Brynkinalt Auxiliary Military Hospital 1915 – 1919

There was at Chirk a small hospital, primarily for children, which had been establish in about 1900 at Brynkinalt Cottage, Chirk Green, by Lady Rosamund Trevor, Countess of Bantry, who was second wife of Arthur William Hill Trevor (Baron Trevor of Brynkinalt). They married in 1897, and in 1899 Lady Trevor bore a daughter Moira (pet name – appears on invite to tea? – thought daughter was called Mary) who died in December 1904 leaving the coupe childless, We do not know what effect this premature death of her child had on lady Trevor, but certainly her social concern – already apparent in the parish  grew with bereavement. As a staunch Roman Catholic she had already built a small timber catholic church at the top end of Chirk Green close to the grounds of Brynkinalt Cottage, where the twenty or so Catholics of the neighbourhood came to worship, and which served for the next fifteen years until replaced.

When Brynkinalt Cottage was vacated by its tenant William Harkson in 1898, Lady Trevor installed there a Nurse Booker who acted as District Nurse for the next five years, serving the parish of St Martins as well as Chirk. In 1905 Brynkinalt Cottage was opened as a children’s hospital and for the next twelve years functioned very efficiently with the Trevors providing most of the money required to maintain and run it. Two full-time nurses were employed, one a home nurse and the other continuing the role as District Nurse – who made over 3,000 visits in the first year! Stables were built to accommodate donkeys for the carriage of coal and other commodities in panniers and a full time gardener was on the staff who was expected to supplement the kitchen food requirements as well as to keep the grounds in order.

Remarkably from 1906, children’s lessons were part of the daily routine and later on a kindergarten school is mentioned. There is no reference to a teacher, so it may be have been that Lady Trevor filled this role herself. A nursery maid was engaged, who with tow “orderlies” or servants, completed the staff. Simple, but meticulous account were kept, starting with the £45 rent charge to Brynkinalt Estate, and ending with Lord Trevor’s gift of coal to the value of over £40 a year. The fees charged by local doctors (usually Dr Lloyd) were small, averaging between £2 and £3 a year, only once reaching £8 a year.

Repairs to the hospital were constant but inexpensive; the replacement of linen, surgical instruments and children’s clothing made only limited demands on the hospital budget. Children’s clothing was occasional supplied by Lord Trevor, and we suspect some maintenance costs were probably borne by Lady Trevor out of personal resources, Some items of expense for children’s journeys to a Dr Jones occur in the accounts and it can be assumed that these children were sent for treatment elsewhere and returned to the hospital afterwards.  Sources of income were very limited; with patients (or their parent) contributing only small amounts so that although treatments of adults began in 1908, this was of little benefit to income and we suspect that once again the patron bore the brunt. However small donations were made by local organisations and in 1913 a collecting box was placed at Chirk Surgery. Next the workmen of Brynkinalt Colliery began a payment of £10 a year, this starting a tradition of help for the local hospital that was to continue for many years in support of the later Cottage Hospital, Black Park Colliery was soon to match this contribution and in 1916, W Y Craig, the new owner of Brynkinalt Colliery, gave £10 in support of the adult ward. The Ifton Miners also contributed.

The First World War brought changes. Although it was offered to the War Office in 1914, the Children’s Hospital was only taken once in 1916-17 for the mounting casualties. Extra accommodation was found for the wartime hospital by incorporating the Drill Hall in Station Avenue as an annexe, where additional beds were set up. Lady Trevor took over the administration of what was then called the Brynkinalt Military Auxiliary Hospital, and was appointed Commandant, while Dr Charles Salt was Medical Officer in charge.  A study of the accounts of the Military hospital show that in 1918 Lord Trevor was the responsible for the upkeep of the “cottage” section of the hospital notwithstanding the sick and wounded soldiers were treated there.

Source: A history of the parish of Chirk – C. Neville Hurdsman Chapter 14 Medicine

Sir Napier Burnett opened a new cottage hospital established at Chirk, mainly as we understand, through the exertions of Dr. John D. Lloyd, on August 4th. The hospital, which is of brick, roughcast, has wide and commanding views of the Welsh and Shropshire hills. There are eighteen beds, three of which are for private patients. Lady Trevor of Brynkinalt has generously presented an up to date operating theatre, Miss Cheetam has endowed a bed to the memory of MR Barnes, a cot has been endowed with the promise of another, in the initial stages £4,000 was raised locally, and this sum was covered by the joint committees of St. John and the British Red Cross which have since made further liberal gifts.  Ifton and Brynkinalt Colliery employees contributed £1,073 – £1 per head – and the Collieries Relief Society gave £500, as well as £30 towards a memorial tablet presented to the hospital in memory of the 125 men of these collieries who laid down their lives in the war.

Source: The British Medical Journal – Aug 13, 1921