Coton Hill History

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 Memories of Old St.Georges Hospital 1818-1995  and Coton Hill Hospital 1854-1976 Stafford
A shared record of the Life and Times of these once-proud Old Hospitals. 25/02/2012

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Coton Hill Hospital  1854 – 1976

These Snippets of Early History will hopefully be added to as and when further time and research material become available.

There were a number of factors leading to the eventual building of this large “Private Institution for the Insane”, the main ones being –
To provide those from the Upper and Middle Classes with Treatment needed, in Surroundings and Comfort they could Afford to pay for,
and hopefully, to also reduce some of the Severe Overcrowded Conditions for the “Pauper Lunatics at Stafford County Lunatic Asylum”.

The Story of Coton Hill Hospital Begins Here

(Many of Coton-Hill’s Historical Details appear to be either missing or somewhat sketchy and are yet to be unearthed)

  The creation of Coton Hill Institution for the Insane came about due to a campaign began by Mr James Wilkes Medical Superintendant of Stafford County Lunatic Asylum See St Georges History 1851. Having come to fruition, following a successful Stafford Public Meeting and with the acquisition of both Land, provided by Lord Talbot, and Funds, erection of the building subsequently commenced.

1854 Opening of Coton Hill Institution for the Insane Designed by ArchitectFrederick Sandham Waller and constructed of pale brick, together with dressings of Bath Stone, in a Gothic-Tudor style at approximate costs upwards of  £35,000. It was of a striking design having projecting gables, bay windows, elegant towers and chimneys. The long central range of buildings extended from East to West. The main entrance facing South, flanked at each end by wings projecting forward, served to enclose three sides of a quadrangle in the centre of which was a fountain. Set in approximately 30 Acres of grounds on an eminent elevation to the North East of the Town, it had extensive views over beautiful woodland scenery, landscaped gardens, orchards, vegetable gardens and farmland. Quarters for the Superintendant and Matron were provided by Apartments Centrally. Other Staff/Servants being accommodated in the Basement. It was to accommodate about 140 Patients.
A large central room on the first floor, served the dual purpose of Committee Room and And Patients Assembly Room. Here patients of both Sexes could meet and enjoy  Social Entertainments. There would also be Sports facilities including Tennis Courts and Cricket Pitch.
Spiritual needs were furnished by the provision, to the West side of the quadrangle, of a beautiful small Church.

Dr John Dale Hewson MD was in situ as Medical Superintendant at this time – together with the remaining Private Patients from Stafford County Asylum, numbering approximately 50, who had been transferred for admission. Due to The Admiralty requisition of the Naval Hospital Yarmouth, for use of the Sick and Wounded from the late War with Russia, a number of Lunatic Soldiers etc. needed to be rehoused. On the recommendation of the Lunacy Commission, 19 Officers were subsequently transferred to Coton Hill.
Dr J D Hewson was said to be a great believer in Occupational, Spiritual and Outdoor activities, encouraging participation wherever possible.

1881The Census shows to have been present – Joseph William Stirling-Christie, Assistant Medical Officer – a Total of 140 Patients, -Females 74, – Males 66, of which 9 from the Army, 6 of the Officers on Half Pay, 2 Retired,  4 aged 70 +. 

1883  – Dr Robert Warrene Hewson, Son of John Dale Hewson above now in failing health, was appointed as Assistant Medical Officer. He had previously served as Senior Assistant Medical Officer and Deputy Medical Superintendant at Cheadle Royal Hospital. He was particularly encouraging in the participation of Sporting Activities together with activities of Amusement and Entertainment . . . . .

1884 – Dr John Dale Hewson died after 30 years service and his son Dr R W Hewson was promoted to Medical Superintendant in his place.
An Organ was introduced to the Church as a Memorial to his Father’s dedicated service.

1888 – The Unsolved Whitechapel (Jack the Ripper) Murders.
In 1995  Researchers/Theorists were (as they still are today worldwide) fascinated by and continuously looking for viable Murder Suspects.
One researcher Stewart Hicks believed he had found an Undiscovered Suspect who fitted the Perceived-Profile of the Original Investigators.
John Hewitt,  a Doctor in his late 30’s, had supposedly become mentally – ill and was admitted to Coton Hill  in 1888, as a Voluntary Patient.
This new research, being somewhat flimsy as often turned out to be the case, caused heated – debate requiring much further investigation.
Eventually, permissions being obtained, enquiries were made of the current Coton-Hill Authorities regarding any information still available.

Dr.R.W. Hewson, in charge during this time, had apparently kept very good records which showed that the now deceased John Hewitt had been a patient, having also been discharged and readmitted a few times that year. Although his status allowed him to come and go much as he wished, the records showed that he had, in fact, been safely confined indoors during these days and nights in question. Following his final discharge he apparently fell in love with and married a Hospital Nurse. They then moved and settled in Bournemouth where he died in 1892.
This being an embarrassing false lead, the researchers had to Publish their Results – Exonerating Dr Hewitt as a Suspect.

1889/90  – Previously much-anticipated plans came to fruition, when a new Theatre and Recreation Room was erected, where  frequent Concerts and Dramatic Performances would be given.

1896 – In situ R W Hewson-Superintendant, Rev. James Henry Theodosius-Chaplain, John Jackson-Clerk/Steward, Miss Ada Bailey-Matron.

1924 Dr Robert W Hewson, Medical Superintendant for 40 years, died after a short illness aged 74. He was an active and well-respected Member of both the Medico Psychological Association and of the North Staffs Division of the British Medical Association.

From 1854 to 1924, between Father and Son, the Drs Hewson had served  as Medical Superintendants – continuously – for 70 years.

To Be Continued With

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