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1629 - Almshouses

In 1629 Henry Williams, a woollen draper, bequeathed money in a charitable trust for almshouses (also known as hospitals) to be built in Pydar Street to house 10 poor widows. The trust provided them with clothes and 4 shillings per week in money.

One of the two foundation stones displayed over the entrance to the original almshouses can now be seen in the garden of the bungalows in Union Street.

Stone commemorating Henry Williams

1799 - The Royal Cornwall Infirmary

On August 12th the Royal Cornwall Infirmary seen here on the right, was opened to serve Cornwall’s mining community and the poor. It had 20 beds, 10 for women, and 10 for men, on separate floors, and it was funded by subscription.

In its first year, 47 patients were admitted, but as many as seven or eight beds were often vacant, possibly because local Cornish suspicions, already voiced in the press, that the new hospitals throughout the country were:

“Schools of medicine and surgery where the practitioners make experiments on the poor in order to improve themselves in the art of healing the rich.”

Sherborne Mercury, 8 November 1790.

The Royal Cornwall Infirmary

1803 - Smallpox Vaccination

Smallpox was responsible at this time for 1 death in 12, and for one quarter of those suffering from blindness. The Hospital initiated a campaign to promote Jennerian vaccination against the disease.

1827 - Operations Performed

Major surgical procedures remained few but were often reported in the local newspaper, such as the removal of a kidney stone in this quote from the Royal Cornwall Gazette, 22 December 1827.
The type of cases being treated at the hospital at this time were fevers, ulcers, chest infections, rheumatism, contusions, fractures, abscesses, tumours, dislocations, colic, haemorrhages, palsies, cancers and wounds of various types.

It is likely that a higher proportion of admissions were due to injury or accident in the mines.

“The operation of Lithotomy (removal of a stone from the bladder) was again performed at the Cornwall Infirmary on Friday 12th instant, upon a poor man named William Uren. The stone extracted weighed 5ozs 3 drams and its largest circumference measured 7 inches and a quarter. The patient is doing very well.”

1834 - Home Health Care

A Parish domiciliary medical service was introduced following the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 and was available to paupers until 1948. The medical officer, paid by the Truro Union, was employed to:

“attend all paupers including all midwifery cases, accidents, vaccination, and all other medical and surgical cases whatsoever and to provide trusses, bandages etc for the sum of £25 per annum”.

1842 - The Truro Dispensary

The Truro Dispensary was a charity set up in 1842. Subscribers could nominate poor ‘worthy’ cases for medical and surgical care and free medicines. It was situated in Union Place. The premises were sold in 1934 and patients continued to be treated at the surgery of Dr Malony at 18 Lemon Street until the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948.

"Worthy cases" could get free medicines and surgical care.Content coming soon

1868 - The growth of the Hospital

In 1868 a West wing extension and new operating room were built at a cost of £123 18s 0d. In 1869 healthcare improved further when a nursing system for nurse training modelled on the Nightingale School was introduced. In 1889 the Ophthalmology department opened, followed by a Dentistry department in 1894.

1901 - Private Patients

The first private patient was admitted in 1901. In 1907 Mr G Petherick of St Austell presented hospital with new x-ray plant but as there was no electricity to run it, he had that installed too!

In 1913 the first female house surgeon was appointed – Dr Florence Inglis.

1914 - War and the Hospital

In 1914 the Hospital offered 50 beds to the War Office for serious surgical cases of Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry war casualties.

The first contingent of wounded were received in June 1915, being carried from Truro railway station in convoys of ambulances.

Children’s wards were also opened at this time.

The picture shows nurses playing cards with soldiers on the ward at Christmas time.

Nurses playing cards with soldiers

1919 - More Improvements

In 1919, a new system of nurse training and examinations were introduced by the General Nursing Council. The matron was given full control of nursing staff, ancillary, and domestic staff. An Orthopaedic departmentwas established in 1927, and in 1928 a 12 bed nurses’ hostel opened.

In 1931 the first psychiatric clinic was held, and in 1934 the Department of Pathology was established. A second nurses’ home opened in 1937, offering 41 single bedrooms.

In 1939, there were 185 inpatient beds, including male and female surgical wards, and a dispensary on the ground floor.

Performing surgery

1942 - Bombing at the Hosptial

Two 500 kg bombs were dropped over Truro, one virtually demolished the south wing of the hospital. A ward sister, a nurse and 3 visiting relatives were killed.

“They bombed that place (City Hospital) in about 1942 I think and I know there was one nurse killed.”

Click on the icon below to hear Kingsley Wright describe the infirmary bombing.

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1948 - The National Health Service

The NHS was introduced in 1948, and in 1968 HRH Princess Alexandra officially opened the new hospital at Treliske.

City Hospital began to transfer its services to Treliske in 1992, and it finally closed in 1999.

2010 - Truro Health Park

The site of the Royal Cornwall Infirmary is given a new purpose, with the opening of Truro Health Park (primary health care services for the people of Truro).

Down the Plughole - Sanitation in Truro

In 1842, a report on the sanitary conditions of Truro by Edwin Chadwick stated that although there were some public sewers in the town which discharged themselves into the river, others stopped short and opened up to the surface, frequently in streets and lanes.

Many of the smaller sewers were too narrow to be effective and were not better than covered drains, but the main problem was that many of the courts and lanes adjoining the main streets had no communicating drains. Chadwick states: In 1853 there were still houses in “respectable” parts of the city where the inhabitants were dependent on dry closets for sanitation but the cholera epidemic of that year finally forced the Sanitary Committee to ensure that all private drains were connected with the main sewer where they existed.

By the end of 1853, five miles of drainage existed within the town and, although there was a further outbreak of cholera in 1866, it never again reached the proportions of former years.

“The perfect immunity from deaths by febrile and acute diseases, enjoyed by Lemon street during the long period of three years and a half, is a strong testimony to the value of the breadth of its roadway, the openness of its site, and the judicious construction of the houses; for it has to contend with a great deficiency of sewerage.”

Life's too Short

In 1840 Dr Charles Barham, a Truro physician, reported that the areas of Truro with the highest death rate were in the over-crowded areas of Kenwyn street, Pydar Street with its adjacent courts and the St Clements Street area.

Between 1837 and 1840 death rates were much higher within the working classes where living conditions were poor. Their average age of death was 29 in contrast to that of tradespeople which was over 34 and of the professional people and gentry which was over 40.

It was reported that Coome’s Lane, Tippet’s Backlet and Mill Lane had been notorious for fevers ‘often of a malignant and infectious kind’ but due to the removal of old houses, and better supplies of running water, had become amongst the healthiest in the town. With their better constructed houses in open rows, Boscawen and Paul’s Rows and St Clements Terrace were much improved.

Click on the icon below to hear Denis Row describe the earth closet.

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