History of Ashford Hospital

(The following accounts are taken verbatim from documents in the Ashford Hospital archive)

Ashford Hospital began life in 1840, when the Poor Law Guardians established a Workhouse on land adjoining Town Lane. Opposite was the site of the Workhouse Laundry, which remained in use as the Hospital Laundry until the mid 1970's. The last remaining parts of the Work House - the Hospital Chapel and the Hospital Sports and Social Club were demolished as a part of the current program for redevelopment. The Infirmary, which was used as the School of Nursing, was situated on the left of the driveway as you entered the Hospital through its Main Entrance. This too was demolished in 1995 to accommodate the new Hospital roadway.

In 1912, the Staines Union Isolation Hospital was opened at the Long Lane end of the site and later became known as the Holloway Unit.

At the start of the Second World War, an Emergency Medical Service Hospital was built to accommodate the air raid casualties expected from London. Those same hutted wards, which then also accommodated operating theatres, laboratories and residences was still in use 48 years later. At the end of the war the Hospital became known as the Staines County Hospital. In 1948, it became part of the newly formed National Health Service.

Services expanded and improved during the 1950s and in the 1960s and plans were developed to build a District General Hospital of 770 beds at Ashford by the 1980's. To that end, a new boiler house, with capacity for the whole scheme, was completed; nurses' homes were built; new Accident and Emergency and Outpatient Departments were opened in 1966 and a Maternity Unit in 1968. At the same time as plans were being prepared for the Maternity Unit, planning was also proceeding for the large building alongside the A30.

This is the site of the Clinical Block, which opened in 1974.

The main gap in the Hospital's development, was of course, the construction of new Wards to replace the war time huts on C & D blocks.

The Government's recent major reforms of the NHS gave Ashford Hospital the opportunity to become an NHS Trust in April 1992, and the new powers available to it as a Trust have at last allowed it to make progress in completing the long delayed development of facilities. The Trust negotiated the sale of 10 acres of the site to Tesco for the development of a Superstore and Petrol Station. The proceeds of the sale were used to build the new Ward Block, and enlarged and upgraded Accident & Emergency Department, main Kitchen and Dining Room, Education Centre and Management Offices. Work on all these new facilities was completed in 1995 and the new Hospital became operational in September of that year.

During the period covered by this paper a great many changes have taken place in all aspects of life and touching upon every subject. Here in Ashford, as in may other places, new ideas, new methods, new faces and new buildings have more than changed the scene - there has virtually been a challenging revolution. The greatest of all changes has been the ' implementation of the National Health Service which began }n 1948 and from which we are still feeling the effect, for bad or for worse, but first let us look at the picture of Ashford Hospital as it was in 1947.

Ashford E.M.S. Hospital under the jurisdiction of the Middlesex County Council served the villages of Ashford and Stanwell and the town of Staines (population approximately 25,000) with a complement of 600 beds and a general training school for nurses. In the Village of Stanwell, in prefabricated dwellings, the overspill from the worst effects of the London blitz were housed, and it was from amongst these people that the hospital were able to obtain the domestic staff and later, ward orderlies. The new great Airport at Heathrow was still on the drawing board, or at least most of it, and life in general was comparatively peaceful with a moderate amount of road traffic passing by on the London to Bournemouth road, where the main entrance to the hospital was situated. Most of the hospital buildings were of a temporary nature having been built for emergency purposes during the ward, with the exception of the Administrative offices and senior staff living quarters which were in solid stone buildings of a much earlier period. The grounds of the hospital were well kept with some very beautiful flower beds, lawns and tennis courts and the whole site occupying some 10 acres set amongst some lovely trees was flanked on the one side by a huge reservoir and on the other by a cemetery, both, thankfully obscured by trees.

In 1947, the hospital consisted of the following departments:

Wards each with 36 beds
1 large Theatre
2 Anaesthetic rooms
1 Pathology Laboratory
1 X-Ray Department
1 small Physiotherapy Department
A very small Outpatients Department
1 Laundry and an Almoner's Department

The establishment of personnel on the nursing staff and the medical staff was as follows:

The Matron, the deputy Matron and two assistant Matrons
1 Night Superintendent and 2 Night Sisters
2 Sister Tutors and 18 Ward Sisters

All the Wards had Ward Sisters, but not all had Staff Nurses. Student nurses were 3 or 4 to a ward, with 2 enrolled nurses and 2 full-time domestic workers, making the ward staff complete. About 5 Red Cross Nurses occasionally assisted with their services.
The medical staff comprised:
The Medical Director, the Deputy Director and 3 assistants
There were 8 Consultants, 6 Registrars and 6 resident Medical Officers
2 Casualty Officers, 3 Anaesthetics and 2 Pathologists

The 18 wards were divided into 2 blocks - 'C' and 'D'.
'C' block consisted of 10 wards and 'D' block, 8 wards.

Each ward in each block was linked by a long open corridor and on wet and cold days patients and staff felt the impact of the weather on being taken out of the wards to go to the Theatre, X-Ray Department or elsewhere. The wards were heated by 3 coke stoves set down the centre of each ward and which were kept replenished and cleaned by stokers who came every 6 hours of the day and night - regardless of the disturbance which they caused.

The ward flooring was of a dark brown linoleum which was washed down daily, except the wards of 'D' block which were of different construction.

The senior nursing staff lived in what was affectionately called "the old Workhouse" and the top floor of this gaunt but solid Victorian dwelling place was occupied by the entire night nursing staff. Another old block housed some of the student nurses.

There were several nurses homes scattered throughout the hospital grounds which housed most of the nursing staff but some lived in converted rooms under the Government hutted scheme and others slept in dormitories for the period of being in pre-training School for 3 months.

The main kitchen cooked all meals for the patients and the nursing staff. The Doctors are in a small Medical Mess, and Sisters in a dining room of 'D' block and the nurses in another room on their own.

Apart from the 2 tennis courts there was no other outdoor recreation available to the staff although some effort was made to organise a swimming event each week but this was not much of a success. Finalist dances were held every 4 months at the Packhorse Hotel, Staines in addition to the annual Christmas Ball. The Student Nurses Association organised parties and presented stage plays occasionally and radio receivers were available in all staff quarters until television sets arrived and were placed in the sitting rooms. The "Stag and Hounds" (now "The Bulldog") was a favourite rendezvous for the medical staff who were then summoned by loudspeaker to return to the hospital but can now be reached more easily by the 'bleep' system which reaches them in the pub.

The Vicar of Stanwell served the Hospital as Chaplain taking services in the Chapel.
There has been very little change in style but in colour the nursing sisters changed from white to navy blue and the nurses from white to mauve.

Visiting Hours
In 1947 the visiting of patients was restricted to Wednesday afternoon and Sunday afternoon but this was changed to allow visiting every evening. Thursday and Sunday afternoons and children's visiting on Saturday afternoon.
The general catering of the hospital was carried out by the hospital kitchen staff but from 1961/62 a private catering form was contracted and engaged to cook for everyone except those patients in the Dietetic Department.

Matrons: Miss McWilliam 1946 - 1958
Miss Brown 1958 -1966
Senior Surgeons: Mr. Mathieson 1939 - 1963
Mr. Morris
Medical Director: Dr. G. Stephens Died in 1949
Annual Medical Aware for best "All Round Nurse" named after him for his services to the hospital.
Senior Anaesthetist: Dr. Evans
Consultant Urologist: Mr. Angell
Senior Physician: Dr. Barham-Carter
Senior Consultant
Medical: Dr. Keele
Principal Tutors: Miss Munday
Miss Lawrence
Mr. Profitt
Hospital Chairmen: Mr. Fielding
Mr. Gibbs
Mr. Dymott

Hospital Secretary: Mr. Loman 1939 - 1950
Mr. Larkin 1950 - 1964
Mr. Roberts 1964 - 1966
Mr. Lewis 1966 -


Under the Nationalisation of Hospital scheme the jurisdiction and management of the Ashford Hospital passed from the Middlesex County Council to a new authority which has since been known as:


With the building of London Airport came a population explosion and m 1948 the implementation of the new National Health Act began to give the hospital a more up-to-date appearance. New hospital beds were installed in every ward, new bed linen was issued and tables and lockers were supplied to each bed. This extra furniture necessitated the reduction of the number of beds in each ward and these were reduced to 30. The open corridors were sealed and built up, with entrances at each end and in the centre. The boiling 'fish-kettle' was removed from the ward and a sterilising room with large gas operated sterilisers and 1 small steriliser was made. Enamelware, which was then in use, was later replaced by stainless steel. New drug cupboards were also provided and drugs kept in accordance with the law laid down by the Drug Act and the General Nursing Council.

A new Casualty and Outpatients Department was soon built and all too soon it was out of date and far too small. So became the ever increasing pace of work under the new free National Health Service.

As London Airport came into its own so the necessity for housing all the extra staff and technicians became more imperative. Soon all the area north each of the hospital, which was in 1947 a large and profitable market garden, was taken over by the Airport Authorities for the erection of the Skyport Estate which now houses some 16,000 people with their own shopping centre and community buildings. At the same time large housing estates and private development m and around the town of Staines and the village of Ashford has also substantially increased the overall population of the area.

As the population increased so did the work at the hospital. A new facelift was given to the old theatre and 2 theatres have been created out of the one and the two anaesthetic rooms.

With the introduction of new drugs, the turnover of patients was much quicker and with this increase in pace the necessity of more nurses became more urgent daily. Eventually in 1957 a new Nurses Home was built and came into use to house the extra nursing staff so badly needed. The old Isolation Hospital which sheltered in the rear of the General Hospital was now declared obsolete and the two Chronic and Geriatric Wards for women were transferred from 'D' block to the old Isolation Hospital building. This enabled a new Children's Ward to some into use. Sick nurses were nursed in another sick bay which had been the A.C.H. Isolation Unit.

The X-Ray Department was replaced with new and more advanced equipment to keep up- to-date with modern methods and to be able to cope with the increasing number of patients. Nurses came and went in high numbers and the hospital had great difficult in obtaining the services of sufficient nurses to cope with the work.

During the holidays, two wards had to be closed from May to September so that other wards could be covered with the available staff. This went on for 5 or 6 years. More Doctors were needed, but there were no places to accommodate them. Eventually a resident Medical Block was built near the Casualty and Outpatient Department to house them.

As the changes in medicine took over so did much of the methods of nursing. Time and motion study teams came in and with them so did new methods of cleaning and keeping wards clean. New acriflex floor covering in bright colours were laid which was more hygienic and easier to keep clean. The walls and fixtures of the wards were painted in soft pastel colours and central heating was installed as the old boiler house could no longer keep pace with the demands for hot water and heating. A new oil-fired boiler house came into use in 1965.

The problem of the acute shortage of nurses continued throughout the Country and one of the reasons was the low scales of pay and the number of working hours which were out of all proportion to other professions in post war Britain. Eventually, the nurse’s working week was reduced from 48 to 42 hours and pay increases were awarded but recruitment did not improve immediately. The number of beds to a ward was therefore reduced from 30 to 26 as side wards and single rooms were in demand for the very ill, infectious cases and the noisy patient. These took up quite a large area of ward space.
In 1962 the entrance to the hospital in London Road was closed as it was far too marrow for the movement of vehicles in and out of the hospital grounds and in any case the vehicles invariably caused a congestion of traffic on the main London Road. So a new, vast, two lane entrance with a Porter's Lodge was opened in Stanwell Road to the delight of all road users. About the same time the Middlesex County Ambulance Depot was moved from Staines and is now to the rear of the hospital entrance.

In 1963 the old Workhouse was demolished and a new building to house the administrative staff was erected in its place. A new bungalow for Matron was also built at this time in front of the administrative offices.

With the growth of the Airport and the districts of Staines, Ashford, Sunbury, Stanwell, Laleham and Hanworth with their factories and other industrial undertakings, it was soon apparent that a new Casualty and Outpatient Department was required at the hospital. In addition, with the increase of cars and other vehicles on the road, bigger accidents occurred and it was soon realised that a larger Accident Centre was badly needed. The modern building which was built in 1965/66 near the new entrance in Stanwell Road is completely sound-proof from the noise of screaming jets and is evenly heated all the year round. The ground floor has an Accident Unit with its own theatre, recovery room, dressing room, plaster room, admission desks, examination cubicles, Day Department and a complete Records Department. Above is the Outpatient Department complete with a lounge and coffee bar. It also houses the Medical Social Workers Department, examination and Consultants' rooms for the many clinics.

Alongside the new building stood the Midwifery Department which had 90 beds when
completed. A new Physiotherapy Department was opened in July 1967. With the extra demand made upon the hospital by the ever increasing population (now approximately 90,000) by the reduction m the number of beds, by a quicker turnover of patients through the application of modern methods and new drugs, the intake of new patients from clinics was about the same, but since block training came in, more tutors were needed. In 1947 there were two now there are four. The wards are now staffed with one ward sister, two staff nurses, four student nurses, three or four part-time staff nurses, one auxiliary nurse. two ward orderlies and one ward aid if possible. This, of course, is a welcomed improvement if only to offset the amount of clerical work, which, in the passing years, has trebled.

In 1967 we gained two medical wards against the loss of two TB wards which existed in 1947 and when all the extensions and modernisation programmes were completed, the hospital was known as the new District General Hospital.

Ashford Hospital began life as a Workhouse in 1840 and was known as the Staines Union Workhouse. The sick and needy were given accommodation and those who were able bodies were put to work to earn their keep. Workhouses in general were ugly, dirty and unhealthy places. Families who were forced to come to them were separated from one another and the poor and needy were grossly overworked and poorly fed, earning barely enough to pay for their board and lodging.

The original building of the Staines Union Workhouse was demolished in 1964 to make room for a new Casualty and Outpatients Department.

In 1930 the Workhouses were made the responsibility of local Authorities and Staines Union Workhouse was taken over by the Middlesex County Council and as a result, conditions improved to some extent.

On 2nd September 1939 the eve of the 1939-1945 ward, the Staines Union Workhouse ceased to exist and a general Hospital was born. This was given the name of the Staines Emergency Hospital and like many other hospitals which came into being at that time, owed its life to the Emergency Medical Services Committee set up to deal with any emergencies which might result if was inevitable.

In order to staff this new General Hospital, doctors, nurses and medical students were extracted from existing hospitals mainly from the West Middlesex Hospital and St. George's Hospital.

In the early days the staff consisted of 1 Matron, 1 Medical Director, 12 Sisters, 12 Nurses and 1 Steward. By 1967 the total staff including non-medical and non-nursing members was approximately 800.

The uniforms worn by the nurses consisted of white coats with coloured epaulettes and belts. The American styled white cap bore coloured bands, one for each year of training to- distinguish first, second or third year status.

At the time when Staines Emergency Hospital came into being, the site of the present 'C' block was a vast potato field which had to be dug up in order to lay foundations. This block consisted of wards and an operating theatre and these were the first buildings of the new hospital to be erected.

On one Saturday in June 1940 the first patients were admitted to the new hospital, these were the victims of the Dunkirk evacuation, there were 216 altogether. The following week 96 more patients arrived, who were also war victims.

Despite the skeleton staff manning the hospital, it is to their credit and high standard if nursing of nursing that only three patients died as the result of their was injuries which in most cases were of a severe nature.

The Queen Mother, then Queen Elizabeth, visited the hospital at this time and spoke to every patient and her visit was much appreciated by staff and patients. 'Cl' ward acted as Casualty Admission Station through which all patients passed before admission to the wards.

In the Autumn of 1940, the foundation of 'D' block were laid. It was completed in 1941, including Nurses Homes 1, 2 and 3 and the main kitchens.

On 5th October 1941 the Nurses Training School commenced. The trainee nurses were mostly auxiliary nurses. The first State Registered Nurses to be trained here were mostly Polish or German. Their work was exceptionally good and they received all kinds of prizes for it, including gold medals.

There was a Maternity Block which acted as a maternity centre.

The hospital was bombed during the war and wards 'C2' and 'CIO' were hit; but not very heavily, also the Stores Depot was completely demolished.
After the ward the hospital was named Ashford County Hospital. Its name was changed from Staines Emergency Hospital because people tended to go straight past the hospital on their way to Staines so Ashford County Hospital had to be its name.

On 5th July 1948 the National Health Service came into being; therefore the hospital was taken over by the state. It was decided to change its name once again and then became just Ashford Hospital.

In December 1956 McWilliam House, the nurses home, was opened. It was named after Miss McWilliam the them Matron. In October of the following year - 1957, Miss Brown started her work here as Matron. Deputy Matron, Miss Herrington, started her work here when the hospital first came into being.