Unity & Loyalty: 100 years since the Neeld became a Red Cross hospital
On the 9th August 1916 The Neeld was opened as a WW1 Red Cross hospital. Chippenham Museum and Heritage Centre are marking this anniversary with a talk by local historian Ray Alder here at the Neeld. Get your tickets here.
In Chippenham the idea of using the Town Hall as a hospital came from Mrs L H Marshall, Commandant of the local VAD Branch. Mrs Marshall had first asked for the Town Hall to be set up as a hospital in the event of war in July 1914, a request that had been granted by the Town Council only because they thought the idea of a War so improbable that it was unlikely to be required!
When Chippenham VAD was mobilised in September 1915, plans were immediately put in place to convert the Town Hall to an Auxiliary War Hospital. The necessary alteration work was carried out by F W Hulbert and Co, builders, and three wards opened to accommodate 40 patients on 5th November, 1915. In 1916 the hospital was extended to the Neeld, which opened to patients in August 1916, bringing the provision to 104 beds.
Of the two larger wards, the Neeld was named ‘Loyalty’ and the Town Hall ‘Unity’, after the motto on the Town Crest. The two smaller wards were named ‘Evelyn’ and ‘Geoffrey’, after Commandant Wilson’s two sons who had been killed in action.
By the time the hospital closed on 8th April 1919, 1872 patients had been treated at a total cost of over £16 000 (£600 000 today). This was funded partially by the Army and partially by public contribution. The Halls were rented out by the council at a cost of £88 per year and the renovations cost £500. The average cost for maintenance and administration, per patient per day was 3s. 9.61 d. Other equipment, materials, food etc for the patients, were donated by local people.
Chippenham Red Cross Hospital
The admirable work done the Commandant (Mrs Wilson) and her staff has been highly appreciated by the Commanding Officer the Southern Division, and at his request provision has been made for an additional 40 patients. This has been done by utilising the Neeld Hall, which is situated at the rear of subsidiary hospital in the Town Hall, and has been readily placed at the disposal of the hospital authorities by the Town Council. The formal opening on Wednesday evening Lady Margaret Spicer, – the vice-president of the Chippenham Division, was preceded by a short dedicatory service, conducted the Rev. Canon Maxwell Gumbleton, the hospital chaplain.
Western Daily Press – Friday 11 August 1916