Remedy for telling stories of two old city hospitals

The Royal Hallamshire hospital is launching an exhibition on the history Sheffield hospitals. From left, Sue Coulson, David Baldwin, David Winfield and Derek Holdsworth with some of the artefacts
The Royal Hallamshire hospital is launching an exhibition on the history Sheffield hospitals. From left, Sue Coulson, David Baldwin, David Winfield and Derek Holdsworth with some of the artefacts

VISITORS to the Royal Hallamshire are being given a reminder of the long and distinguished histories of the two hospitals that preceded it.

Four people closely associated with the Hallamshire have spent four years putting together displays that tell the stories of the Royal Hospital in West Street and the Royal Infirmary in Infirmary Road.

The Royal Hallamshire hospital is launching an exhibition on the history Sheffield hospitals

The Royal Hallamshire hospital is launching an exhibition on the history Sheffield hospitals

“It’s to give a sense of history to a rather faceless tower block,” said Derek Holdsworth, a retired consultant physician, who worked at both the Royal Infirmary and the Royal Hallamshire.

He has worked on the project with retired consultant haematologist David Winfield, the first general manager of the new Hallamshire, David Baldwin, who is retired, and Sue Coulson, current business manager in the chief executive’s office.

Their efforts can now be seen in two display cases and on a board in the main reception area. One case tells the stories of the hospitals and includes the contents of a time capsule found under a foundation stone for an extension to the Royal Hospital in 1895. Contents of the other will change from time to time, initially reflecting changes in pharmacy and drug preparation.

“It is hoped that they will serve to remind staff, patients, and visitors of the long and distinguished 200-year history of service to the public, research, and teaching which the current hospital continues,” said Dr Holdsworth.

Both the Infirmary and Royal had “a distinguished history, and were close to the hearts of the people of Sheffield, not least because until the coming of the National Health Service in 1948 they were so-called voluntary hospitals, entirely reliant on money raised from the general public. Money had to be raised by subscriptions, appeals, and collections.

“The only other hospital provision was in Poor Law Infirmaries, often allied to workhouses. The Northern General Hospital developed in this way.”

Items on display are only a fraction from a historical collection stored at the Northern General that extends to portraits, marble busts and medical, surgical and nursing equipment, including three operating tables, one of which dates from the 1790s. They were catalogued meticulously by Dr Harold Swan in his early retirement, helped by Sue Coulson, who was David Baldwin’s secretary.

“There is enough material for a museum but that’s an expensive business,” said Dr Holdsworth.

The Hallamshire opened in 1978.

The history of the Infirmary can be traced back to 1797 and the building survives, its elegant Georgian facade largely hidden by a car park and with a Tesco supermarket in its former spacious grounds.

The Royal Hospital, which began as a public dispensary in 1832, was demolished and the site between Westfield Terrace and Eldon Street is now occupied by restaurants, shops and apartments.