Coalville's War Hospital During WW1

Convalescent soldiers at Broom Leys house

COALVILLE’S SPLENDID WAR HOSPITAL.

(From an article published in ‘The Coalville Times’ in 1912

It is a splendid place, and could not have been better had it been specially built for the purpose!

These words of the matron, spoken to a representative of this paper on a visit on Wednesday, aptly applied to Broom Leys, Coalville, which is now rapidly being transformed into a hospital for the reception of wounded soldiers.

As is well known locally, Broom Leys is a fine residence standing in its own beautiful grounds, less than one mile from the town of Coalville, and on the fringe of Charnwood Forest. It is now the property of the Whitwick Colliery Company and was formerly owned and occupied for some years by the late Mr H. R. Mansfield. M. P. for the Spalding division of Lincolnshire, the original owner, by whom it was built being the late Mr. Whetstone.

Soon after the war broke out, and Belgian refugees were flocking to England, the Whitwick Colliery Co. Generously offered the building free of cost to the Belgian refugee committee, and for nearly two years, some 70 Belgians were maintain there by the people of Coalville and District. When the building became vacant again a few months ago, the owners again commendably came forward and offered it to the military authorities for use as a V.A.D. Hospital.

The idea was heartily taken up and at a public meeting in Coalville, a local committee was formed to carry out the equipping of the hospital, with Mr. Water Lindley, J. P., chairman, Mr. R. J. Brown. Hon. Treasurer and Mr. A. L. Bertenshaw, hon. Secretary. These gentlemen are to be heartily congratulated on the progress made. It is estimated the £1,000 would be required and though this sum has not been reached, the response to the appeal has been very gratifying.

Judging by appearances up to the present, the authorities have been very fortunate in their choice of a matron. When Miss Newton arrived from Bicester only a week ago, the place was in a state of chaos, and our visit revealed a wonderful transformation. Several members of the Coalville Women’s V.A.D. have rendered valuable assistance, and under the supervision of the matron the work of getting the hospital ready is making excellent progress.

The large drawing room on the right hand side of the main entrance has been fitted up as a ward for the worst cases, and contains 9 beds. Beside each bed is a locker for each soldier to keep his belongings. It is a cheerful room, with plenty of light, overlooking the lawns. This is the only ward on the ground floor. The room on the opposite side of the entrance hall is to be occupied by the matron, while a small one adjoining will be the assistant matron’s room. There is a large dining hall which opens into a conservatory, and the latter is to be converted into a recreation room. A corner of the dining room is being fitted up with facilities for the writing of letters.

As 50 soldiers in all are to be accommodated several of the bedrooms upstairs are set out as small wards, some containing six beds, some less according to the size of the room, while there are one or two single bedrooms for soldiers who may be suffering from shock, and have to be kept quiet. These are all admirably fitted up and have a most comfortable appearance. On a spacious landing which overlooks the park will be raised lounges and deck chairs for the use of the soldiers and there seems to be no detail which has been overlooked by Miss Newton in her arrangements for the success of a hospital. There is to be a billiard room fitted with a full-size table, and a concert room in which a piano is to be installed, and concerts and whist drive will be arranged. Two bathrooms have been fitted up as well as one for the staff, and the arrangements for the latter in every way leave nothing to be desired. The same may be said of the kitchen and culinary departments.

It is interesting to note that this is the third war hospital which has been organised under the supervision of Mr Newton, so that the Coalville committee have the benefit of the services of a lady with considerable experience. The hospital at Bicester was opened with her as the head, while prior to that she was in France, in charge of a hospital at Dieppe. Her efforts are being well backed up by the Honorary Assistant Matron, Mrs. W. Moss, of the Grove, Swannington, the leader of the women’s V.A.D. movement locally, who is unselfishly giving her time to this noble work. There are also in residence two nursing sisters-who, by-the-way, are sisters—and the staff will also include a cook and assistant cook, while the matron is also applying for a laundry maid, by which she hopes to effect a considerable saving. Arrangements have been made with the V.A.D. for two members to take night duty, and three are permanently required for day duty, in regard to which arrangements are not yet quite complete. Dr Hamilton and his assistant will be the medical attendants.

The hospital is to be opened on Saturday, the 20th inst., and the public on that date to be allowed to make a tour of inspection at a charge of one shilling per person, the proceeds to go to a fund for providing tobacco, cigarettes and games for the patients.

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