Blaina and District Cottage Hospital.
On Thursday 26th December 1889 a meeting of the Nantyglo and Blaina Local Board took place. Those present were as follows – Mr Thomas Morgan presided in the absence of Mr John Dakers (Chairman); Mr E. Harris; Mr J. Bainton; Mr J. Allen; Mr Rosser Rosser; Mr W. Parry (Grocer); Mr G. R. Harris; Mr John Evans, Mr J. P. D. Williams; Mr J. A. Shepard (Solicitor – Clerk); Dr H. C. Bevan (Medical Officer) and Mr W. G. Stevens (Surveyor): At this meeting Mr J. P. D. Williams reported on the typhoid cases at Blaina and of how the occupants of the various affected houses were being issued with disinfectants etc, Mr Allen stated the need for a cottage hospital and properly trained nurses, Mr J. P. D. Williams called for a special meeting and to put the question of a cottage hospital on the agenda.
After this report there was no other known mention of a cottage hospital being proposed for the area, though in 1907 the need for a hospital was becoming urgent and unlike the Abertillery district workmen, who deliberated the idea of a hospital for over 50 years before actually agreeing to help establish such an institution at Aberbeeg in 1922, the Blaina district workmen pledged their support from the beginning and honoured their word in subscribing towards a scheme to fund the erection and upkeep of the hospital. As of their support and financial commitment the hospital was planned and built within four years.
The Ballot of 1907.
On Tuesday 26th November 1907 at a monthly meeting of the Blaina and District Miners Council with Mr F. Sutton presiding, Mr James Manning (Miners Agent) reported on a scheme for establishing a cottage hospital stating a proposal from the committee would be laid before the various lodges, the members of which would be balloted thereon.
The ballot was taken of the members of the Blaina District of the South Wales Miners Federation as to the proposal to give 1d. in the £1. from their wages to fund a hospital for the district and the results were as follows – For the hospital, 3,008, against the hospital 786. Majority for 2,222. The Pyle and Blaina Works voted – For the hospital, 208, against the hospital 17. Majority for 191. A short while later the Co-operative Society’s employees decided to support the scheme.
Site for the Proposed Hospital.
In 1907 it was proposed to purchase either Nantyglo House or Hafod-y-Ddol, Nantyglo for the hospital, though it was reported that the medical officer Dr Howard Jones saw these premises as unsuitable for hospital habitation and that a site be found for a new building to be constructed purposely built for a hospital. The Nantyglo and Blaina Co was approached with the intention to purchase land from them near the Public Park at Nantyglo. The lease holder of the land was willing to surrender her claim on the land though the Nantyglo and Blaina Iron Works Co refused to sanction the transfer.
In June 1908 another site was suggested at Garnfach, Nantyglo, the land in question was owned by Mr Octavius T. Price, Mr Price was approached by the committee and entered into negotiations with them. The term agreed between Mr Price and the Hospital Committee to lease the land was a 99 year lease at £3. 3s. 0d. per annum.
In December 1908 Mr N. Gasenius Lewis was appointed architect, though due to an unsettled period in the coal trade the contract was not finalised until 1909.
On Thursday 18th February 1909, Mr W. J. Davies, (Council Surveyor) submitted the plans for the proposed cottage hospital to be built at Nantyglo.
In March 1909 the committee invited tenders for the position of clerk of works to superintend the erection of the Cottage Hospital at Nantyglo, Monmouthshire. The appointment was for about six-months duration. Salary was £2. 10s. 0d. per week. The Architect and Surveyor was Mr N. Gasenius Lewis, Abertillery.
In July 1909 tenders were invited for the erection of the cottage hospital to be erected at Nantyglo, Monmouthshire (as seen left). They were to be handed in to the Secretary Mr James Pitman, Cwmcelyn, Blaina, Monmouthshire. The Architect and Surveyor was Mr N. Gasenius Lewis, Abertillery.
The Contracts and Contractors.
The contract for the erection of the Blaina and District Cottage Hospital was given to the contractor Mr W. A. Linton of Newport, Monmouthshire under the supervision of the architect Mr N. Gasenius Lewis of Abertillery. Mr Linton had previously constructed the new Blaenau Gwent Baptist Church at Blaenau Gwent in 1905, the large Gothic looking building that was demolished in the late 1980’s.
On Monday 27th June 1910 at a meeting of the General Committee of the Blaina and District Cottage Hospital held at the Federation Offices, Blaina, Mr F. Sutton presiding, a progress of work report was presented. The clerk of works stated the following – The main building had been completed and it was hoped the other buildings would be completed by the following September. The Auditors were Mr John Johns and Mr D. W. Thomas. The secretary was Mr James Pitman. Mr Pitman said the Blaina and District Miners Federation had agreed to loan the Hospital Committee £1,000 for the purpose of completing the hospital. The appointment of matron, nurses and caretaker were to be made before the hospital was formally opened.
The post of matron was given to nurse Miss Florence Chitham of Porthcawl, Glamorganshire. Miss Chitham was given one month holiday per year split into two fortnightly periods, in addition to one day off in each fortnight.
The two nurses appointed were Miss Ada Pope of Romsey, Hamphire, England and Miss Constance Lancaster from Magor, Monmouthshire, South Wales.
In October 1910 notices of work for a cook with a wage of £16. per year and a housemaid with wages of £13. per year were issued in the South Wales Gazette. Applications to – Mr James Pitman (Secretary) Darnhyfryd, Blaina, Monmouthshire.
The Housekeeper and Cook.
The Cook was Miss Alice Hamon of Nantyglo and the Housemaid was Miss Lizzie Jones of Nantyglo.
On Monday 24th October 1910 a meeting of the subscribers to the Blaina and District Hospital Fund was held at the new Blaina Hospital, Garnfach with Mr F. Sutton presiding. The secretary Mr James Pitman reported the receipts up to date had amounted to £4,627. 2s. 10d. with an expenditure of £4,060. 11s. 8d. which the later sum included £4,060. was paid to the contractor. It was stated the building was to be opened on Monday 5th December 1910 and for the opening ceremony to be performed by Mr James Manning J.P., (Miners Agent). A committee of three – Dr H. C. Bevan, Mr J. Pitman and Mr James Manning were appointed to visit surgical instrument makers in London to select fittings and appliances for the operating wards and to advertise for two trained nurses to be appointed on a salary of £30. per annum with an allowance of 3 guineas for a uniform.
In December 1910 a notice of employment for a man and wife as – Caretaker & laundress was issued in the South Wales Gazette. The wife to do the laundry work and the man to perform such duties as assigned to him by the committee. It was stated the man must have general knowledge of gardening and afforestation. The wages were 25s. per week, with a four roomed cottage, house coal and light provided. Applications to – Mr James Pitman the secretary, of Darnhyfryd, Blaina, Monmouthshire.
Towards the end of 1910 it was decided by the committee of the Blaina Hospital to postpone the opening until January 1911.
The Official Opening of the Blaina and District Cottage Hospital.
On Monday 2nd January 1911 the Blaina and District Cottage Hospital was officially opened. A large gathering of inhabitants were present at the ceremony including the West Monmouthshire Corp of the St Johns Ambulance Brigade under the superintendence of Chief Supt R. Percy Adams. The Brynmawr and the Blaina Lancaster Town Band under the conductor-ship of Mr J. B. Yorke. The duty of declaring the institution open was upon Councillor Mr James Manning J.P., (Miners Agent) for the Blaina District, who was one of the foremost instigators in the movement.
The proceedings were presided over by Chairman Mr F. Sutton, of the Hospital Committee, others who were present included the following – Mr T. Richards M.P., and Miss A. P. Richards; Mr Sidney Robinson M.P.; Drs H. C. Bevan; T. W. Bevan; Farrington and Sheehey: Revs H. J. Evans; D. Williams; H. C. P. Belcher; Middleton of Nantyglo: Messrs G. Williams; J. Jenkins; S. H. Padwick (Capital and Counties Bank, Brynmawr); R. Jones J.P.; T. W. Allen; J. Lloyd; Gathorne Jenkins; Rossiter; E. Griffiths of Brynmawr; Parry; Mr and Mrs N. G. Lewis (Architect); Mr E. Swales and the Matron, Nurse Florence Chitham:
At the opening ceremony, Rev H. C. P. Belcher gave out the hymn “Oh God Our Help In Ages Past” and Rev D. Williams engaged in prayer, after which Rev G. Griffiths read a portion of scripture, the singing of the hymn “Oh Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah” followed. Mr Manning on declaring the Blaina and District Hospital open was presented by the Architect Mr Gasenius Lewis with a gold key, Mr Manning spoke of how he had been miners agent and had wanted such an institution built for the miners and townspeople and that the people had acted to achieve their dream. It was stated it had only been three years since they had agreed on its construction and the people and workmen had come together to see the hospital built. After many speeches by various members and guests Rev H. J. Evans offered prayer and later lunch was provided at the Garnvach Primitive Methodist Church, Nantyglo, Monmouthshire.
Description of the Building.
The Blaina and District Cottage Hospital was described as being situated at Nantyglo and occupied an open commanding position with a southerly aspect. The elevations carried out entirely in stone presented an architectural feature.
Accommodation was for two four-bed wards and two private wards, together with an operating room, a dispensary, matrons and committee room, nurses room, ambulance and splints room with lavatory and bath blocks at both ends of the building. The floors of the corridors and the operating room were laid with terrazzo, while the other floors of the hospital were laid with maple blocks. The operating room was so arranged that the operating table was directly under a large ceiling and roof light.
The Domestic Block.
The domestic block had living rooms, bath, lavatory and bedrooms for the residential staff. The bath rooms and domestic blocks were connected to the main building by short passages with cross-ventilation. All the rooms were heated by open ventilating grates, these were of the latest style, also by hot water low pressure pipes and radiators, the scheme of which was carried out by Messrs Musgrave & Co of Belfast. The electrical lighting arrangements was installed by Mr J. Bossett of Abertillery. The total cost of the buildings, including furnishings was £5,000. The work was carried out by the contractor Mr W. A. Linton of Newport, Monmouthshire under the supervision of the architect Mr N. Gasenius Lewis of Abertillery. The clerk of works was Mr Richard Tonkin. All furnishings were carried out by the Blaina Co-operative Society, Messrs M. Faseymeyer & Sons of Brynmawr and Messrs Powell & Jones of Brynmawr.
The out-buildings composed a caretakers cottage, mortuary, laundry and the usual offices. Provision were made in the planning for two additional large wards which could be erected at a small cost when required.
First Annual Subscribers Meeting.
On Friday 30th June 1911 the first annual meeting of the Blaina and District Cottage Hospital was held at the Market Hall, Brynmawr. Those who attended were as follows – Mr Fred Sutton (Chairman); Mr James Manning; Mr J. Pitman (Secretary); Mr James Austin (Treasurer); Mr D. Jenkins; Mr T. Legge; Mr J. Francis; Mr W. Jones and other members of the committee. The secretary presented the subscribers with the first complete report and financial statement as follows – Income, Lancaster Collieries £3,973. 3s. 2d. North Blaina Collieries £607. 9s. 1d. Clydach £383. 6s. 2d. Pyle and Blaina Works £81. 0s. 2d. Red Ash Collieries £77. 4s. 10d. Co-operative Society’s employees £44. 11s. 2d. Fines £11. 3s. 7d. Donations £168. 11. 0d. Dividends and interest on deposits in the bank £102. 3s. 8d. Empire benefit £13. 13s. 9d. Sales of photographs £6. 12s. 7d. Various £12. 15s. 3d. Miners Federation loan £1,000. Making a total of £6,977. 12s. 5d.: The expenditure which included £5,063. 12s. 5d spent on the building amounted to £6,433. 5s. 2d. Balance – £544. 7s. 2.: After the meeting Mr Pitman was re-elected secretary and Mr S. H. Padwick of the Capital and Counties Bank, Brynmawr and Mr J. Austin were re-elected treasurers.
In 1922 Dr James O. C. Fitzsimmons became anaesthetist at the Blaina and District Hospital.
In January 1926 Dr James O. C. Fitzsimmons was appointed Medical Officer of Health and also House Surgeon and Radiologist at the Blaina and District Hospital.
Miss Ina Brodigan.
On Friday 4th October 1929 Miss Ina Brodigan, head of the Grey Ladies College at Greenwich visited the Blaina and District Hospital for a dedication service in her honour in recognition of her work in connection with raising funds for the institution and for the unveiling of a hospital bed and framed photograph of herself. It was reported Miss Brodigan had been responsible for collecting nearly £2,000 for the Hospital Fund. (More information below).
At a meeting of the Hospital Committee in the board room, Mr John Watkins, president in the chair and Mr J. L. Adams the treasurer introduced Miss Brodigan and the dedication service took place in the ward. A tablet over the “Ina Brodigan” bed was unveiled by Dr John Dunlop the surgeon to the hospital. The tablet was inscribed “The Ina Brodigan Bed, in recognition of her noble work for this hospital”. Rev Robert Lewis the vicar of the parish then dedicated the bed. In the entrance of the hall Mr S. M. Collins unveiled the framed photograph of Miss Brodigan which bore the inscription “Miss Ina Brodigan of the Grey Ladies College, Greenwich, a benefactor to the institution in its hour of need”. Later a portrait similar to that in the hall was presented to Miss Brodigan by Mr James Pitman.
After the unveiling ceremony, Mr James Pitman gave an account of the hospital finances from 1921 which up until that point the committee had carried on the finances without the need of asking anyone outside the district to assist. From 1921 times changed, as an example in 1920 the income from the Blaina Lancaster Co was £6,915. whereas in 1929 that income had decreased to just £688. a deficiency of £6,227. from just one source. The future didn’t seem promising, though the financial aid raised by outsiders gave hope.
The New Maternity Wing.
On Thursday 17th March 1932 on a visit to Nantyglo and Blaina their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York opened the New Maternity Wing at the Blaina and District Hospital. Amongst the many dignitaries the crowd was entertained by a massed choir of hundreds of school children under the conductor-ship of Messrs Oswald Huggins and Ken Richards, who on the arrival of the Royal visitors the choir sang “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”. The Duke and Duchess, accompanied by Lord Treowen, Deaconess Brodigan, the matron and officers of the hospital.
Councillor Matthews of the Hospital Committee presented Her Royal Highness with a gold key to open the door. Rev R. Lewis Vicar of Nantyglo offered the dedication. The Duchess performed the formal opening, the Nantyglo and Blaina United Male Voice Party under the leadership of Mr W. T. Angell sang “The Spartan Heroes”.
After the ceremony their Royal Highnesses made a tour of the wards and spoke to Mrs E. Lewis of Bailey Street, Brynmawr and Mrs Carey Humphreys of Beaufort and wished them a speedy recovery. The Duke and Duchess then left to visit the Blue Pilgrims centre before leaving for Abergavenny before having lunch at Llanarth Court.
Description of the New Maternity Wing.
The new wing cost £3,000. it was constructed by dressed stone and with a slated roof to fit-in with the existing building style. It had one single bed receiving ward, one two-bed ward and a general ward to accommodate six babies cots. The new wing also included a bathroom, ward kitchen, linen store, nurses sitting room and lavatories, all of the latest design. The new wing was connected to the main building by a glazed veranda, constructed entirely of steel and vita glass with all wards having windows glazed with the same.
The Contractors for the New Wing.
The contractor were Messrs Gay & Head of Abertillery. The architect was Mr Merton Jones L.R.I.B.A., of Abergavenny. The glazed veranda’s were constructed by Messrs W. A. Baker & Co of Newport. The heating, lighting and bells by Messrs R. Alger & Sons of Newport. Steel casements by Messrs Henry Hope of Birmingham. Mr R. Silverthorne Wireless Engineer of Commercial Street, Abertillery was in charge of the microphone and amplifier used at the opening ceremony at the hospital and his broadcasting van was used to provide music along the route from the hospital to the Blue Pilgrims centre and gardens.
First Baby Born at the Maternity Wing.
The first baby born at the new Maternity Wing was Albert John Windsor Law, son of Mrs Muriel Law of Blaina. Baby Albert John Windsor Law was given the name Windsor in honour of the Royal visit. Information on the first baby born at the new maternity wing was kindly provided courtesy of Mr Dean Jefferies. Mr Dean Jefferies is the nephew of Albert John Windsor Law and grandson of Mrs Muriel Law.
The Twenty-Second Annual Report.
In July 1932 Mr James Pitman (Secretary) presented the annual Report & Statement of Accounts. He stated that owing to unemployment having reached 83 per cent of the insurable members of the district served by the hospital the year had been difficult. To date the collieries had been idle for over 25 weeks, through the generosity of friends and public the new maternity wing had been added. Many cheques and donations had been received from prominent people from around the country. It was stated that 365 people had been treated at the hospital during the year as in-patients with many hundreds of out-patients and consultations. The receipts amounted to £4,070. 11s. 6d. Expenditure was £4,488. 2s. 4d. resulting in a deficit of £417. 10s 10d.
During the early 1930’s the Blaina and District Hospital was referred to in many reports as the Blaina and District Hospital and Convalescent Home.
The Twenty-Fourth Annual Report.
On Saturday 28th July 1934 the twenty-fourth annual meeting of the Blaina and District Hospital and Convalescent Home was held at the Salem Schoolroom, Blaina with Mr D. J. Davies presiding. The other officers were – Mr James Pitman (Secretary) and Mr C. W. Edwards (Assistant Secretary): The Board of Management stated in their report that the final payments on the contracts for the maternity wing had been made during the year and they would impose an additional annual expenditure of £500 for maintenance. They invited all employers of labour, shopkeepers and small traders to support their fixed contribution of 2 guineas per year and to reserve themselves the right to hospital treatment.
Help had been rendered by many including the members of the Linen League and thanks were extended to the following – Prudential Assurance Co, Brynmawr and Blaina Gas Co, the Bernard Baron Charitable Trust, Brynmawr and Blaina Free Church Councils, the Linen League for providing, linen and clothing etc and the ladies committee under the direction of Mrs Pitman. It was stated that 378 people had been treated as in-patients during the year with 55 admitted to the new maternity ward. The subscriptions amounted to £2,816. 9s. 9d. Investments £403. 13s. 3d. Other receipts amounted to £826. 12s. 6d. making a total of £4,046. 15s. 6d. The total expenditure was £4,700. 2s. 11d. resulting in a deficit of £988. 13s. 2d.
The following Ladies were elected onto the Board of Management – Miss Garnon of Brynmawr; Mrs Richards of Nantyglo; Mrs F. Axford of Blaina and Mrs Baker of Abertillery: An application made by the Blaina Council of Evangelical Churches for representation on the Board of Management was unanimously rejected. The treasurer of the hospital at this time was Councillor Mr J. L. Adams.
(More information to come).
The Later Years.
The Blaina and District Hospital closed in about 2010, was later demolished and the area cleared for the construction of housing.
Notes of Interest – Mr James Manning born in 1857 at Blaina married Georgina Manning nee Jones from Trevethin, Pontypool in 1880. They had a daughter Miss Mary Manning born at Blaina in 1884. The family lived at 62 Abertillery Road, Blaina, Monmouthshire. Mr Manning became checkweigher at the North Griffin Colliery, Blaina and was later elected miners agent. He applied to become a councillor in March 1900 with Mr Eugene Poulaine and Benjamin Aubrey James, he was unanimously elected along with Mr Poulaine to stand as councillors for Blaina.
In April 1900 Mr James Manning was (Treasurer) of the Blaina District South Wales Miners Federation with Messrs John Evans (Miners Agent) and T. P. Prout (Secretary). A short while later became delegate for the same organisation. In June 1902 He was elected to the post of vice-chairman to the Blaina and Nantyglo District Council and moved from Abertillery Road to Coronation Street, Blaina.
Mr Manning became a member of the Monmouthshire County Council for 12 years, representing the Blaina South Ward and was vice-chairman. In 1919 was made an Alderman for the County Council and later became Justice of the Peace. He was a member of the Executive of the South Wales Miners Federation, a member of the County Education Committee, chairman of the Nantyglo and Blaina School Managers, chairman of the local War Relief Committee, which later merged with the War Pensions Committee and also chairman of the Belgian Refugees Committee.
On Wednesday 5th January 1921 Mr James Manning sadly passed away at his residence 41 Coronation Road, Blaina. His obituary stated the miners had lost a deservedly respected leader and the Nantyglo and Blaina District and the county one of their most trusted public men. Mr Manning was the embodiment of sincerity of purpose, unquestionable integrity and self sacrificing service and left the county much the poorer by his death.
On Tuesday 11th January 1921 Mr James Manning was laid to rest at Blaina Cemetery. As a tribute to his memory all the collieries and schools in the district were closed for the day. The funeral procession was over a mile in length and was reported as being one of the largest ever seen in the area.
Mr James Pitman.
Mr James Pitman, born 1869 at Blaina, the son of Henry and Charlotte Pitman. The family lived at Ten House, Blaina. Records show Mr James Pitman’s first wife was Polly Pitman, with whom he had a daughter Miss Edith Mary Pitman while living at Ten Houses. His second wife was Mary Pitman they later lived at Darnhyfryd, Blaina, Monmouthshire.
In December 1920 Mr James Pitman as checkweigher at the North Griffin Colliery was recognised for services rendered by fellow workmen. In this year he had left his post at the colliery to become full time secretary to the Blaina and District Hospital. Mr Pitman was presented with a framed oil painting of himself, a pipe and tobacco pouch and a silver cigarette case. The inscription on the oil painting read “Presented to Mr James Pitman by the workmen of the North Griffin Colliery for services rendered over a period of 30 years”.
In addition to his services as a checkweigher, he also had a record of public service behind him. Mr Pitman was a member of the Nantyglo and Blaina District Council and an overseer for over twenty years. He was secretary to the Blaina Miners District and also secretary to the Hospital Committee, a member of the St Pauls Church and also secretary to the Parochial Church Council.
The matron at the Blaina and District Hospital was nurse Miss Florence Chitham, Miss Chitham was born in 1876 at Porthcawl, Glamorganshire. Prior to her appointment at Blaina Hospital she had been a nurse at the Cardiff Royal Infirmary.
Dr James O. C. Fitzsimmons.
Dr James O. C. Fitzsimmons, Anaesthetist, Medical Officer of Health and also House Surgeon and Radiologist at the Blaina and District Hospital was born in 1896 at Sligo, Ireland. He was educated in Sligo and Dublin and qualified at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, Ireland. At the time of his appointment as House Surgeon in 1926 Mr Fitzsimmons was just 30 years of age and was reported as being the youngest House Surgeon in the country.
Miss Ina Brodigan.
Miss Ina Brodigan was head of the Grey Ladies College at Greenwich. She had visited the Nantyglo and Blaina District in 1926 when the area was badly hit by the depression in the country. It was reported in the South Wales Gazette that she was deeply moved by the terrible plight of the district that she was determined to do something to aid the Nantyglo and Blaina District Hospital, as a result she interviewed the Earl of Shaftsbury and succeeded in inducing the Earl to co-operate with her in launching an appeal for financial aid for the hospital. At that time she had raised the sum of £1,592. 2s. 0d. equivalent to £92,017.00p in today’s money. This was reported as being seen as a splendid effort on the part of a complete stranger to the district and in 1928 Miss Brodigan was later responsible for a further £300 being raised.