Summer Lane Page 6 - Birmingham General Hospital

Summer Lane Hospital known as the Birmingham General Hospital took many years to come to fruition. It ran out of funds and there where numerous concerts held to raise money to complete this badly needed hospital. Below is and extract from "Old and new Birmingham" by Robert K Dent circa 1880.

The next business was to select a site for the proposed building, and this important duty was entrusted to the projector of the scheme, Dr Ash. Who selected the land in Summer Lane on which the hospital now stands, then in the possession of Mrs Dolphin, from whom the committee purchased, at £120 per acre.

"All those four closes, or parcels of Land. Meadow, or Pasture ground situate, lying, and being together near a place called the Salutation, in Birmingham. Aforesaid, containing by estimation eight acres or there abouts be the same more or less adjoining at the upper end or part thereof into a Lane there called Summer lane, and at the lower end or thereof unto a lane called Walmore Lane."* Upon this site which Hutton characterises as " very unsuitable" being in a narrow dirty lane, with an aspect directing up the hill, should ever be avoided,"the building was speedily commenced, a plan having been obtained from a Mr Vyse.

It was designed to accommodate one hundred patients, and estimated to cost about three thousand pounds. The committee conducted the work of the erection themselves, engaging Mr B and W Wyatt to act as superintendents or clerks of the works, at a remuneration of £150.

Matters went on well during the year 1766 until November when, the funds dried up.

*Walmer's lane; afterwards called Lancaster Street.

By the end of July 1779, the arrangements where completed for the reception of patients. On the 4th of August a meeting was held, at which Lord Craven was appointed president and the members of County (Sir Charles Holt, Bart and Sir T G Skipwith, Bart) vice-presidents.

It was reported the physicians of the town had offered their services as medical officers gratuitously, and surgeons who were desirous of connection with the institution were requested to send in applications.

On the 13th of September 1779 the medical staff of the institution was elected. The first physicians being, Dr Ash, Dr Smith, Dr Withering and Dr Edward Johnstone. And the first surgeons Messrs Robert Ward, George Kennedy, John Freer Jun and Jeremiah Vaux. The hospital was formerly opened on the 20th of the same month nearly fourteen years after the first meeting with only forty beds, less than half the number originally proposed.