Modernising Medicine: Hospital Design in Monmouthshire

Gwent Archives’ collection of twentieth-century hospital plans demonstrates how ideas about medical care provision developed and changed throughout the first forty years of the NHS. When it formed in 1948, the NHS in Monmouthshire inherited a wide variety of hospital buildings including numerous cottage hospitals in the valleys, General Hospitals such as Royal Gwent, large mental hospitals such as St. Cadoc’s in Caerleon, isolation hospitals for the treatment of infectious diseases such as Allt-yr-yn Hospital in Newport, former mansions such as Nevill Hall, and former workhouse infirmaries such as St. James in Tredegar and St. Woolos in Newport.

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Gwent Archives: This early twentieth century plan of Newport Workhouse shows the extensive nineteenth-century buildings designed for the accommodation of hundreds of people, which came into the hands of the NHS as St. Woolos Hospital in 1948.

The history of the medical aid societies in the valleys meant that Monmouthshire had a high number of cottage hospitals in 1948. One example is Blaina and District Hospital, which had opened in 1910 following subscriptions of two pennies in the pound from colliery workers to provide for industrial accidents, but the building was soon extended in 1915-16 to accommodate women and children.

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Gwent Archives: Blaina and District Hospital Plan, 1974.

The new NHS in 1948 had an idealistic vision to provide brand new modern hospitals. However, major building of hospitals did not begin until the 1960s under the government’s Hospital Building Programme. In Monmouthshire, the major new hospitals were built in the grounds of Nevill Hall Mansion and in the redevelopment of Royal Gwent Hospital. The plan was for these district general hospitals to amalgamate specialist hospitals and departments all at one site, and for smaller hospitals to lose services or close. The architects were heavily influenced by post-war ideas on modernism, functionality and use of the high-rise block.

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Gwent Archives: This 1962 design by the architects Sir Percy Thomas and Son for Nevill Hall Hospital shows the planned outline of the new hospital surrounding the original mansion.

The archive holds a large number of original plans for Nevill Hall, which was built in two phases from 1964-1974.

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Gwent Archives: The specialist departments include these 1963 designs for a Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy department complete with hydrotherapy pool, and an extensive Casualty department.

The hospital was officially opened in 1970. Teaching facilities were built for nurses in training schools and further education for doctors was provided through postgraduate medical centres.

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Gwent Archives: This 1963 plan for an ‘Untrained Nurses’ Home’ at Nevill Hall shows facilities provided such as a music room and a television room.

The plans also reflect trends in medicine. In the 1970s, geriatric medicine became a priority and new departments were built at Nevill Hall, Blaina & District and Abertillery & District Hospitals. There are plans in the collection for the building of local NHS Health Centres in the 1970s and 1980s.

This collection shows us how medical provision in Gwent was completely transformed and modernised under the NHS.

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