Ryde Social Heritage Group research the social history of the citizens of Ryde, Isle of Wight. Documenting their lives, businesses and burial transcriptions.
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The Isolation Hospital

Smallbrook Isolation Hospital

As early as 1875 the medical officer of health reported that the borough was able to receive cases of smallpox and other infectious diseases, so there was provision of a hospital for such cases at that date.  In 1879 Dr. Platt Wilks advised that all cases of Scarlet Fever, Smallpox, Measles, Typhus, etc should be removed to the borough isolation hospital or the Royal  Infirmary without delay.

Mrs Kate Hunt was listed in the census of 1881 as being the caretaker and nurse of the Smallpox Hospital, Weeks-road, Ryde and by 1891 her address was The C. D. Isolation Hospital, Smallbrook.  Kate had been in this employment since 1875.  Also living at that address was her husband William and two adopted daughters, Ada Street and Kathleen Bresnahan.  More about Kate Hunt here

When Kate Hunt died in 1919 at the age of 75, it was mentioned, “it would be remembered by old Ryders that the Hospital was originally in the field to the west of the present building (where the deceased first commenced her duties), resuming them again when the hospital was re-erected.”  This moving of the hospital was ably achieved by the fact that the building was made of wood, the outside being painted white to portray the appearance of being sterile.

House in Preston Place.

In March 1902 there was a great deal of speculation about the use of a house in Preston Place for isolation in case of a smallpox outbreak,  the very suggestion of the mad scheme had already frightened the people of the neighbourhood.  The house was obviously taken on because a year later in February 1903, there was talk about giving it up at the expiration of the year’s tenancy or whether to keep it on by the quarter and get the services of the trained nurses from the Institution in Monkton Street.

In 1907 various letters in the local press were brought to the attention of the Borough Council, which read “The so-called Isolation Hospital consists of a shed in which there are two rooms for patients, the floor and wooden lining are in a bad state, totally unsuitable for the purpose.  The cooking, cleaning, day and night nursing all devolve upon the caretaker nurse, who has been there 22 years; in case of sudden illness or any other emergency there is no means of communicating with the doctor except through the Sanitary Inspector who is supposed to visit once a day to take orders for food or medicines.”

It was proposed that an expenditure of £117 would be required for the hospital and the Medical Officer of Health agreed that the work being done would be reasonably efficient and close the mouths of those people continually not only running down the town, but saying things that were absolutely untrue.

The hospital was moved in 1905 when Ryde Borough Council purchased about an acre of land off Rosemary-lane, it was set up there on a brick foundation.  A further strip of land was leased in 1911 and the hospital then came to have two buildings, the wooden one with two four-bedded wards, and a brick one for an ambulance and equipment.  Records show that it was still in use in 1934.

Sources: RSHG Archive, IW Observer, E.F. Laidlaw
Photos: RSHG Roy Brinton Collection