Surbiton's First Hospitals

During the 19th Century Surbiton experienced a lot of change. With the arrival of the railway in 1838 the community in Surbiton began to expand  and in 1855 Surbiton gained the right to be a self-governing district with the passing of the Surbiton Improvement Act . In turn the community turned to addressing the growing health needs of Surbiton. 

In early 1870 a group of Surbiton residents under the leadership of Mrs Frederick Howell decided to set up a cottage hospital in Surbiton.  Apart from Mrs Howell this first group of Trustees was composed of men, a fact that was criticised by a writer to the Surrey Comet who opposed the group for being mainly Church of England with no Non-Conformists or women.  

The idea for a local community hospital was not unique to Surbiton. The earliest such hospital to be established was in the mid-18th Century in East Anglia. These hospitals were characterised by their independence, their reliance on funding by voluntary donations and by having the voluntary services of the local General Practitioners. They catered for those who had acute medical needs and could afford to pay towards their care. The elderly, the poor and those suffering chronic illness could not be treated in cottage hospitals and were forced to use municipal hospitals or the Poor Law workhouses. Surbiton Cottage Hospital was thus dependent like similar establishments on local fundraising, local employment schemes, voluntary contributions and also on a subscription scheme which started around September 1870 but was deemed inadequate by the beginning of 1872. 

The first hospital opened in York Villa on the site of the former Post Office in Victoria Road, in 1870. Within a year it launched an appeal for funds to build 2 fever wards but the idea of fever patients in the centre of Surbiton was not well received - one lady wrote in to the Surrey Comet to complain. By the time of the Hospital Committee’s first annual report a new hospital was already being planned. A donation of £500 given to the Committee was set aside to pay for the foundation stone of the second Surbiton Cottage Hospital in St James Road, Surbiton. 

After sufficient funds were raised building of the new hospital started in 1882 and it opened in April 1883. The hospital was able to open due to money lent by the United Temperance Association, and by donations from over 300 people. It opened with 12 beds and 2 cots. In 1902 it was noted that the St. James' Road cottage hospital had a 'high reputation', and was reliant on voluntary contributions and voluntary medical staff in order to stay open. 

In the 1930s a larger hospital was needed and an appeal for funds was launched in October 1933 with the foundation stone being laid in October 1934. Surbiton 'New' Hospital on Ewell Road opened in 1936. 

The cottage hospital on St James' Road was renamed The Claremont. The Claremont was the only hospital in the UK to be entirely staffed by GPs, and it was closed in 1976. 


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