News & Events

The evolution of a hospital at Rushall Park

June 20, 2019

There has never been a formal hospital at Rushall Park, however, there has always been respite care in the village – until recently.

In 1914 the Sumner Hospital was built. Although called a hospital, it was the equivalent of respite or short term nursing care, with no facility for long term or permanent care. Nevertheless, over the years, residents requiring respite were placed in the ‘hospital,’ where they were successfully or otherwise nursed back to health.

Design by architect James Wood

James Wood designed the hospital, a difficult assignment apparently. The Board of Health was slow to approve the plans, and the tenders came in high. To save money, the council wanted to eliminate living quarters for the nurses and the mortuary. However, that plan was dropped and the design – two large wards and one small, supplying thirteen beds altogether plus living quarters for two nurses – was built.  When the mortuary was eventually built, the shelves for the bodies were too high.

World War 1

During the First World War, a section of Sumner Hospital and some empty land was offered to the Defence Department, for returning wounded servicemen. The offer was not taken up.

Matched and despatched
In 1920, on a joyous day, Mr T Peirce, aged 79 sought permission from the Council to marry his childhood sweetheart Miss Annie Isabey, 78. Permission was granted, provided the couple both made new wills. Wills done, the two married but three years later, on a cold February day, Mrs Peirce found herself in Sumner Hospital following a stroke. By June, her husband was also unwell, and both died a month later, within nine days of each other.

Need for a hospital questioned

Residents admitted to the hospital were required to pay for their keep. This was not liked by residents who, apparently, postponed going into the hospital until after pay day so they could pocket their money rather than give it to the hospital.

The battle for money, together with ongoing debates about the need for a hospital reached a crescendo in 1940 with the Council considering it to be obsolete. This view was not shared by the then honorary medical doctor, Dr Ewen Downie.
During the 40s, the building’s use began to alter. In April 1944, part of Sumner Hall was being used as a dining room for the nurses and as a dispensary.  A year later, a wireless was installed to entertain the staff.

Fundraising for a rest home

After a successful fundraising appeal, initiated by the Old Colonists’ branch of the CWA to raise funds for a proposed rest home, The Lodge was built in 1973.

Described as a Rest Home, with hostel type living for twenty-seven residents, and equipped with toilets and wash basins, the building was funded by the Association, Benefactors and the Commonwealth.[1]

Miss L. Ireland and Mrs E. Perks were the first residents of the Lodge, and a year later, there were 25 persons living in there, mainly previous OCAV independent living residents.
By 1986, there was a second fundraising appeal to build emergency accommodation and Residential care on the same site.

[1] Ann Jeffery’s memoirs p141-153 writes about the ‘hostel’ being fitted in if cottages were demolished.

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