Toast to the hospital built thanks to beer

FOR many decades, anyone falling seriously ill in Hartlepool had cause to raise a glass – alcoholic or otherwise – to toast John William Cameron, the founder of Cameron’s Brewery, after the Cameron Hospital was donated to the town in his memory.

ANDREW LEVETT looks back at the hospital’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 1955.

MANY people remember Cameron Hospital as a women’s hospital but it was originally built as a general hospital, a role it carried out for the first 50 years of its life.

It was opened on April 29, 1905, after being built at a cost of £20,400 from money provided by the family of John William Cameron, who founded the Cameron’s brewing company and was Mayor of Hartlepool from 1889-1890.

When it opened the hospital had 40 beds in one male ward and one female ward but expanded rapidly, with another ward paid for in 1913 by Alderman J W Wilson, who had just recovered from a serious illness, and four years later he also funded an orthopaedic ward.

In 1931 a 20-bed children’s ward and verandah was opened after a public appeal, followed in 1935 by a new outpatients department and X-ray department.

In 1955 there were 88 beds, though there had been another 20 available when required during World War 2.

For most of its first 50 years the hospital was entirely voluntary funded, before passing into the hands on the National Heath Service after 1948 and the the Mail’s article in 1955 described it as “one of the finest gifts made to the town”.

The article went on: “The support of local people for their hospital was always readily given.”

After fifty years as a general hospital, work to convert it into an exclusively women’s hospital began in late 1955.

The Mail’s report on Cameron Hospital’s first 50 years looked forward to a “second half century” but in fact it closed in 1991.

However, the Cameron Maternity and Gynaecology Hospital’s 36 years were studded with achievements.

The region’s first baby born after the GIFT fertility treatement was a success story for consultant Hugh Dawson and his team in 1989. The Cameron team also successfully carried out IVF in 1990, becoming only the second hospital in the country to be successful with an NHS patient.

What are your memories of Cameron hopsital? Contact Andrew Levett by emailing andrew.levett@northeast-press.co.uk or write to him at Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.