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Russells Hall and Dudley Guest Hospitals

Dennis Williams

Proud Brummie
Dudley Guest Hospital
The Dudley Guest Hospital is a hospital located in Dudley, West Midlands, England, part of The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust

Victorian origins
Situated in Tipton Road, Dudley the buildings were originally constructed as almshouses in 1849 by the Earl of Dudley to accommodate workers who had become blind in the limestone pits. The armshouses were hardly used and after being altered by the Earl were given to the town as a hospital. In 1871 they were taken over by local chainmaker Joseph Guest.

The 20th century hospital

In 1908, Tipton pawnbroker Hugh Lewis left his entire estate of £80,000 to the hospital.

Most of the hospital was rebuilt between 1929 and 1939, on the far side not visible from Tipton Road, though part of these new buildings were visible from Birmingham New Road which opened in 1927 and allowed for a second vehicular access point (which was closed in the 1990s. A new pre-fabricated timber/plaster board annex was added in the 1960s, and survived until the hospital's closure.

The hospital's accident and emergency department closed in the spring of 1984 and was relocated to the new Russells Hall Hospital. Around this time, fears were rife in the local area that Dudley Guest Hospital was on the verge of closure, but the opening of a new hydrotherapy pool and physiotherapy department in 1986 appeared to silence these fears. However, National Health Service officials announced in July 1990 that they were considering closing the hospital (along with nearby Burton Road Hospital, which ultimately closed in December 1993) and expanding Russells Hall to accommodate replacement facilities, but the hospital survived another 17 years.

The former nurse's home at the hospital was demolished in 1996,

New buildings
A new horseshoe-shaped extension was opened in 2003, but the old buildings - including the out-patients department - remained in use until October 2007.

Most of the buildings are due to be retained owing to their historic importance, though some of the less significant structures are set to be demolished to make way for a housing development - these include the wards at the rear of the site which were built in the 1930s, as well as the hydrotherapy pool and physiotherapy department. The administration building, former out-patients unit and hospital lodge are set to be retained to form residential properties.

In 2008, it was used to film Ghosthunting with... and stars from I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! ghosthunted in parts of the hospital, just six months after it closed.

Joseph Guest
Joseph Guest was an English chainmaker who developed his industry in the Black Country of Central England during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. He is most famous for opening the Dudley Guest Hospital in 1871, having bought the buildings from the Earl of Dudley who had built them in 1849 with the intention of housing miners who had been blinded in the local mines, but the miners had rejected this offer and the buildings remained empty for 22 years until Guest purchased them and opened a hospital.

Joseph_Guest_Hospital_1960's_wing.jpgJoseph_Guest_Hospital_Victorian_wing.JPGDudley Guest Hospital .jpgHospital_Entrance_-_geograph.org.uk_-_363896.jpg


Master Barmy
The question has to be asked as to why the Earl of Dudley's miners were not taking up the almshouses. In 1867 the Birmingham Daily Gazette remarked...

"the building is large and commodious, and it appears really a shame that it should be lying unattended; but, as we are informed, those for whose benefit it was intended, the miners injured in his lordship's mines, show no inclination to accept the offer of the alms-houses."

George Barnsby the social historian, in his book Social Conditions in the Black Country 1800-1900, is scathing with his criticism of the Dudleys...

"the Dudleys gave no lead to the area regarding safety in mines. In the middle of the century their mines were no lesser death traps than those of other owners, and some of the ghastliest accidents of the century occurred in the Dudley mines....... But the greatest indictment of the Dudleys is that they were chiefly responsible for the great evil from which
most other abuses flowed, namely the butty system..."