contributions of £500, and that amounts of under £100 are given as £1,808. 5s. 2d, this odd penny makes us a little curious to know who gave it.

There may have been many odd and small amounts, all of which will have been gladly received and gladly acknowledged, but where did this penny come from?

Let us give the odd amounts, there are only four – the total, however, is £5,271. 0s. 1d, which is made up thus:

Proceeds of bazaar, £2,219. 19s. 10d

Mansion House fund, £1,120. 3s. 9d

Under £100, £1,808. 5s. 2d

The Oldham Colliers, £122. 11s. 4d.

Who claims the copper? There may have been many contributors of single coin; let us hope that if there be many claimants all will be satisfied that their contribution has not been overlooked.

Let us repeat the large contribution of the Oldham colliers, £122. 11s. 4d. Here is a collier with what he calls a “cracked leg,” but which he told us during some pleasant conversation had been broken in two places in a colliery; as we had not taken particulars of the list when we saw this man, will a visitor tell him the contribution of the Oldham colliers – £122. 11s. 4d.

Although many persons are very indifferent to good works, others are full of thanks.

“Anonymous donations from working men have also been left at the Infirmary, in one case of five shillings, and in the other twelve shillings.”

Let them encourage the members of the board to work more, if possible, large contributors to give more, and let us all believe that God helps those who help themselves.

Oldham is proud of its Infirmary. The inhabitants of this, the third largest town in Lancashire, and the most important cotton manufacturing town in the world, should also be proud of those who are connected with it. Many persons like to do only silent work; they work, they give and they are satisfied, whether the public knows it or not. There are some workers, however, who cannot be hidden. These have, willingly or unwillingly, to appear before the public as representatives of others.

Let us look at some of the representatives at the Oldham Infirmary. Let us look at the presidents since the foundation of the institution. We can give this list, but to attempt to repeat the names of those who are and those who have been members of the governors; of those have been of those who are consulting surgeons, hon. Surgeons, &c., our space would cry out against the repetition, although we have all the names before us.

The first board was appointed at a meetings of the subscribers to the building fund on February 2nd 1872, and the first president, Mr. Abraham Crompton, on his retiring from office, was thanked at the annual meetings of the subscribers, held in the Town Hall on Thursday, February 27th 1873.

Mr. Crompton’s successors are Thomas Evans Lees, Esq., Thomas R. Platt, Esq., Harry Clegg Esq., Alfred Butterworth Esq., Samual Taylor Esq., William Richardson, Esq., and the present president, Charles Edward Lees, Esq., who, to use Miss Thompson’s words, “has just given us one thousand pounds towards our new building,” thus making his previous gift into two thousand pounds.

This is what we called in Article No. 1 the noble act of a noble man. In the first annual report we read, “The number and nature of the cases hitherto admitted prove that a want in the town has been supplied at a cost of more than £12,000, exclusive of endowment,” and the very assuring words, “the institution must not now languish for lack of support. Neither opinions nor circumstances need stand in the way of subscribing to an infirmary. An appeal may, therefore, be very confidently made to all classes for their contributions, so that the income of £1,200 may be obtained which will be needed to maintain the institution efficiently, and keep it out of debt. The committee trust that Oldham may boast of an infirmary that gives relief to really first applicants, who expenditure may be met by income, and which will bear comparison with kindred institutions in the neighbourhood for the ability of its staff, the skill of its nursing, and the excellence of its general arrangements.” Here an income of £1,200 is referred to in order “to maintain the institutions efficiently.”

The last annual and printed report shows an expenditure during the year of £3,976. 0s. 8d. As the institution is a successful one the committee are justified in the expenditure. Successful work is always encouraged. “Neither opinions nor circumstances” seem to have stood in the way, as since the first annual report donations of £1,000 have been received from Joseph Beevers in 1875; from William Lees, Edward-street, in 1880; from Alfred Butterworth I 1882; several of £500, and many of upwards of £100. Of minor gives the first report says “The governors announce with pleasure that presents of books, pictures, surgical instruments, counterpanes, dressing gowns, newspapers, and linen have been received” from sundry persons. Now similar and very welcome gifts are acknowledged from many, say books, magazines, scrap books, &c., from 35 persons, old linen and calico from 8, underlinen and scarlet jackets from 11, fruit and flowers, and plants from 52. Of these presents some have been sent by and old patient, prize flowers from and old patient wedding bouquets from Mrs. Platt, Clegg-street, and old patients. Fruit and flowers, &c., have been received from four, and Christmas presents from 39. These presents include gifts from the ladies’ sewing class in Werneth, a toy for every child from a gentleman, old patients and a Christmas tree from the Misses Rowntree. The miscellaneous gifts include firewood, framed pictures, box of preserves, texts, albums, 50 bottles of “Taunus” mineral water, parkin, six copies daily of the Oldham newspapers, the Illustrated London News, &c. If the gifts which are acknowledged be compared with those that are acknowledged in the first report, it will be seen that the list is a remarkably large one. Of legacies of £100 and upwards £105 received in the last year 1871 appears opposite to the name of James Whittaker; 1875, George Rowbottom £500 and

The Oldham Infirmary—continued

Thomas Grime £1,121 13s. 11d; 1878, Robert Fitton £100 and Mary Stott £100; 1881 Philip James Ashton £297; 1882, Riobert Shiers £100; 1883, Asa Lees £10,000; and in 1887 Mrs. Redfern £900, and George Redford £2,706. 6s 9d. The report that we have had handed to us acknowledges the amount of subscriptions as £1,387. 16s., against

£1,305. 17s. received the previous year. Collections on Hospital Sunday £93. 12s., against £1,176. 10s. 1d.

The Oldham Infirmary– continued

Donation boxers in the Infirmary yielded £2. 5s. 31/2d, but whilst the Primrose View Hotel contributed £1. 4s. 5d., 17 other licensed places contributed only £1. 1s. 01/2d., the largest amount in one box being 4s 3d. and the smallest 1 1/2d. We would like to suggest that donation boxes wherever they are sent should be always placed where they may be readily seen.

Let us now look at some of the work that is done in the Infirmary, which we are told is open at stated periods for the reception of the poor who require medical assistance; accidents are admitted at any hour of the day or night. Those called “minor” accidents receive prompt attention which is continued until the patient is as far as possible restored, whist “cases of emergency” and more serious accidents are placed in the wards, where they are treated skillfully and kindly buy the surgeons and nurses, who are ever ready to render any service, however self-denying, to those committed to their care.

Occasionally patients who came self-denying, to those committed to their care. Occasionally patients who come from medical relief have had to wait for admission in consequence of the wards being full, but no urgent surgical case has ever been turned away.

The work of an infirmary is continuous work, uncertain word, but always important word. Where life is in danger everybody should hasten to the rescue. Doctors are always expected to be ready, and nurses ever at hand. During the year that we have under notice 5.523 patients were treated at the Infirmary; 663 as in-patients, and 2,860 as out-patients. Of the 663 in-patients, 182 were admitted as accidents, 166 as emergencies, and 315 with letter of recommendation. Of the 663 in-patients only 197 were medical, 74 men, 92 women, and 31 children; whilst of surgical cases there was the large number of 464; 235 men, 105 women, and 124 children. When subscribers to this valuable institution take in consideration the district of Oldham, its many mills its many industries, its machine shops, &cv.,

The infirmary seems advanced in every way. It was at first designed for 35 beds; now there are 80, “but when we are pressed,” one of the nurses told us, “we can make up to 84.”

We intended to refer to the nurses in this article, but our notice of them must be deferred. The more we think of as general hospital the same as the Oldham Infirmary, the more we are attracted to something that draws us away from that which is attractive elsewhere. However, as we are now at one, as we have precious stated, we need not be in a hurry to get away from it. We are interested in the infirmary, and we want other to be interested in it also.

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