THE HISTORY OF MEXBOROUGH MONTAGU COTTAGE HOSPITAL AND MONTAGU HOSPITAL
If you had become very ill two hundred years ago there was only one person who could help and that was Dame Varoh, the nearest doctor being at Wath. (In 1873 this was Jonathan Gawtress Wade, Surgeon. This information was found on a local deed). Dame Varoh lived at Glebe Farm, Church Street and became one of the first people to vaccinate children in our area. (The first vaccination was given for Smallpox in 1796). Her daughter who followed in her footsteps married Joseph Lockwood in 1817 and became an Apothecary (a cross between a pharmacist and a medical practitioner). In 1853 the government made it compulsory to vaccinate all babies under the age of four months for smallpox and Martha Lockwood, again after her mother, became Vaccination Officer for our district.
By 1877, after our area had started to become industrialised and the population had increased greatly, we find that there was also a rise in the number of people coming to our town with some type of medical training. By this year we had one trained surgeon and physician by the name of James Steward, three chemists, James Walter Ainley, who was also our post mater, Samuel Pepper and Robert Shields and a herbalist, Mr. George Codd.
But After the sinking of Denaby Pit (first sod cut in 1863, coal reached 1867 and coal production started 1868 - This information was obtained from A Railway History of
Denaby and Cadeby collieries) there became an increasing number of people needing specialised medical help with respect to accidents incurred whilst working underground. Such medical help, which a doctor alone could not give, involved complicated operations etc. and an increasing need for a hospital closer to home was felt to be necessary. The two nearest at this time were Rotherham and Doncaster. (Doncaster Dispensary opened in 1792, Doncaster General Infirmary and Dispensary opened 1868 - Information from Doncaster Royal Infirmary Bicentenary Souvenir Booklet), and it was as an indirect result of an accident down Denaby Pit that Montagu Cottage Hospital came to be built.
Late in the 1880s Mr. Chris Ward was involved in a serious accident at Denaby Pit and was taken home in a coal cart (Information taken from a Short History of
Montagu Hospital) to await the arrival of the doctor. Here I must mention that in those days you could not go straight into hospital however badly hurt you were. Firstly a doctor had to be called to your home, then he had to recommend you to a hospital. The recommendation would go in front of the hospital committee to be assessed as to whether you were a fit sort of person to go into their hospital and as to whether or not you were suffering from a contagious disease, insanity, epilepsy or an incurable illness, as you were not allowed to be admitted into hospital under these circumstances. If the hospital committee said you could be admitted, then 0.K, if not, then another hospital had to be tried by your doctor with the same procedure. By this time you could be dead. It is not surprising, therefore, that doctors preferred to do simple operations etc. at the patient's home. But when Mr. Ward's doctor arrived his injuries were found to be too extensive for his own doctor to deal with and he was taken by trap (possibly a dog cart, which doctors of the time seemed to prefer) to Doncaster Infirmary, where one of his legs was amputated. His accident occurred at 2.00 a.m. but he did not receive treatment until 10.00 p.m. that night. It was this experience which decided him on the course of action he was to take on his recovery, and this was to agitate for a hospital.
Chris Ward was not the only one here to feel the need for a hospital. Dr. W. Sykes, who was able to enlist the aid of many powerful sympathisers instigated the first meeting of all interested parties at The South Yorkshire Hotel in 1889 and six months after that meeting the hospital was ready for opening. The building itself was donated by Andrew Montagu. It was previously occupied by the Primitive Methodists and then a Sunday School (information from the Mexborough and Swinton Times) and financial assistance for the necessary alterations to the building was given by the miners, glass blowers, railway employees and trades people of Mexborough and the immediate area (M. & S. T.).
The site of the Montagu Cottage Hospital was next to the Oriental Buildings, close to the old library on Bank Street and was opened by Mrs. J. Montagu in January 1890. It could accommodate fourteen people, eight male and six female. The male ward was to the right and the female to the left of the building and there was a balcony to the rear for people to use in convalescence, with views over the river and fields towards Old Denaby. The first Matron or nurse as she was at first called was Miss Moore of Mexborough who was trained at a hospital in Sheffield. After obtaining the post as nurse here she took up residence in her accommodation at the hospital.
She not only had to nurse the patients but also was expected to provide good meals and make sure that the hospital was clean, neat and in proper order. Also one of the first rules made by the hospital committee was that accidents should be admitted
Denaby and Cadeby collieries) there became an increasing number of people needing specialised medical help with respect to accidents incurred whilst working underground. Such medical help, which a doctor alone could not give, involved complicated operations etc. and an increasing need for a hospital closer to home was felt to be necessary. The two nearest at this time were Rotherham and Doncaster. (Doncaster Dispensary opened in 1792, Doncaster General Infirmary and Dispensary opened 1868 - Information from Doncaster Royal Infirmary Bicentenary Souvenir Booklet), and it was as an indirect result of an accident down Denaby Pit that Montagu Cottage Hospital came to be built.
Late in the 1880s Mr. Chris Ward was involved in a serious accident at Denaby Pit and was taken home in a coal cart. (Information taken from a Short History of
Montagu Hospital) to await the arrival of the doctor. Here I must mention that in those days you could not go straight into hospital however badly hurt you were. Firstly a doctor had to be called to your home, then he had to recommend you to a hospital. The recommendation would go in front of the hospital committee to be assessed as to whether you were a fit sort of person to go into their hospital and as to whether or not you were suffering from a contagious disease, insanity, epilepsy or an incurable illness, as you were not allowed to be admitted into hospital under these circumstances. If the hospital committee said you could be admitted, then 0.K, if not, then another hospital had to be tried by your doctor with the same procedure. By this time you could be dead. It is not surprising, therefore, that doctors preferred to do simple operations etc. at the patient's home. But when Mr. Ward's doctor arrived his injuries were found to be too extensive for his own doctor to deal with and he was taken by trap (possibly a dog cart, which doctors of the time seemed to prefer) to Doncaster Infirmary, where one of his legs was amputated. His accident occurred at 2.00 a.m. but he did not receive treatment until 10.00 p.m. that night. It was this experience which decided him on the course of action he was to take on his recovery, and this was to agitate for a hospital.
Chris Ward was not the only one here to feel the need for a hospital. Dr. W. Sykes. who was able to enlist the aid of many powerful sympathisers instigated the first meeting of all interested parties at The South Yorkshire Hotel in 1889 and six months after that meeting the hospital was ready for opening. The building itself was donated by Andrew Montagu. It was previously occupied by the Primitive Methodists and then a Sunday School (information from the Mexborough and Swinton Times) and financial assistance for the necessary alterations to the building was given by the miners, glass blowers, railway employees and trades people of Mexborough and the immediate area (M. & S. T.).
The site of the Montagu Cottage Hospital was next to the Oriental Buildings, close to the old library on Bank Street and was opened by Mrs. J. Montagu in January 1890. It could accommodate fourteen people, eight male and six female. The male ward was to the right and the female to the left of the building and there was a balcony to the rear for people to use in convalescence, with views over the river and fields towards Old Denaby. The first Matron or nurse as she was at first called was Miss Moore of Mexborough who was trained at a hospital in Sheffield. After obtaining the post as nurse here she took up residence in her accommodation at the hospital.
She not only had to nurse the patients but also was expected to provide good meals and make sure that the hospital was clean, neat and in proper order. Also one of the first rules made by the hospital committee was that accidents should be admitted
at any time of the day or night without recommendation of a doctor so she would have been "knocked up" in the early hours to look after emergency cases as well (this was after 1891), and it was very quickly found that Miss Moore could not undertake the running of the hospital single-handed, the workload being too great, and an assistant nurse was advertised for at a salary of 5 per year plus 5 for uniform.
Means had to be found to finance the hospital and it was Chris Ward again who came to the fore, as it was he who put forward the idea of having Hospital Sunday Demonstrations. (I feel sure that some of our older members will remember these all too well). The first raised the sum of 20 I9s. Od. (E20.95). A May Day procession was also organised and a bazaar was planned by the Ladies Committee. This went on for four days and was called "An Old English Fair" and after this a tea was held every year, becoming an annual feature.. (Held in the National School which once stood where the Salvation Army Citadel now stands at the top of Bank Street.)
From the hospital being opened in 1890 to 1895, 2,000 new homes had been built and the population had risen from 10,000 to 14,000 people and, as bed space was limited, it was felt that a new larger hospital was needed. After much negotiation a site was obtained from the Montagu Trust at the corner of Cemetery Road and Adwick Road and at 2.00 D. m. on the 25th April 1904 the stone laying ceremony of the New Montagu Hospital took place, the first being laid by Mr. James Montagu and the second by Mr. James Kelley C.C.of Wath followed by a luncheon at the Montagu Arms Hotel, where no less than nine toasts were taken during the meal.
The hospital was officially opened on 18th May 1905 by Mr. Montagu and dedicated by the Bishop of Sheffield. It had in all, room for forty two beds. There were two male wards - or pavilions as they were called - (this information came from Mr. J. Martin) These had ten beds in one and eight in another; and one female ward with eight beds. This also accommodated children as the females and children at this time were always kept together in the same ward. There was also one Isolation Ward with two beds for private patients, one operating theatre with two rooms and a small ward attached. Also when the hospital first opened it had a boardroom, laundry (this proved to be inadequate and could not cope with the large amount of washing necessary for a hospital of this size and a lady related to the Bisby family was employed to do the excess at I/6d. (7p) per load (information from Mrs. S. Batty). There was an ambulance room (A Short History of Montagu Hospital by Mr. D. M. Wilson does not state whether or not the hospital had an Ambulance, but most of the larger pits kept one on their premises in case of accidents), and there was also accommodation for the matron, nursing staff and the servants.
In 1912 it was decided to build a separate children's ward at the north-west side of the hospital grounds and Mr. C. F. Moxon of Barnsley was employed as Architect and Mr. E. E. Dickinson of Bolton-on-Dearne was successful in obtaining the contract to build it. Work began in the summer of 1914. That summer came ominous rumours of war and on 4th August 1914 war broke out between Britain and Germany and in 1915 not children but wounded men from the armed forces began to occupy the ward, at first to be looked after by Dr. F. Harvey but after he was sent to the Front, the Matron, Miss Wesley, became Commandant for the military ward and ran these as well a running the civilian wards as well and because of this was mentioned in dispatches in 1918. While the military was at Montagu a large
recreation but was built and a billiard table was provided by The Swinton Tennis Club. People who had cars took the men for rides into the countryside, and concerts became a feature at the hall which ceased in 1919 after the war was over.
On 29th August 1920 the Children's Ward was officially opened by Mr. J. Tune of the Barnsley British Co-operative Society Ltd. and it was at this point that someone suddenly realised that for years there had been an oversight on the part of everyone. The hospital did not have a kitchen! Mr. P. White was therefore employed to draw up some plans and Messrs. G. H. Smith & Sons built it.
Up to this time the hospital had only been a surgical and accident hospital. In January 1923 more land was purchased and more buildings erected to increase the number of male and female surgical beds .
Two more private wards, a second Operating Theatre, a new laundry with a boiler house, mortuary and post mortem room, porters house, massage and electrical treatment department and a lift were put in.
As my own son was born at Montagu Hospital ten years ago I was very interested a while ago to read in one of the back copies of The Mexborough and Swinton Times of the opening of the first West Riding County Council Maternity Home at Montagu Hospital in March 1929. Some of the things mentioned in this article left me dumbfounded, like the huge area it was expected to serve (Conisbrough, Darfield, Mexborough, Rawmarsh, Swinton, Wath, Wombwell and a large area of the Doncaster Rural District) with just ten beds, and other items like some learned people's attitude to things like birth control. One speaker (a man) seemed to think this was wrong, saying that the biggest thing in the world and most magnificent was motherhood and that he did not like to see loneliness and that he liked children to be there. He also did not think it right to spend public money on theories of Birth Control that could be dangerous (but said nothing of how dangerous it was for some women to get pregnant). One of the speakers (again a man) on the subject of emancipation for women, seemed to think that it was about women not dying in childbirth and stated that they did not die in such great numbers as in the past now that they had maternity homes, child welfare clinics, school nurses, and school dentists. He did not refer to what we now call emancipation these days, but we must not forget that women had only had the right to vote on the same lines as men for one year and the idea of real emancipation was a comparatively new one. (In 1928 women over the age of 21 years were given the vote.) When we look now at this article some of the beliefs and attitudes bring a smile to the lips.
In 1932 it was found that the maternity ward could not cope with the amount of women wanting treatment and another ward was built containing room for ten more beds. This of course meant an increase in nursing staff and the staff accommodation was extended.
Nothing really happened to the hospital until 1946 when the National Health Service Act was passed. All hospitals were taken over by Regional Hospital Boards under the Ministry of Health. England and Wales were divided into fourteen sections each under a Regional Hospital Board. County and County Borough Councils had to provide ambulances, midwives, home nurses and home midwives for those in need. Finally, Health Centres were set up bringing together G.P.s, nurses and other medical services under one roof and Mexborough was no exception.
recreation but was built and a billiard table was provided by The Swinton Tennis Club. People who had cars took the men for rides into the countryside, and concerts became a feature at the hall which ceased in 1919 after the war was over.
On 29th August 1920 the Children's Ward was officially opened by Mr. J. Tune of the Barnsley British Co-operative Society Ltd. and it was at this point that someone suddenly realised that for years there had been an oversight on the part of everyone. The hospital did not have a kitchen! Mr. P. White was therefore employed to draw up some plans and Messrs. G. H. Smith & Sons built it.
Up to this time the hospital had only been a surgical and accident hospital. In January 1923 more land was purchased and more buildings erected to increase the number of male and female surgical beds
Two more private wards, a second Operating Theatre, a new laundry with a boiler house, mortuary and post mortem room, porters house, massage and electrical treatment department and a lift were put in.
As my own son was born at Montagu Hospital ten years ago I was very interested a while ago to read in one of the back copies of The Mexborough and Swinton Times of the opening of the first West Riding County Council Maternity Home at Montagu Hospital in March 1929. Some of the things mentioned in this article left me dumbfounded, like the huge area it was expected to serve (Conisbrough, Darfield, Mexborough, Rawmarsh, Swinton, Wath, Wombwell and a large area of the Doncaster Rural District) with just ten beds, and other items like some learned people's attitude to things like birth control. One speaker (a man) seemed to think this was wrong, saying that the biggest thing in the world and most magnificent was motherhood and that he did not like to see loneliness and that he liked children to be there. He also did not think it right to spend public money on theories of Birth Control that could be dangerous (but said nothing of how dangerous it was for some women to get pregnant). One of the speakers (again a man) on the subject of emancipation for women, seemed to think that it was about women not dying in childbirth and stated that they did not die in such great numbers as in the past now that they had maternity homes, child welfare clinics, school nurses, and school dentists. He did not refer to what we now call emancipation these days, but we must not forget that women had only had the right to vote on the same lines as men for one year and the idea of real emancipation was a comparatively new one. (In 1928 women over the age of 21 years were given the vote.) When we look now at this article some of the beliefs and attitudes bring a smile to the lips.
In 1932 it was found that the maternity ward could not cope with the amount of women wanting treatment and another ward was built containing room for ten more beds. This of course meant an increase in nursing staff and the staff accommodation was extended.
Nothing really happened to the hospital until 1946 when the National Health Service Act was passed. All hospitals were taken over by Regional Hospital Boards under the Ministry of Health. England and Wales were divided into fourteen sections each under a Regional Hospital Board. County and County Borough Councils had to provide ambulances, midwives, home nurses and home midwives for those in need. Finally, Health Centres were set up bringing together G.P.s, nurses and other medical services under one roof and Mexborough was no exception.

Information used in the writing of this article:-
Work Out Social and Economic History by S. Mason. Cuttings from The Mexborough and Swinton Times. Local Deeds.
Memorials of Old Mexboro' by William J. J. Glassby. Mexborough Directory 1877.
A Railway History of Denaby and Cadeby Collieries. Doncaster General Infirmary Bicentenary Souvenir Booklet.
A Short History of Montagu Hospital 1889-1925 by Donald M. Wilson.
The Montagu Hospital Mexborough Jubilee Handbook 1890-1940.
Tape of talk by Mr. J. Martin given to the Society on 26th October 1993.
If you would like to borrow any of the above please do not hesitate to ask.
Your Archivist.
J. R. Ashby.