The Red Cross in Middlewich
The Middlewich Branch of the Red Cross Society was behind many events raising funds locally, initially for Belgian refuges in 1914. A shop opened in Middlewich, Hightown under the guidance of Mrs Kay of Ravenscroft Hall. Teams of knitters were engaged for helping soldiers overseas, as well as fundraising exhibitions, events, competitions and coffee evenings. When Brunner Mond offered the new clubhouse in Brooks Lane for the Red Cross Society to use as a hospital, attentions turned to raising much needed funds to run it.
‘The billiard room was reorganised to hold 10 – 12 beds and ancillary rooms were to be used as store rooms or treatment and the storage of equipment. At the same time Dr Murphy was called up for the RAMC, to be posted almost immediately to the front. However before he left, he and Dr Hislop (who at this stage remained in Middlewich), together with the Red Cross, arranged for free medical treatment and free medicine to be given to the dependants of the soldiers and sailors away from home should they require it.
Just before Christmas 1914 the first 12 wounded men arrived at the Brooks Lane Hospital. They were from different regiments and from all parts of the country. The local people once again responded to requests for help and arrived at the hospital with milk and potatoes and Col. France Hayhurst sent rabbits from the estate. The men were cared for by 20 Red Cross nurses working on a rota system under the direction of Dr Melville’. (Page 78)
Concerts, dances and whist drives were arranged regularly, the entire proceeds being devoted to the War Relief Fund or the Red Cross Hospital Fund.
The local farmers, who were during this time in a milk dispute with Anglo-Swiss, decided to make the milk into cheese and have a cheese fair to raise funds for the hospital, which totalled £180.
By 1916, two hospitals were supported by fundraisers in Middlewich, Brooks Lane and Ravenscroft Hall [see below] which was used for convalesce. It was reported that the Harvest Festival produce was donated to the hospitals plus profits from events.
In August 1917 a croquet tournament was held at Ravenscroft Hall with several convalescing Soldiers taking part.
Records also show that a fete was held in the Council School on New Year’s Eve 1917, 6-700 people attended with the main hall and some of the classrooms had a very festive appearance. The plants decorating the rooms were lent by Mr Boosey. Several patients from the Red Cross Hospital helped in the decoration.
‘Brooks Lane Hospital was closed on January 21st 1919, the Duchess of Westminster visited the hospital to give a personal ‘thank you’ to Mrs Kay, the nursing staff and the band of workers that had spearheaded the fundraising and donations.
682 men had been nursed back to health at both hospitals. Mrs Kay was awarded the OBE for her leadership and work with the Red Cross in Middlewich’. (Page 101)
Permission of use of material is for the purpose of helping to produce a book on hospitals in the First World War and is not to be used for any other purpose.
Taken from Middlewich 1900-1950 by Allan Earl.
The extract above is all that we know so far about the work of the Middlewich Branch of the British Red Cross. Images of the British Red Cross service records of some of the staff who worked at the Ravenscroft Hall Annexe are shown below. If anyone has photographs of the ICI clubhouse being used as a hospital or any further information we would like to hear from you…
During the war, the Hall was used as a convalescent hospital.