Hospital ahead of its time

Bob Edwards is the author of the book Liverpool In The 1950s and created the www.LiverpoolPicturebook.com website which currently has in excess of 2.3 million viewers worldwide. In this column Bob aims to bring you some of the wonderful history of our great city along with some photographs that illustrate our past, we hope you enjoy it!

ANYONE who has walked down Hope Street will most likely have noticed this magnificent red brick building, but what of its history?

The Liverpool Homoeopathic Dispensary had been a Free Medical Charity from at least 1842 and consisted of the following dispensaries. The South End Homoeopathic Dispensary was established in 1841 at 41 Frederick Street by Dr Drysdale, later moving to a house in Benson Street, then to 2 Harford Street. Later, the Dispensary moved to a building in Hardman Street, erected by public subscription in 1860, and transferred to Hope Street when the Hahnemann Hospital was built in 1887. The North End Homoeopathic Dispensary opened in Wilbraham Street in 1866, moving to 10 Roscommon Street in 1872. The old Dispensary was pulled down and a new building erected by public subscription, which was formally opened in December 1905. The Roscommon Street Dispensary was closed in July 1940.

Hope Street was considered the most suitable site for the hospital as it was situated on the highest and healthiest land of the city. The Hahnemann Homoeopathic Hospital and Dispensary opened in 1887.

The building is now part of Liverpool John Moores University. Homoeopathy was not, at the time, recognised by the medical establishment, and it was not until 1923 that the Liverpool Medical Institution finally accepted homoeopathic practitioners as members.

The rich sugar merchant, Henry Tate, inspired by personal experience, provided the initial cost of £13,000 for a hospital of 50 beds. Tate was a subscriber to the Royal Infirmary, situated not far away, which was being built at the same time. As with the Royal Infirmary, advice from Florence Nightingale was used to provide guidelines for this building and its wards. Designed by AH Holme in the French baroque style, its bright appearance is due to red Ruabon brick facing with white stone quoins, string courses and window dressings. Inside, the walls were treated in glazed brick, making them fire proof, easy to clean and hygienic in appearance.

The basement had several uses, acting as a mortuary, a wine and beer cellar, dispensary and consulting and waiting room. A hydraulic lift for patients forms the centrepiece, and its iron doors with HH incorporated in them still exist today. Large south facing bay windows characterised the building and gave much light and ventilation to the wards.

Much attention was given to ventilation and heating and the self-acting suction power principal designed by Doctors Drysdale and Hayward of Liverpool was implemented. The system was also used in several houses in the area, including the house of Dr Hayward at Grove Street. This house (1867) is now known as the Octagon (on account of the octagon shaped bay window tower). Hayward was a doctor who was convinced that good thermal comfort was linked to good health. In 1872 he wrote a book entitled Health and Comfort in House Building.

His house was unique being designed throughout to provide a tight environmental control system. One sign of this was the unusually tall chimney built to extract air. Today, concerns about cold, damp and poorly heated and ventilated building still play a major part in their construction.

During the First World War the hospital was requisitioned by the War Office as an Auxiliary Military Hospital. During the Second World War it became part of the Emergency Medical Service. The hospital came under state control in 1948 under the National Health Service Act of 1946, forming part of the South Liverpool Group of hospitals. It was then renamed as the Liverpool Homoeopathic Hospital, and in 1969 changed again to the Hahnemann Hospital. In preparation for the reorganisation on Merseyside of the National Health Service, the Hahnemann became part of The United Liverpool Hospitals in 1972. From the early 1960’s there had been talk of actually closing the Hahnemann as part of the above reorganisation; this was finally done in April 1976, some of the staff transferring to the new Department of Homoeopathic Medicine at the Liverpool Clinic.

Recently refurbished to a high standard by CRM Accommodation The Hahnemann Building is now accommodation for Liverpool students.