By Dot Long

AFTER reading the Heralding the Past column about Wantage Hospital (25/07/18) I decided to research the history of Didcot Community Hospital.

My previous contributions to this column, on behalf of the Didcot & District Archaeological & Historical Society, have related to the community spirit of Didcot.

Therefore I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my own mother was one of the people who helped to save towards the building of the hospital.

In the 1920s and 1930s, medical services had to be paid for by would-be patients. People, for instance, paid to visit the doctor: they went on the ‘panel’ and were sent bills.

There was also the Radcliffe Infirmary insurance scheme: by paying 4d (2p) per week, subscribers had free access to the services.

Didcot had its nurse – Nurse Watson – who was employed by a Nursing Association, to which subscribers became members by paying a few pennies per week.

The people of Didcot were determined to have their own hospital and on April 19, 1934, the first meeting was held at the Coronet Ballroom (where the library now stands).

The idea that Didcot should have its own hospital was in the minds of the local people for quite some time, especially as Wantage, Abingdon and Wallingford had their own hospitals.

And in 1933, with the enlargement of the town, the time must have seemed right.

The first Didcot hospital fête was held August Bank Holiday 1934. It was held to help raise funds to finance the building of the hospital and later to equip the hospital. Other fundraising events were held over the years and I particularly remember the fancy dress ‘bed pushes’ in the town (perhaps a bit like the one held in 2003 for the Tuberous Sclerosis Association – see photo. - Ed).

When the NHS took over the running of the hospital the need for constant fundraising stopped and only the August Bank Holiday Fête continues annually, run by Didcot Hospital League of Friends.

The hospital archive mentions:

• The foundation stone of Didcot (cottage) Hospital was laid by Lady Glyn in 1939.

• It was opened during the war as a 12-bed convalescent home run by the matron of the Radcliffe Infirmary with a Sister-in-Charge at Didcot.

• It became part of the NHS in 1948.

• from 1948-1956 it was administered by Oxford & District Hospital Management Committee

• from1956-1974 by the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.

• Responsibility passed to Oxford Area Health Authority (Teaching) in 1974; Oxfordshire Health Authority in 1982; Oxfordshire Community Health NHS Trust in April 1994 and then to Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust.

• It is now run by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust as Didcot Community Hospital.

Many local families have been grateful for this cottage hospital.

When it had its minor injuries unit I made use of it myself when I needed stitches in a particularly unpleasant cut to my thumb.

Others will always be thankful for the care given to patients transferred back to Didcot for convalescence before being discharged and allowed home.

My grateful thanks go to historian and ex-librarian Brian Lingham for information found in his book A Poor Struggling Little Town and to the late local photographer Alfred F. Carpenter for photographs found in his book Faces & Places.