Stamford Military Hospital/Dunham Massey


We had a trip out today (it has been Easter Bank Holiday Monday here in the UK) and we visited the stately home and deer park at Dunham Massey, which is owned by the National Trust. We went because the weather was promising to be good (for once) and there was a display that I was particularly keen on seeing.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, the House has been turned into a museum. It was a military hospital during the conflict, run and staffed by Lady Grey, the widow of the 9th Earl of Stamford whose family had owned the property for hundreds of years previously.

It was fascinating to see just how stately homes such as these were turned into military hospitals at the time and to see what kind of medical treatment was actually available then. As you may know, I’m studying the history of medicine and society for an Open University module towards my degree, and as military medicine is a part of that study, to actually see it laid out before me helped me make sense of what I have been reading about recently.

As today was a public holiday there were also some “living history” actors performing in the museum, which I thought was fantastic. They helped bring the human side of the story to life, and the “nurses” also managed to portray what a change in the prospects of young women had been brought about because of the war.

Here are some photographs I took of the museum part of the day today. I will post some more of the rest of the house another time.

Also known as the "agony trolley", the men used to get anxious when it was time for the dressing trolley to do its rounds. Understandable when you think that this was in the days before antibiotics and wounds would have been putrid with infection without the agonising cleansing they received
Also known as the “agony trolley”, the men used to get anxious when it was time for the dressing trolley to do its rounds. Understandable when you think that this was in the days before antibiotics and wounds would have been putrid with infection without the agonising cleansing they received
A jar of anti-parasitic powder for military use.
A jar of anti-parasitic powder for military use.
Fascinating insight into the tools of the nursing trade here. The feeding cup on the right shows how invalids would have drank their tea or soup, and the inhaling bottle on the left is an ingenious contraption to help patients with breathing difficulties breathe easier.
Fascinating insight into the tools of the nursing trade here. The feeding cup on the right shows how invalids would have drank their tea or soup, and the inhaling bottle on the left is an ingenious contraption to help patients with breathing difficulties breathe easier.
The rules of the Stamford Hospital. Note that the patients were expected to assist the nursing staff with other patients, and that each day prayers were said at a set time.
The rules of the Stamford Hospital. Note that the patients were expected to assist the nursing staff with other patients, and that each day prayers were said at a set time.
A view of the arrangement of beds in the ward. This would have been one of the family's function rooms when the house was not being used as a hospital, and I counted 16 beds arranged round the room and in the window bay. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have had all those patients crying out in pain or with shell-shock in the night and being so close together?
A view of the arrangement of beds in the ward. This would have been one of the family’s function rooms when the house was not being used as a hospital, and I counted 16 beds arranged round the room and in the window bay. Can you imagine what it would have been like to have had all those patients crying out in pain or with shell-shock in the night and being so close together?
Detail from the inhaling bottle.
Detail from the inhaling bottle.
One of the living history actors. Here the nurse is hand-rolling bandages for future use. They would  have been delivered by the Red Cross in huge long lengths and one of the nurse's jobs was to shorten them and make them ready for use on the patients.
One of the living history actors. Here the nurse is hand-rolling bandages for future use. They would have been delivered by the Red Cross in huge long lengths and one of the nurse’s jobs was to shorten them and make them ready for use on the patients.
A view of the operating "room". Actually, the space where this young man was having open brain surgery was in the gap at the bottom of the stairwell. There was a small room to the side with a sink where the surgeon would have washed his hands but that was it as far as infection control went here. It was basically in a corridor between to rooms and at the bottom of the stairs where anyone (and everyone) could see. No dignity here!
A view of the operating “room”. Actually, the space where this young man was having open brain surgery was in the gap at the bottom of the stairwell. There was a small room to the side with a sink where the surgeon would have washed his hands but that was it as far as infection control went here. It was basically in a corridor between to rooms and at the bottom of the stairs where anyone (and everyone) could see. No dignity here!
A typical patient record at the end of the bed. This poor chap had trench-foot in his right foot. You can't see here in the photograph but he had a nasty infection too because his temperature was all over the place.
A typical patient record at the end of the bed. This poor chap had trench-foot in his right foot. You can’t see here in the photograph but he had a nasty infection too because his temperature was all over the place.
This contraption was set up at the end of a bed to feed an antiseptic solution into a wounded leg. It would have been painful and extremely restrictive for the patient to have been treated with this, but as it was the only way to keep the wound free from infection there was no choice about having it done. Horrible.
This contraption was set up at the end of a bed to feed an antiseptic solution into a wounded leg. It would have been painful and extremely restrictive for the patient to have been treated with this, but as it was the only way to keep the wound free from infection there was no choice about having it done. Horrible.
Another view of the operating room. You can see the doorway to the next room in the background, and the small tray of sterilised instruments to the assistant's side.
Another view of the operating room. You can see the doorway to the next room in the background, and the small tray of sterilised instruments to the assistant’s side.
A typical supply cupboard on the ward. There were two of these in the museum with medical supplies in - you can see bandages, cups, linament and bottles for the male patients to urinate into. The other one had blankets and linen in it.
A typical supply cupboard on the ward. There were two of these in the museum with medical supplies in – you can see bandages, cups, linament and bedpans etc The other one had blankets and linen in it.

 

I found the visit really useful for my studies, and it brought it a lot closer to home, making me realise that this was literally only a hundred years ago. The set-up at Dunham Massey and the Stamford Military Hospital was typical of what would have been replicated in stately homes all over the country for young men recouperating and healing after horrific injuries in the war. I hadn’t realised that military hospitals like these were for a very select few – the ones who had a chance at being healed and cured, and who could withstand the 3 or 4 day journey from the front-line. Those who were considered too far injured weren’t even given the chance to get back home to hospitals such as these.

What amazed/surprised/astounded/disgusted me was that in many cases, once they were patched up here they were sent back to the front line to fight again.

The museum and the house were fascinating and I would heartily recommend you go and see for yourself if you can. The display is on til November I think, but if you’re studying A218 with the OU as I am, then try and go and see it before June 3rd. It is helpful revision!!

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Stamford Military Hospital/Dunham Massey

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  1. Hello. I found your blog when a pic popped up on a google search for Dunham Massey. I realise that your visit was some time ago but thought you may be interested to know the picture you have posted with the patients notes belong to my grand father Thomas Hibbitts. I accidentally found out he was a patient at Stamford Military hospital when I was half watching a BBC programme about it and heard his name mentioned. As a result i visited Dunham Massey at the weekend. You are totally right about being sent back to war – Thomas was discharged back to duty after 6 weeks in Hospital. He remained in the Army until 1920 and returned to Ireland where he married and had children. Sadly he also suffered with PTSD and by the time I was born he was an in-patient in one of the Dublin hospitals so I never met him.
    I too would really recommend a visit while the exhibition is still going – a few months ago I didn’t know this place existed or that my grand father was part of it – there must be lots of other ppl in that position as so many of the soldiers notes state “no other information known”.
    Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments, and it is fantastic to have some connection with the exhibition in a real-life way! I’m sorry to hear that your grandfather suffered from PTSD and that you never got to meet him as a consequence of that. It’s such a shame that it wasn’t recognised as that at the time and soldiers weren’t treated properly for the mental effects of war at the time. Best wishes, Pam

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