Blackpool Victoria Hospital - 27th of November 1932 to the Present Day

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

The Victoria Hospital which we know today was the dream of one man – Lionel Hope Franceys - who was the Chairman of the Hospital Board of Management in the 1930s.

Dismissing all alternative suggestions to the siting of the new hospital for Blackpool, Lionel Franceys favoured the Whinney Heys site which had been purchased by Blackpool Corporation in 1930, and offered free to the Board of Blackpool Hospital Management for any purpose they chose.

And so on the 27th of November 1932, Mayor of Blackpool Thomas Fenton broke the earth on the Whinney Heys uplands with a silver spade, to signal the commencement of building the new hospital.

The foundation stone was laid by Edward Stanley, Lord Derby, on the 9th of June 1933 and the building was almost completed by the start of 1936.

The cost of the new hospital exceeded £2,250,000 in today's money, and this sum was almost entirely raised by shops, businesses, and contributions by local people.

“Moving Day” from the old Hospital on Whitegate Drive (where the present-day Walk-In Centre stands today) was the 29th of September 1936. On that day, Lionel Franceys, Chairman of the Board, Sir Harold Grime, Honorary Secretary, Walter Smith, the Chief Executive, and Elsie Maclean, newly appointed Matron-in-charge together supervised the moving operation - which took less than 10 hours.

The Official Opening of the New Hospital was on the 21st of October 1937 and was performed by HRH the Duke of Kent.

An Outpatients' Department was added in 1939, thus gaining a Top Grade Status accolade from H.M. Government. At the same time, the Government requested the new hospital was to stand by to assist in the eventuality of a War with Germany. However so as not to deny accommodation to the people of Blackpool who had financed the project, the Hospital's response to the request was to build additional “Annexes” to accommodate the War wounded. These were given a predicted life of 10 years but in fact were not completely demolished until 2002.

During World War II, Blackpool Victoria Hospital received and treated thousands of H.M. Forces casualties - sometimes over a 100 in a single night.

On the 5th of July 1948 the N.H.S. came into being and Victoria Hospital became the centre of Acute Services for the new Blackpool and Fylde Hospital Management Committee. However, due to financial constraints, it would be a further 10 years before a period of rapid expansion was given the final go-ahead.

Between the years 1959 and 1969, new operating theatres were built and equipped and a Pathology Laboratory, Dispensary and new Wards were brought into use. In 1967 alone, a new A & E Department was built, Orthopaedic, Traumatic and Rehabilitation Departments were established, and a new Outpatients' Department and a Day-Case theatre were opened.

On a sad note, the Whinney Heys Hall was demolished in 1969 to make way for a new boiler house, dining room, stores and laundry. The Hall had stood for over 300 years on the site and was the seat of the ancient Veale family. It was a tragic loss of a valuable part of Blackpool's heritage.

Used for Nurses' accommodation from 1936, Whinney Heys Hall was said to be haunted and its passing was not mourned by the nursing staff who had been promised accommodation in brand-new purpose built Homes on site.

Further development continued apace. Between 1975 and 1983 a Maternity Unit, a Geriatric facility, Gastroenterology, Psychiatric and Intensive Care Units arrived. By 1986 Victoria Hospital, with almost 1000 beds, was one of the largest District General Hospitals in the Country and Blackpool and Fylde became one of the largest Health Districts in the North West.

The Hospital expanded in size considerably - vindicating Lionel Franceys' original decision to site the new Hospital at the Whinney Heys site rather than the proposed sitings in the town centre or near suburbs in the early 1930s.

In recent years, development has continued to accommodate the advances made nationally in patient care and treatment. Within the last 20 years the Outpatients' Area has been re-modelled and updated, the Urgent Care Centre has been rebuilt and re-organised into Intensive, Major, Minor and Primary Departments and an Acute Medical Unit brought on stream.

Brand new Surgical and Women and Children's Centres have arrived within the last few years and the Cardiac Centre - completed in 2003 at a cost of £52m - was opened by the Duke of Gloucester. It now serves an area County wide.

The NHS we have in the UK is the finest health service in the world, but it cannot provide everything needed and this is where the private sector comes in to fill the gaps.

The Macmillan Windmill Centre was provided largely by Public subscriptions and local fundraising. It has a multi-agency approach to the support of cancer patients providing specialist services including giving up to date information about cancer and its treatment along with support for families, dependants and friends. There are treatment rooms with access to such techniques as chemotherapy, ultra-sound and blood stem cell treatments.

A Breast-Care treatment centre was provided with help from the Nolan family and the Notarianni Family's support for the Memory Corridor was invaluable.

Help was given by the Duncan Family for the provision of a house to accommodate relatives travelling long distances to visit patients.

And local organisations, businesses and individuals - too numerous to list - provide the Hospital with much-needed equipment and resources unavailable due to the constraints of limited Government budgets.

The most recent additions have been a state of the art Outpatients' Check-in area, a futuristic new Main Entrance and Multi-storey Car-park.

What the future will bring to Blackpool Victoria Hospital is anyone's guess. Certainly it has been the victim of its own success and is presently full to capacity round the clock and throughout the year, so further expansion is bound to be necessary.

What is certain is that Lionel Hope Franceys decision to bring the Hospital to Whinney Heys was the right one, and the future is likely to be skywards – in more ways than one!

Denys Barber

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