Scope and Content

Comprising: registers of inmates 1930-1940; registers of creed 1911-1958; registers of patients 1919-1973; admission and discharge books 1934-1953 and 1964-1970; staff registers and other records 1928-1968; mental deficiency 1929-1962; maternity registers 1955-1967; operations registers 1928-1959; registers of births 1893-1964, and of deaths 1893-1971; report books of senior staff 1948-1967; ward report books 1961-1972; inventories etc 1927-1969

Administrative / Biographical History

Western Hospital, Doncaster originated as the workhouse of Doncaster Poor Law Union. Located in Springwell Lane, Balby, it was built in 1897 to designs by J H Morton of South Shields to replace the original workhouse built by the Board of Poor Law Guardians on Cherry Tree Lane, Hexthorpe. (The redundant buildings were sold to the Great Northern Railway Locomotive Engineering Works - the 'Plant' - to extend their premises. A copy of the sale catalogue can be found amongst the archives of J Dawson and Sons, Doncaster Archives reference DY/DAW/9/103. It includes a plan of the site but not a photograph.)

The new workhouse comprised a 'main building' (the workhouse) cottage homes for elderly married couples, an infirmary and building containing 'lunacy wards'. Twelve plans for the new workhouse, dated 1896, are to be found at Doncaster Archives reference DZ/P/110.

Like all workhouses, it was renamed as a Poor Law Institution, by virtue of the Poor Law Institutions Order, 1913 issued by the Local Government Board. On the abolition of Poor Law Guardians from 1 April 1930, (under the provisions of the Local Government Act, 1929), responsibility for the Institution, known as Springwell House, passed to the Doncaster County Borough Council. The Public Assistance Committee of the county borough council had oversight of the administration of services inherited from the Guardians. These minute books are held by Doncaster Archives. The West Riding of Yorkshire County Council (the authority responsible for poor law services in the area outside Doncaster County Borough which had been served by the Doncaster Poor Law Union) retained rights of user at Springwell House.

In 1945, the Hospital Survey of the Sheffield and East Midland Area published by the Ministry of Health made the following comments on the Springwell House Public Assistance Institution:

The Doncaster Public Assistance Institution, Springwell House, has not been appropriated because of the poor quality of the accommodation. The accommodation, in two main blocks and a maternity block, is nominally for 146 patients. The work is at least three fifths chronic, although there are a resident medical officer and a visiting surgeon. Acute medical and surgical cases are mixed in the wards. The surgeon visits thrice weekly and other consultants including an obstetrician may be called although rarely a physician. The wards are poor and cannot be made into good hospital accommodation; yet 1,069 admissions were recorded in 1938 and a average stay of only 28 days.

The statistical table in the survey show that there were 146 beds in all, comprising 57 'Interchangeable General Beds', 6 for child medical and surgical cases, 4 for maternity cases, 12 for tuberculosis, 6 for venereal cases, 4 isolation and septic beds, and 57 for the chronic sick. (This report is amongst the archives of Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Doncaster Archives reference HR2/4/45, pages 25 and 128.) The Institution thus remained in the control of the local authority.

The arrangements for Springwell House from 1948 are explained in H R Wormald, Modern Doncaster: The Progress and Development of the Borough from 1836 to 1973-4, (1974), page 55. (The author was employed by Doncaster County Borough from 1939 and served as town clerk from 1952 to 1971.) The National Assistance Act, 1948 continued the obligation on local authorities the provide residential accommodation for persons who by reason of age, infirmity or any other circumstances are in need of care and attention which is not otherwise available to them (11 and 12 Geo. 6, Part III, section 21).

Under the powers of the Act, institutions like Springwell House, with both residential, or social welfare, uses and hospital uses could be transferred to the Regional Hospital Board or the local authority depending on which had the greater use of the facilities. However, it was found that, in fact, the health authority and the local authority had exactly the same number of beds (both had 182) at Springwell House, and so no automatic transfer to one or the other was possible.

Instead, it was agreed that the Hospital Board would take over the administration of the premises and the local authority would retain its user rights (as would the County Council) and pay its share of the running costs and met its own needs for capital expenditure. In consequence, the premises were designated as the Western Hospital from 1950. Both the Doncaster County Borough Council and the County Council had powers to provide old people's homes, or 'Part III accommodation', and they began to provide new premises and reduce their use of the Western Hospital accommodation. By 1973, the County Council had withdrawn all its residents and the extent of alternative provision by Doncaster County Borough led Wormald to state that 'the residential part of the Western Hospital may soon by closed'.

(In addition to Springwell House, Doncaster county borough also provided a municipal maternity home at Hamilton Lodge, Carr House Road. The Hospital Survey of 1945 showed this as having fourteen beds (page 128) and wrote of both Doncaster's and Barnsley's 'small homes in converted premises, formerly private houses….They are in unsuitable premises' (page 25). A medical register of births 1950-1953 from Hamilton Lodge is to be found at 10/1 below.)

The archives of the Doncaster Poor Law Union have not been preserved, and so the principal source of information about the workhouse, apart from that which may be found in local newspapers and other unofficial sources, is to be found in the records of Doncaster poor law union workhouse, which form part of these surviving archives of the Western Hospital.

The most significant of the surviving records of the workhouse are the registers of births (section 2) and deaths (section 3) , both beginning in 1893, and the registers of religious creed (which begin in 1904, see section 4). The latter are essentially a register of all those who entered the workhouse. These continue as registers of the Doncaster borough public assistance institution.



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Public Records

Some of the records in this collection, for example those containing sensitive and personal data relating to living individuals, are closed for 100 years under the Data Protection Act (1988). As such, public access to them is restricted.