Thursday, 16 March 2017

With the Red Cross hospital in 1914 at Woodlawn in Didsbury

Wood Lawn
I am back with the story of the Voluntary Red Cross Hospitals during the Great War.

In 1917 the Wesleyan College on Wilmslow Road was turned over to a Red Cross Hospital along with part of the Hartley Primitive Methodist College on Alexandra Road South, and plans were in place to use both the Lancashire Independent College at Whalley Range  and the Baptist College in Rusholme.

Along with these were smaller institutions in what had been private residences. In Whalley Ranges these included Lancaster House, Sunnyside on Upper Chorlton Road, and 1 & 3, Burford Road.

Now most of these came in to operation during the last stages of the war when the casualtiy rates continued to climb.

But some were started up almost at the beginning of the war.  One of these  was Woodlawn
which was a large 15 roomed house on Mersey Road in Didsbury.

At the outbreak of the Great War its owner Mrs Laura Churchill had offered it to the Red Cross as a hospital.

Staff in 1915
According to the Manchester Guardian for November 1914 “twenty wounded soldiers were transferred from Whitworth Military Hospital [to this] large and pleasantly situated house which has been admirably equipped by the East Lancashire branch of the British Red Cross.” *

By 1916 there were six wards and the same newspaper reported that “Christmas at Woodlawn was well celebrated.”**

Sadly the history of these hospitals has all but been forgotten along with the records and staffing details.

At best what we have is fragmentary so while the names of those who served at the Baptist hospital in Chorlton have survived along with some information on the men who recovered there is nothing from the Methodist Hospital on Manchester Road save an engraved silver cup from some of the men and a letter of thank you to St Clements Church.

As for those in Whalley Range to date all I have is an address.

But with Woodlawn we have been a little luckier.  The Manchester Guardian reported fully on the opening of the hospital and its Christmas party in 1917 which included presents for the patients, and a series of entertainments spread over two days.

Mrs Churchill
The names of some of the staff have been preserved along with an advert from May 1919, placed by Mrs Churchil asking for anyone who had a claim “against the hospital for articles lent goods supplied & kindly furnished” to contact her.**

It is a salutary lesson in how these things worked that with the end of the war and the closure of the hospitals nothing could be left.  So not only were people able to recover items they had sent but everything from the beds, the blankets and even the typewriters were auctioned off.

All of which would have left Mrs Churchill much to do.  As for what she did afterwards has yet to be discovered.  She was awarded the OBE and courtesy of her family I have come across a press clipping with her photograph.

Pictures; Woodlawn from the collection press cutting of Mrs Laura Churchill courtesy of her family

* Manchester Guardian November 28th 1914
**Manchester Guardian December 30th 1916
**Manchester Guardian May 12th 1919

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