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Street Tales: Park Row

15 January 16 words: Street Tales
Joe Earp delves a little deeper into the history of our city's streets to give you the tales they'd never have taught you at school
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illustration: Mike Driver

Nottingham General Hospital, Park Row

At the end of the seventeenth century, land on the high ground to the north of the castle was mainly characterised by small enclosed fields known as a close. However, following the razing of the castle when the Civil War came to an end and King Charles I was executed, to prevent it being reused, much of this land was acquired from the Crown by the Duke of Newcastle. He then went on to build a ducal mansion on the site of the inner bailey, the ‘castle’ we see today.

The completion of this pad made it fashionable for the gentry and well-to-do to build their own residences around the duke’s estate. It was, in part, this expansion of the city as well as its growth in industry that led to the building of Nottingham’s first purpose-built hospital in 1781.

The need for the hospital was expressed in the following lines written in 1856, “The rapid extension of the town of Nottingham, the increase of casualties from building and from the introduction of machinery, as well as the development of late years of epidemic diseases and fevers…”

Funds for the building of the hospital were raised by public subscription, with an initial donation of £500 coming from Mr John Key. The site chosen for the new building was on the forepart of Standard Hill by Park Row. This land, donated jointly by Thomas Pelham-Clinton, 3rd Duke of Newcastle and the Town Corporation, included the site of an ancient camp and, more famously, the spot where Charles I raised his standard at the beginning of the Civil War.

The building, in the style of a grand Italian mansion, was designed by architect John Simpson. Built of brick with string courses of stone, it was raised to the height of three storeys, with provisions for further levels to be added as and when needed. The magnificent frontage was enhanced with a large clock. To one side, a colonnaded terrace walkway led to a chapel to the rear of the building. The whole building was set in two acres of gardens which included a fountain. Pretty fancy by anyone’s standards.

These grounds were not just for show, but provided the hospital with a practical amenity. Along with the indoor ward, a general dispensary was provided for use of outdoor patients.

It can only be imagined what the ‘sick and lame poor’ must have thought when presenting themselves for treatment at the hospital. However, the treatment received was accomplished with the best that medical science could provide at this time.

Whatever the patients thought of the new hospital, the original 44 beds proved insufficient and in 1787 the building was extended with the Derbyshire wing. The anticipated fourth story was not added until 1855. There is no doubt that the hospital was a success. The years 1854 to 1855 saw 1,423 in-patients and 6,868 out-patients treated with an annual return of £1,101 5s 7d.

The hospital continued to expand; in 1879 the Park Row frontage was added, and in 1900 there was the addition of the Jubilee Wing with its unique circular ward, now The Round House. Provision for staff was made in 1923 with the building of the Nurses Memorial Home. Later buildings include; The Player Wing, 1931, The Castle Ward, 1943. By 1948 the hospital boasted 423 beds and some of the finest facilities for patient care in the country. Nottingham General Hospital officially closed in 1992.

For more on Nottingham history, check out the Nottingham Hidden History website.

Nottingham Hidden History Team website

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