Park Prewett Hospital

From Asylum Projects
Jump to: navigation, search
Park Prewett Hospital
Opened 1921
Closed 1996
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Echelon Plan (Compact Arrow)
Architect(s) George T. Hine
Alternate Names
  • Second Hampshire County Lunatic Asylum


Although not opened until 1921, the ‘second county asylum’was first proposed in 1898. This came about following concern that Knowle Hospital in Fareham had reached the limits for its expansion, and that a new location in the north of the county would be more suitable. The committee of visitors of the Hampshire County Council asylum, chaired by Mr. W.H. Deane had narrowed it down to two sites in the vicinity of Basingstoke, Winklebury Farm and Park Prewett Farm. At this time, the London architect George T. Hine, who had already designed a number of asylums, was called in for advice. Although both sites were favourable, Park Prewett was chosen, although the provision of a line of trees to serve as a windbreak was recommended. A suggestion for which we may be thankful, even today.

The Council bought Park Prewett Farm of 300 acres, part of the Vyne estate, for £30 an acre. In November 1899 Mr. Hine's firm, Hine and Pegg was appointed as the architect. Although held in abeyance for some years while demand had dropped, the building was firmly back on the agenda by 1908, and preparations for building began in 1910. It was announced in the Hants and Berks Gazette of 16 August 1913 that the tender for construction from Thomas Rowbotham had come in at £258,777.

The main building was to consist of 15 wards housing 804 patients and 100 in admissions. In addition there were to be 10 villas for various types of patient and a private wing for 100 patients. In all, accommodation for 1300 patients, 167 nurses and attendants. On 11th July 1913, the Joint Asylum Committee had been very pleased with progress on the foundations and the bridge over the railway line being built to service the hospital was complete. Incidentally, this branch line served both in the construction of the site, and to bring coal and other supplies twice weekly up until its closure in September 1950.

By the summer of 1914 a number of one storey buildings were ready for roofing. Even the water tower had reached a height of 50ft. Of course 1914 was not a good time to be building, and labour soon dried up. This was somewhat relieved by the army requisitioning the hospital in September 1915 and deploying some of their own men. Park Prewett thus opened in 1917 as a military hospital -Number Four Canadian General Hospital. This designation came from the Canadian Army Medical Corps unit, newly returned from Salonica as part of support for the Gallipoli campaign. The hospital remained in military hands for two years, and then the long process of conversion back to the original purpose could commence. Finally, in August 1921, the hospital opened, accepting its first patients in the week beginning the 29th.

A week before the outbreak of the second world war, on Sunday 28th August 1939, all but eighty of the 1400 patients were evacuated. From this point, the hospital was taken over by the Emergency Medical Service to provide 2000 beds for civilian and service casualties. A number of London hospitals were also offered wards in Park Prewett, away from the bombing for their own staff and patients.

Sir Harold had pioneered the use of plastic surgery in the First World War and had become a consultant adviser to the Ministry of Health. The story goes (according to Reginald Pound's biography) that he and Sir William Kelsey Fry, the dental specialist and long time friend, drove down from London in September 1939 to view Rooksdown. As they entered, a young nurse greeted them with the cry "Ye Gods, a man at last!". Sir Harold retorted "Obviously this is the place for us" and recommended that Rooksdown be commandeered for the purpose.

Sir Harold was a remarkably talented individual. Aside from his gift for Plastic Surgery, he was a musician, an artist and in his younger days, an athlete. He was a rowing blue a Cambridge, a famous golfer and an excellent fly fisherman. It was even said he may have chosen Rooksdown on the basis of the proximity to the river Test. This is more likely than the golf connection - The hospital golf course (later developed into Weybrook Park) had not been built at this time.

The Plastic Surgery unit at Rooksdown opened in February 1940 and continued here until 1957, when it moved to Queen Mary's at Roehampton. The main hospital returned to its use as a psychiatric hospital soon after the end of the war. It was to remain in use up until 1997, by which time 'care in the community' had rendered it obsolete and it closed for the last time. Sir Harold is remembered locally in the Rooksdown Parish with 'Gillies Drive' named after him.