Chorley Hospital: Historian Stuart Clewlow looks back over a century of campaigning for a century of caring in the town

As the population of Chorley borough grew, so did the need for a larger hospital with a more diverse range of facilities, specialists and accommodation.

Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 12:43 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th August 2021, 12:50 pm
Rawcliffe Hospital off Gillibrand Street, Chorley. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow
Rawcliffe Hospital off Gillibrand Street, Chorley. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow

As the Chorley Guardian reflects on the 150 years since it first published, we're telling the stories of how the borough has been shaped through people, places and events.

As we recently witnessed the record breaking fundraising by the late Captain Tom Moore to raise funds for the NHS, locally we have always had enthusiasm for supporting our local hospital.

More than ever, we have come to recognise and appreciate the value and dedication of those who work in our hospitals.

Commemorative pin badges marked the opening of Chorley New Hospital in 1933. Picture courtesy of Stuart Clewlow

During the Coronavirus pandemic, those in the nursing profession have been in the ‘front line’ of the problem and without them, the population of the United Kingdom would be in a much worse condition.

As the current campaign to secure Chorley Hospitals A&E department recently surpassed its 5th year anniversary, it is fitting to acknowledge that Chorley & District Hospital itself is over 100 years' old.

A dispensary for the sick and poor of Chorley was founded as early as 1828 and what was known as a cottage hospital, was commissioned and constructed on Gillibrand Street in 1893.

The building, which was later renamed Rawcliffe Hospital, provided a vital service to the community for 40 years.

We're asking Chorley Guardian readers to nominate 150 reasons to celebrate Chorley to mark the Guardian's 150th birthday

It administered what became known as first aid and offered emergency treatment and assistance for those who may not have been able to make it to a far off county hospital.

There was also the benefit of local knowledge and the ability to gather background information about a patient, which would have been difficult if they had had to travel further afield for care and more so in the days before computers and fast lines of communication.

As the population of Chorley borough grew, so did the need for a larger hospital with a more diverse range of facilities, specialists and accommodation.

As a result a scheme for a new hospital was adopted and following a build cost of £55,000, Chorley Hospital, in its current location, was opened on September 2, 1933.

Rawcliffe Hospital was taken over by Chorley Rural District Council and the building still stands today.

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Over the years, the hospital complex grew and grew and now provides vital care for tens of thousands of people.

From humble beginnings, today Chorley and South Ribble Hospital provides a full range of district general hospital services including critical care, coronary care, general medicine, elderly care, general surgery, orthopaedics, anaesthetics, stroke rehabilitation, midwifery-led maternity care, and breast service.

The hospital is recorded as having around 220 beds, a large operating theatre complex, outpatient suites, and education facilities.

Although the hospital serves an ever-growing population, sadly, as a result of funding cuts, some of the services we have grown accustomed to locally, are now at risk.

The issue at the moment is the reduction in the Accident & Emergency provision.

This has been met by fierce campaigning and the weekly demonstrations outside the hospital are a credit to the people.

Our hospital has survived and developed for years and people power has always played a major part.

In fact, 80% of the build cost for the original buildings was raised by public donations and since then there has been constant fundraising activity.

When Chorley New Hospital was opened in 1933 the occasion was marked with the production of a number of commemorative pin badges and these were given to many of those who had originally donated money for the building cost and were also sold thereafter to raise even more funds.

As a lasting tribute to the hospital it replaced, a ward in Chorley Hospital still carries the name Rawcliffe.

An extract from a message made public by the hospital in 1937 is as relevant today as it was nearly 85 years ago.

“You have in Chorley a hospital of which you can be justly proud- equipped with all the latest medical and surgical apparatus and staffed by an enthusiastic band of medical men and nurses whose work goes on unceasingly day and night.

Ours is indeed the ever-open door which leads to health, strength, and happiness…

Our needs are urgent.

We feel that we must send our message for help to every public spirited man and woman in our midst.

To give to such a cause as Chorley and District Hospital is a noble action.”

Chorley 150 countdown

This story is part of our Chorley 150 series to mark the 150th anniversary of the Chorley Guardian.

If you'd like to suggest a story for this Chorley 150 series featuring 150 stories of inspirational people and places that we love, then email [email protected]