Sunday, 13 November 2016

Stories of the Great War from Eltham and Woolwich ............. nu 4 a fitting memorial

How we chose to remember the Great War was varied.

Some families erected their own memorial plaques in the local church, or parish graveyard subscribed to collective tablet or fashioned their own very personal tribute.

Private Shepherd
The one for young John Edmund Shepherd who died on May 30 1915 aged 19 during the Gallipoli Campaign is made of paper on card and measures 37.5 cms by 24.5 cms.

It carries the flags of the six allied nations either side of an oval insert which contains his picture and has the simple inscription “Duty Called, Duty Done, He Died a Noble Death.”

During 1919 discussions on the form of memorials that should be adopted by the churches led to “a crucifix at the ‘Church in the Square’ for all visitors to the Market to see, a Cross of Sacrifice at Eltham Parish Church, another crucifix at Holy Trinity, Southend Crescent with the Gallipoli Memorial inside the church and at Christ Church, Shooters Hill combined with a cross, that unique milestone.”*

The milestone had originally been erected by the New Cross Turnpike Trust and was adapted to carry a powerful memorial.**

The Shooters Hill Milestone
But for some a more fitting mark of remembrance would be the creation of a new hospital to replace the small cottage hospital which stood close to the Red Lion on Shooters Hill.

It had been opened in 1890 and like the one in Eltham had dome sterling service.

There had been plans for a new hospital in 1912 but these were postponed during the war.  But with the end of the conflict preparations began again and in an age before the NHS much of the cost would be met by subscriptions and fund raising.

In 1920 the Building Committee having visited a number of hospitals accepted plans for a design which would be completed in three stages staring with accommodation for one hundred and twelve beds and admin block and ancilliary buildings.

The ground was broken in February 1923, two years later the foundation stone was laid and in 1927 the hospital was opened under the title,

The Woolwich and District Memorial Hospital with the first patients being received in March 1928.

"In 1948 it joined the NHS as a general hospital.

In 1953 a new Out-Patients Department was opened by Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, who was Patron of the Hospital.  The X-ray Department was completely refurbished in 1955, with two new X-ray sets installed.


The memorial at Eltham
Although originally dealing with general cases, by 1965 the Hospital began to specialise in surgery.   It had a Casualty Department, but it was felt that its facilities were too limited to deal with the increasing number of road traffic accidents in the area.  
In 1969 the Department closed when the new Accident Centre opened at the nearby Brook General Hospital.  The acute wards were transferred to the Brook General Hospital and St Nicholas' Hospital in Plumstead.

In the 1970s  the Memorial Hospital became a geriatric hospital, with 128 long-stay beds.  A Day Hospital was built in 1975." ***

Since at least 2005, it has been run by the Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust,[4] and mainly functions as a day centre for the elderly while also offering facilities for psychiatric patients.

Pictures; the Shepherd memorial courtesy of David Harrop, and the Shooters Hill memorial stone and Eltham memorial from the collection of Ryan Ginn

*The Woolwich Story E.F.E. Jefferson, 1968


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