In 1872, in a cottage on the East Parade, a small “Children’s Home” was established by Archdeacon Ffoulkes, twelve patients could be accommodated. The following year the committee purchased a house known as “The Baths” situated on the seaward side of the East Parade. This newly purchased building could accommodate 16 patients, but had room for expansion and by 1877 eighty children could be accommodated and balconies had been added.
The work grew rapidly and beyond all expectations such that the committee decided to erect a new hospital. In 1882, Princess Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, consented to become patron of the institution and the name immediately changed to the “Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and Convalescent Home”. Details of the building and opening of the “Royal Alexandra Hospital” will be looked at in the future. This article looks more at the facilities for, and the experience of children.
The following are extracts from a booklet entitled “Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and Convalescent Home. Est. 1872”
Since the foundation of the Hospital, many little ones have been received into its wards, and by the help of sea breezes, good food and careful nursing have regained the health and buoyancy which are natural to childhood. Those who know Rhyl are aware of the excellence of its climate, not only in summer, but also Winter. It stands almost unequalled for the salubrity and dryness of its atmosphere, its exemption from all kinds of epidemics, the amount of sunshine it enjoys and its entire freedom from fogs.
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It may be said without exaggeration that the hospital at Rhyl provides a seaside nursery for the little ones of our land. How necessary is the breathing of ozone as a cure for the many forms of tubercular disease, more especially hip and spine and also in cases of general weakness from which so many town bred children suffer. Here the health giving breezes can be obtained during the whole period of treatment, for even when the little ones have undergone severe operations, there are large balconies to which the cots can be moved during the day, so that the inmates may bask in the sun, and some patients are able to sleep outdoors the whole year round.
There is a fine Sea-Water Plunge Bath, which can be heated to any temperature, and which enables the children to enjoy sea-bathing under cover all through the winter. There is also a department for X-Rays and the Finsen light, and many cases are brought in for diagnosis, radiography, and Light treatment generally.
It should be remembered that this is a hospital as well as a Convalescent Home, and acute cases of illness are eligible for admission. Three classes of patients are admitted:-
1. Poor children, who are its primary object; either acute or convalescent cases. A few women of the poorer classes can be received in addition to the children.
2. Children of professional men and tradesmen, domestic servants, and women engaged in teaching and nursing.
3. Ladies and children whose circumstances do not need the assistance of the charity, but who require nursing and care.
There is a Men’s Accident Ward, with two beds, for cases of accident occurring within the district of Rhyl, but otherwise there is no provision for male adult patients.
The programme for the opening ceremony of the new hospital in 1900 gives statistics illustrating from how far afield the children came. In the five years to 1899, of the 3,558 admissions only 143 were from Flintshire and a total of 589 from Wales. 2,969 admissions were from English Counties, mainly Staffordshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire, Cheshire and Lancashire. The programme states:
It is in fact, to many inland towns, the only means of giving to the children of the sick poor the pure and bracing sea air which they specially need to restore them to health.
Funding was an ongoing concern, sponsorship was used. £1,000 would “name” a ward, £25 provided a “Named Bed” with Memorial brass attached. The booklet goes on to say:
Although money is a very pressing need, there are many other ways in which those willing to help can give very real assistance, such as organising working parties to make clothing for the poor children, or sending navy serge, turkey twill etc., to be made up into garments for them. Nightgowns, bed-jackets and pinafores are specially needed, but any plain clothing is very acceptable.
It is hardly necessary to add that any gifts which lessen the housekeeping expenses are a very real help, and many friends might be able to send rabbits, fruit, jam and marmalade, eggs, etc., or the green vegetables which are so indispensable for children and so expensive to buy.