History of Horsham Hospital

The history of Horsham Hospital is under-pinned by voluntary work. The first Horsham Cottage Hospital, built in 1892 at a cost of £1,300, was paid for entirely thanks to local donations, whilst its management was handled by unpaid town worthies and the medical staff was drawn from local doctors who gave their time for nothing. For its first 56 years the hospital was classed as a “Voluntary Hospital” in which the only paid staff were the matron and a small band of nurses and servants.

The Cottage Hospital in Hurst Road was very small with just eight beds and by 1901 was experiencing waiting lists. During the First World War serious discussions began over provision of a bigger building and after a fund raising campaign that produced £18,000 the cottage was closed on May 26, 1923, after giving 31 years splendid service, to be replaced by a brand new building next door. This had separate wards for men and women, three private wards, a fully equipped operating theatre and the new wonder of the age, X-ray, being described at the time as one of the finest hospitals of its kind.

It quickly became obvious that the bigger hospital would need to have its finances run on a more professional basis and a separate committee launched The Contributory Scheme which each week sent out collectors to every street in Horsham asking for one penny. In return donors were offered free treatment. It was very popular and was soon providing £1,200 per annum towards meeting the hospital’s running costs. Eventually the scheme produced surplus funds which were ploughed into new ventures including the building of a children’s ward at a cost of £8,000.

During the Second World War a stream-lined management team of four took over running and in spite of shortages of money
and materials they achieved three important developments: the first physiotherapy department, the first out patients department and the building of a brand new maternity unit in the grounds.

The arrival of the NHS in 1948 changed many things, including the ending of voluntary fund raising efforts. However, it was soon discovered that the Government could not provide all the funds that were needed for patients, staff and visitors, so voluntary work resumed through Horsham Hospital Supporters Association and later The League of Friends of Horsham Hospital.

The NHS promised expansion at Horsham in the 1960s and this finally came in 1981 when a £2.5 million project more than doubled the size of the hospital with a range of single storey buildings, new wards and new services, dubbed at the time by the local paper as resembling “a five star hotel”. The design was revolutionary in its day providing a “village style” atmosphere with courtyard gardens, a shop, a tea bar and a main thoroughfare called Molly Andrews Way, named after a highly regarded hospital secretary.

There was disappointment when 24 hour casualty services closed in 1969 and also when the much loved maternity unit folded up in 1985. However, these were replaced by a Minor Injuries Unit and a Mental Health Unit. There were big celebrations at the hospital’s centenary on July 4, 1992, and another boost in 1997 with the building of a brand new Out Patients Department.

This was followed by an £11 million refurbishment of many old buildings in 2005 which produced the 38 bed Horizon Unit, Iris Ward, a new Minor Injuries Unit, the Rainbow Unit, an Ante Natal clinic and upgrading of the X-Ray department. Later the Hilltop Unit for children was added.

This big investment in Horsham Community Hospital gave services there a much needed boost and ensured that it was equipped to play a major role for many years to come.

League of Friends of Horsham Hospital, Horsham Hospital, Hurst Road, Horsham, RH12 2DR
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