Staff at Westminster Memorial Hospital in Shaftesbury, have been joined by members of its League of Friends to mark 150 years since the building’s foundation stone was laid.
They gathered in the hospital garden, off Abbey Walk, to watch the raising of a flag, enjoy refreshments and reflect on the history of healthcare on the site.
The hospital – now run by Dorset HealthCare – was built on land donated by Lady Elizabeth Leveson-Gower, the wife of Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquis of Westminster, who owned large parts of Shaftesbury and the surrounding area.
Lady Theodora Grosvenor, the daughter of Richard and Elizabeth, laid the first stone in 1871 in memory of her father. An article about the hospital plans appeared in The Times and a copy of the newspaper was placed in a bottle under the stone.
The hospital was opened in 1874 by the Lord Bishop of Salisbury, and was initially paid for through patient subscriptions (a guinea a year or a lifetime payment of £20). In 1928 the League of Friends got on board, helping to raise vital funds for equipment and improvements.
While the NHS took over the hospital in 1948, the Friends have continued to support the facility through fundraising events and public donations.
And one thing remains unchanged through the years – the spectacular views from the hospital across the Blackmore Vale, which are medicine in themselves.
Staff and guests at the commemoration event enjoyed soft drinks, kindly donated by the local Tesco store, and two specially-made cakes supplied by hospital cook Mary Pocock and Healthcare Assistant and Friends member Denise Potter.
Matron Ali Low said: ‘Although we could only hold a small celebration, due to COVID restrictions, it was important to commemorate the 150-year milestone and remember the fascinating history of the hospital.
‘We would have liked to have arranged a fete for all local people to say thank-you, as the community was instrumental in the development of the hospital and continues to be today. It’s something we will look to do in the future. I am also especially grateful to the League of Friends and our staff for their support during the challenging events of the past year.’
The flag outside the hospital will continue to fly high for the rest of the year to commemorate the anniversary.
For more information about the Westminster Memorial Hospital and services provided to patients visit www.dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors.
Notes to editors
1. Photo: Westminster Memorial Hospital Matron Ali Low with one of the 150 year specially-made cakes.
2. Photo: Westminster Memorial Hospital staff – cook Mary Pocock, Facilitator Manager Robyn Mills, Matron Ali Low, Ward Clerk Becky Stinton, Healthcare Assistant and League of Friends member Denise Potter
3. Photo: Members of the Westminster Memorial Hospital’s League of Friends