Did the old Chesterfield Royal Hospital reuse Durrant Hall’s kitchens?

As a little aside to our posts on Durrant Hall a few months ago, there is some mystery over the comment in successive reports of the Chesterfield Royal Hospital management committee that ‘…the hall was demolished with the exception of the kitchens, which were utilised as part of the present [old Royal hospital] buildings.’

The old Chesterfield Royal Hospital front block, opened in 1859, on Holywell Street, taken on the eve of closure on 28 April 1984. The day after the hospital was transferred to a new site at Calow. The hospital in the photograph was largely built on land once occupied by Durrant Hall.

This statement isn’t contained within the first published history of the hospital in 1917. Nor is any reference made to the reuse of the kitchens in contemporary newspaper reports. But by the time of another published history in 1926 it is made. The kitchen re-use statement is then successively repeated in hospital reports in the 1930s.

Perhaps the statement is taken from a report in the Derbyshire Times of 27 December 1924 which records local historian W Jacques’ talk about old Chesterfield to the Rotary Club. In this he makes a similar assertion. But mapping evidence indicates the main structure of the hall was a little way back from the original hospital building.

Wherever the statement arose from the original front block’s design was certainly not conducive to modern medical practice.

A 1984 view of the passageway leading to ITU and X-Ray. This area was actually below ground level in the 1850s original block. The 1920s X-Ray Department is beyond. Above this, on ground floor level, were the main out-patients’ department and accident and emergency. Despite what you might think, this area was very much a public thoroughfare.

Our second photograph shows the rather low and narrow passage to the Intensive Therapy Unit, situated at lower ground floor level in the 1850s block. You might just be able to make out the small green projecting sign to the right, which marks the unit’s entrance. Beyond (where the staff member is stood) you were into more modern territory – the X-Ray Department. This was situated below ground level in an extension opened in late 1922. You can just see part of the building to the left in our first photograph.

In Richard Banyard’s history of Chesterfield Royal Hospital (published in 1984), he recounts just how much the new X-Ray Department was needed. But sadly it came too late for the hospital’s first Honorary Radiologist. Not long after the new department opened, he was forced to resign on ill health grounds. Apparently, this was due to prolonged exposure to X-Rays.

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