Rye Hospital centenary


Many of you may have already noticed the centenary banner on display outside the hospital but are you familiar with the history of our community hospital?

It all started back in December 1918 when a public meeting was held in Rye Town Hall. It was decided, following the suggestion of Dr Button, to honour all of the local servicemen who had died in the first world war by building a ‘memorial cottage hospital’. Planning began in the following year and Miss AM Curteis of Playden assigned the land required. Various events were held to raise funds and many generous donations were made, the largest of which was received from Lady McIlwraith of Winchelsea. The original plans prepared by Sir Reginal Blomfield RA will be included as part of the centenary exhibition to be displayed in the Hub on Rye Hill from 24 September.

The building of the hospital began in 1920 with the local firm Breeds & Son taking on the responsibility for the construction. The hospital was officially opened by HRH Princess Louise of Argyll on 15 November 1921 and admitted its first patient on 28 November. The hospital was successfully run by local people for the next 27 years and between 1939 and 1945 many servicemen were admitted for treatment alongside members of the local community.

In 1948 the hospital was taken over by the government and became part of the NHS. Between 1979 and 1985 there was a great deal of fundraising to finance the building of a new ward but the first threat of closure loomed in 1985. For five years until 1990, the local community fought very hard to save the hospital with Sir Paul McCartney offering to pay the nurses’ salaries. Sadly, the battle was lost and the hospital was closed in August 1990 and mothballed for a further year. Its permanent closure was announced in June 1991 and a month later a march of protest took place through Rye and up to the Hospital site. At the head of this march were Sir Paul and Linda, Lady McCartney and ‘SAVE OUR HOSPITAL’ stickers covered Rye.

Sir Paul and Linda, Lady McCartney

For the next three years the local community continued to fight and an incredible £5 million was raised to buy the site and rebuild behind the original front wall. In April 1994, the McCartneys dug the first turf in readiness for the rebuild and a year later they returned to top-out the new building and the old hospital bell was heard ringing once again. On 15 July 1995, a celebratory march was held through Rye and led again by the McCartneys to commemorate the reopening of the Rye Care Centre which included St Bartholomew’s Court’s self-contained apartments. On 23 November HRH Princess Margaret officially opened the Rye Care Centre and HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, donated items for the chapel.

Rye, Winchelsea and District Memorial Hospital Ltd is the registered charity limited by guarantee which owns the freehold of the memorial care site. The patient unit has 15 beds (one of which is private, dependent upon NHS allocation) plus four winter beds offering intermediate care, with all the clinical activities being leased to and managed by the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT). Intermediate care focuses on limited stay post-operative rehabilitation by way of physiotherapy and occupational therapy and GP / district nurse referrals for community patients requiring inpatient support. There are currently 28 nursing staff and 7 non-nursing staff with 3 OT/OTAs and a physio team of 2.

One of the charity’s objectives is to increase the capability of the hospital’s outpatient department and as part of the centenary campaign an appeal has been started to raise funds to purchase a mobile echo machine. This machine will be based at Rye Hospital and will be used to help diagnose suspected heart failure, heart valve problems and cardiomyopathy. A number of fundraising events will be held throughout the coming months plus free open days on 24 and 25 September to be held at the Hub on Rye Hill. The centenary celebrations will culminate in a special remembrance memorial service on 11 November and a ticketed supper, raffle and auction event on Friday 19 November. Further details will be available soon via the hospital’s website and social media platforms.

If you would like to support the echo machine fundraising campaign, become a friend or volunteer or just want to find out more about your local community hospital, please visit www.ryehospital.org.uk or contact us at fundraising@ryehospital.org.uk or on 01797 223810.

Image Credits: Francesca Clent , Rye Hospital .

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