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Red Cross and military hospitals in the Malvern Hills area
The Great War
During WWI some wounded soldiers and sailors were sent to Malvern to convalesce.
You will read on our page about Davenham that small numbers of soldiers were sent to Dyson Perrins' new hospital at Lansdowne Cresent where 12 beds were allocated; this can be found recorded on plaques just inside the hospital entrance. Circa 2010 the building was sold to a developer who plans to knock down the retired Lansdowne Community Hospital in order to build a modern care home.
The Hospital at Lansdowne Crescent
We think 24 more beds had been made available at the reopened rural hospital in Hospital Bank off Newtown Road which was rumoured to have been built about 1868. The medical officer was Dr JC Smyth who later lived at Ashfield (see photo below). The rural hospital is now a private residence known as Redwood Cottage.
Patients were also accommodated in large houses. Documents mention a house named Ashfield and we think that relates to Ashfield House in College Road, rather than Ashfield in West Malvern where Roget of Theosaurus fame died.
Ashfield House in College Road
Three other houses in Malvern are thought to have formed another Red Cross hospital. Fairfield on the Worcester Road in Malvern Link, which had been a prep school for boys; a former convalescent home offered by a Mrs Williams half way up Hornyold Road offering 12 beds, under the supervision of Dr AO Holbeche; and a convalescent home for sailors in Cowleigh Road known as Mount Pleasant, managed by Matron Miss Evelyn Edwardes of Cradley.
We don't know which building was used as a hospital in Hornyold Road, but possibly it was the St John's Convalescence Home which was recorded in the 1911 census as having 12 rooms; the matron then was Hilda Mary Hill aged 39 years.
Lord Lechmere 3rd Baronet provided 12 more beds at Rhydd Court under the supervision of a Miss Cicely Bedford. Sadly his youngest son Nicholas George Berwick Lechmere, born 1881, Lieutenant 2nd Bn Scots Guards, was killed in France on 17 October 1915, aged 34 years. Lord Lechmere's grandson Ronald Berwick Hungerford Lechmere (1886 - 1965) was wounded but survived to become the 5th Baronet.
Brand Lodge at Colwall on the west side of the Malvern Hills, a large house built in 1911 in the Arts and Crafts style to a design by Ernest Newton RA was offered by Miss Julia Holland. Click for photo of Brand Lodge which nowadays is worth about £2M.
Further to the east The Boynes at Upton on Severn became a temporary hospital. A gate pillar bears the date 1913. Click for modern photo of the Boynes. Nowadays it is a care home.
Here is a litle more information about some of the people involved with the Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment hospitals in the Malvern Hills area. Our words do not do these people justice, but you can find out more about them at Malvern Museum.
Evelyn Hilda Dixey was the niece of Charles William Dyson Perrins of the Worcestershire Sauce family who are mentioned on our page about Davenham.
The London Gazette recorded that towards the end of WWI Evelyn was appointed Red Cross Quartermaster at 'Malvern Auxiliary Hospital'. This role probably covered not only the hospital at Lansdowne Crescent but the other houses where wounded soldiers were sent to convalesce.
On 23rd October 1918 the Times newspaper reported that Evelyn had been awarded the MBE.
Photo right: Evelyn Hilda Dixey MBE, copyright Imperial War Museum © IWM (WWC D8-6-933)
Evelyn rests in Malvern Wells cemetery.
Edith Blanche Hollins
Another recipient of an award was widow Edith Blanche Hollins of Abbey Road. The London Gazette reported on 26th March 1920 that Edith had been awarded the OBE for her work as Superintendant of the Red Cross Work Depot for Soldiers Comforts, based at 7 The Exchange near the corner of Graham Road, where accommodation was provided by fishmonger William John Davis who lived at The Oaks in Graham Road.
Dr J C Smyth
Physician and Surgeon John Cecil Smyth, the son of a solicitor, was born at Oldham in Lancashire in 1880 and died at Malvern in 1972.
J C Smyth was educated at Manchester Grammar School and Owens College, where he was vice-chairman of the Union and later junior demonstrator; he was house surgeon at Manchester Royal Infirmary and medical superintendant to the Deptford Medical Mission, founded 1889, before settling in Worcestershire.
He first married Robina Linklater Forsyth daughter of wine merchant William Forsyth at Oldham in 1906 by whom he had three children; sadly she died at Ashfield House on 8th June 1923 aged only 40 years.
Dr Smyth married second, in 1925, Dorothy Von Zabern, daughter of a German shipping merchant, and the couple had a daughter Daphne who married John Bamber the son of Rev John Reginald Bamber who had been vicar of Crowle 1927 and later Holy Trinity church at Link Top. We were told after their marriage Daphne and John went abroad to live in Uganda and later Kenya.
J C Smyth's chauffeur, Arthur Edgecoombe Gillam had enlisted in the Army Service Corps in 1915, at Worcester, and was a driver in the 181st MT Company; sadly he died in France of double pneumonia on 4th November 1918, days before the end of the war.
Dr A O Holbeche
Dr Arthur Oliver Holbech was born in 1855 at Sutton Coldfield and qualified in 1879. He spent most most of his working life in Malvern and died at Prior's Croft on Christmas Day 1931 aged 76 years, leaving a widow Helen Jane who died at Droitwich in 1950; one of his executors was Charles Francis Dyson Perrins. Stanley Baldwin attended his funeral service at Great Malvern Priory. He is buried in Great Malvern cemetery.
Priors Croft, previously named Reginald Tower
In 1904 Arthur Oliver Holbeche had been living just around the corner at Abbotsfield in Abbey Road, once the home of water cure Dr James Loftus Marsden. He was active in town affairs.
So far we have found no details of Matron Miss Cicely Bedford but have noted the Journal of Nursing reported on September 18th 1915 that Miss F A Walker had been appointed to Rhydd Court hospital.
Evelyn Edwardes (1866 - 1940) who became matron at the Mount Pleasant hospital in Cowleigh Road was the daughter of Rev Thomas Edwardes (1819 - 1896) and Alice Eleanora Brougham. Her brother Rev George Edwardes had been curate of Malvern Link from 1894 to 1897. Their grandfather William Edwardes MP held the title 2nd Baron Kensington, so the family must have been quite well connected. She had moved from Brand Lodge. The 1939 register recorded her living with her sister Edith at Orchardside in Victoria Road, Malvern Link.
Julia Holland of Brand Lodge Colwall was the daughter of Frederick Whitmore Holland, vicar of Evesham, and his first wife Penelope. She was born at Overbury in Worcestershire in 1873, and married in 1923 Eton schoolmaster Algernon Cockburn Rayner-Wood.
A significant influence on Malvern was the building of the American hospital sites at Blackmore Park, Brickbarns Farm, Merebrook and Wood Farm in readiness for the invasion of Europe. Additionally there were administrative units in Malvern Link.
The hospital site known as Brickbarns was at Upper Welland. It treated soldiers with mental disorders and the fence was as much to keep the patients in as the public out. After the war it became a TB hospital then a psychiatric unit. Latterly the site was demolished to build the St Wulstans prestige housing estate; an area was retained for a nature reserve, where traces of the foundations and roads can still be found.
Merebrook camp was to the south east of the corner of the Three Counties Showground formed by the junction of the Hanley Road and Blackmore Park Road. The wartime buildings were demolished about 1959 and there is a small industrial estate there now.
Wood Farm camp was located between the Worcestershire Golf Club and the disused railway line that once ran via Upton on Severn to Tewkesbury. It was used as a transit camp for displaced persons after the war, and then it became part of the Worcestershire Golf Course. There are few traces of the hospital now.
A plaque in Malvern Museum records:
This memorial erected by the people of Malvern commemorates seven American general hospitals with ten thousand beds and the 12th General Hospital Center situated near Malvern 1943 - 1945 during the World War.
So many beds compared to those provided for convalescents in WWI.
For detailed information about the American hospitals in Malvern you are referred to the books Blackmore Park in World War II, and Return to Duty by Fran and Martin Collins.
Malvern museum publications:
1. Malvern in the Great War 1914
2. Malvern in the Great War 1915
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Last updated 28th October 2018