fonds NHS/ACB - Acomb Hospital Archive

Identity area

Reference code



Acomb Hospital Archive


  • 1910-1975 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

2.22 cubic metres

127 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

Acomb Hospital was housed in a former private house called Acomb Hall, which was acquired by York Corporation and officially opened as a maternity hospital on 19 December 1922, replacing the first York Maternity Hospital 1908-1922 run by York Dispensary at 15 Ogleforth. The establishment of the new hospital at Acomb was a joint venture between York Corporation and York Dispensary. Equipment from the old York Dispensary Maternity Hospital plus a capital sum of money were contributed by the Dispensary Directors, while the Corporation was responsible for the conversion work and all running costs. For the first fifteen years the hospital was run by a joint committee of representatives from the Corporation and the Dispensary. Thereafter, the Corporation assumed full control.

The hospital was principally located in the former Hall, but some other buildings in the grounds were also utilised. One of these was initially used as a nurses home, but the latter was moved to rented premises at West Bank, Acomb in 1946. The Hall had been bought with a large estate, much of which was subsequently sold off, but there was still sufficient land to allow for a plan to build a new 75 bedded maternity unit in the mid 1940s. This scheme was abandoned due to contemporary economic difficulties.

Initially there were 30 beds, plus 2 isolation beds and 6 cots for sick infants. In 1946 the new annexe increased bed numbers to 42, plus 2 for isolation. Bed numbers fluctuated between 42 and 50 in the period 1946-1953, and this was generally acknowledged to be an inadequate number for the city's needs.

Most patients were York residents, but a few patients were from areas just outside the city boundaries. After 1948 patients were from the catchment area of York 'A' Group Hospital Management Committee.

There was an almost continuous rise in admissions during the life of the maternity hospital. Although only 234 in-patients were admitted in 1923, numbers thereafter rose sharply to 289 in 1924, 342 in 1925 and 452 in 1928. After a brief period of levelling out another significant rise followed, to 531 in 1934, 592 in 1935, and 667 in 1936. During the late 1930s and early 1940s between 600 and 700 in-patients were admitted annually, and after the annexe came into operation in 1946, levels of annual admissions rose to between approximately 850 and 1000 in-patients during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Numbers peaked at 1098 during the year April 1953 to March 1954, when the closure of Hazlewood Maternity Hospital put extra pressure on resources. However, by that date plans to transfer to the larger Fulford Maternity Hospital were well developed. Figures for admissions reflect the fact that by this time a higher proportion of births took place in institutions rather than at home. In the late 1940s and early 1950s about 60% of births in York were institutional (private nursing homes between them providing a further 30 or so maternity beds) and around 40% were domiciliary.

The hospital also ran a domiciliary maternity service. This had initially been set up by York Dispensary in the 1890s, and had been continued by York Dispensary Maternity Hospital after 1908. Approximately 100 outdoor district cases were treated annually in the years 1923 to 1925 and during the early 1930s there were between about 120 and 150 cases each year. This service was both superseded and expanded by the municipal maternity service established under the 1936 Midwives Act.

Because the hospital was located in a suburb of York, the domiciliary visiting staff and ante-natal clinics had retained their previous central location in the York Dispensary premises in Duncombe Place. Although ante-natal clinics were also initially held at the hospital, attendances were small (eg 218 attendances at the hospital clinic in 1928 compared with 1378 at the clinic at Duncombe Place). More popular was a baby clinic established at the hospital in 1928, with about 1000 attendances each year. From 1929 all ante-natal clinics were held at Duncombe Place. In 1932 the Corporation took over the Infants Welfare Centre in St Saviourgate, (formerly run by the voluntary York Infants Welfare Association) and thereafter all clinics dealing with mothers and infants were centralised using both the St Saviourgate and the Duncombe Place premises.

The hospital continued the work of its predecessor in training pupil midwives. About a dozen midwives were trained each year in the 1920s, rising to about 20 each year in the 1930s and around 30 each year in the 1940s and early 1950s. Midwifery pupils gained experience of both hospital practice and domiciliary cases and this arrangement continued after 1948 when maternity services were divided between the NHS (which had responsibility for hospitals) and the local authority (which was responsible for domiciliary services).

Premature Babies were first admitted to the hospital in 1946, and a special staff for the Premature Baby Unit was appointed in 1947. In 1948 an Emergency Obstetric and Blood Transfusion Service (‘Flying Squad’), which was available for domiciliary confinements on request, was based at the hospital.

The hospital closed on 25 October 1954 when services were transferred to the much larger Fulford Maternity Hospital.

However, the building, renamed Acomb Hospital, reopened as a geriatric hospital on 25 November 1954. This had 40 beds. There was an initial plan to expand this number to 70, but in the event refurbishment and the provision of extra facilities left room for only 44 beds.

Acomb Hospital was run in conjunction with St Mary’s Hospital and Bungalow Hospital as a geriatric unit. Acomb was used mainly for convalescent and long stay ambulant patients. An occupational therapy centre was provided in 1958. Although the hospital was considerably upgraded between 1954 and 1976, it remained far from ideal (for example without a lift).

The hospital was closed on 29 October 1976 and was demolished in the late 1980s. Acomb Gables Community Unit for the Elderly is built on part of the site.

Name of creator


Administrative history

York Dispensary was founded in 1788. A charity funded by subscription, the Dispensary was designed to complement the medical and surgical services offered by York County Hospital by treating the poor of the city who were suffering from chronic illnesses or other ailments which were excluded from the remit of the hospital.

A Dispensary was, essentially, a hospital without beds, thus enabling it to run more cheaply and serve larger numbers of patients. The doctors attached to the charity saw out-patients, and also ‘home-patients’ – ie they went out to visit patients in their own homes. In effect, the Dispensary offered a free primary care service to the poor, who could not afford to pay doctors’ fees.

The Dispensary was initially situated in rooms at the York Merchant Adventurers Hall. It saw 900 patients in its first year and was an immediate success, with patient numbers rising to 4,500-5,000 a year by the 1880s. As a result of this growing demand, in 1806 the Dispensary moved to larger premises in St Andrewgate before relocating again in 1829 to a purpose built site at New Street and then in 1899 to Duncombe Place where it was able to greatly extend its treatment and examination facilities.

From the 1880s the Dispensary offered a dental service and in 1895 it began a domiciliary maternity service treating between 100 and 120 women a year. In 1908 it was decided to additionally open a small maternity hospital to train pupil midwives and provide facilities for more complex cases and women with difficult home circumstances. The maternity hospital was situated at Ogleforth and was very small, treating 50-70 patients a year.

The 1911 Insurance Act drastically affected the Dispensary’s patient base, as insured working people gained, under the Act, free access to GPs. By 1915, Dispensary patient totals had fallen by a third, to just less than 5,000 per annum. But the Dispensary still fulfilled a vital role in treating uninsured women, children and the elderly, who all came to the Dispensary in increasing numbers.

In 1922 the Dispensary’s maternity hospital was transferred to larger premises at Acomb Hall where it was run jointly by the Dispensary and York Corporation before the Corporation took full responsibility for it in 1937, along with the domiciliary maternity service which was by then also based at Acomb.

The Dispensary expanded and modernised its services in the 1930s, providing more treatment rooms and a small operating theatre in time for its 150th anniversary in 1938. However the creation of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948 made its services redundant by giving everyone free access to health services. As a result the Dispensary closed and its premises were sold to York Corporation for use as a health centre.

In 1954-5 the Charity Commissioners approved a new scheme for the use of the Dispensary’s remaining funds and the proceeds from the sale of its property with the creation of the York Dispensary Sick Poor Fund under the management of the Dispensary’s directors, now named trustees. The income of the fund was to be used for the sick poor of York by the supply of special food and medicine, medical comforts, extra bedding, fuel, and medical and surgical appliances, the provision of domestic help, or money for these purposes, or convalescent or special treatments or for any other ways of relieving suffering or infirmity.

Today the Dispensary continues to operate as a charitable fund providing grants to York Corporation Health Department and charitable organisations in and around York.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The records of the Dispensary Maternity Hospital and Acomb Maternity Hospital were transferred to the Borthwick Institute from North Yorkshire Record Office in 1995. In the same year records relating to Acomb Geriatric Hospital were also deposited at the Borthwick as part of the transfer of the York Health Archives to the Institute from their temporary home at Clifton Hospital.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Records of York Dispensary Maternity Hospital, comprising obstetrics register, 1912-1921; admission and discharge register, 1916-1923; registers of patients, 1910-1922; hospital case sheets, 1915, 1918-1922; and central midwives board registers, 1910-1921.

Records of Acomb Maternity Hospital, comprising antenatal patients address books, 1949-1954; register of home patients and fees received, 1934-1937; clinical registers of patients, 1922-1954; case sheets, 1923-1954; central midwives board registers, 1921-1956; and midwife’s register of cases, 1940-1945.

Records of Acomb Geriatric Hospital, comprising admission and discharge register, 1970-1975.


Further accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. Many of these records contain sensitive personal and confidential information which is likely to be restricted under data protection legislation and the terms of deposit. For records less than 100 years old, please contact the Borthwick Institute via email or letter.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A typescript finding aid, to file level, is available for consultation in the searchroom of the Borthwick Institute.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For related material held by the Borthwick Institute, see St Mary’s Hospital Archive for Chronic Sick Hospitals/St Mary’s Hospital House Committee minutes 1953-1971, which also covered Acomb Hospital; other copies of these minutes 1966-1971 are in the City Hospital Archive. The City Hospital Archive also include Medical Hospitals House Committee minutes 1972-4, which covered Acomb. For Acomb Hospital in the post 1948 period, see the archives of York ‘A’ Group Hospital Management Committee and its successors, in particular its annual reports, which contain photographs and other information relating to the development of the hospital. Additionally, information on Acomb’s predecessor, York Dispensary Maternity Hospital, can be found in the York Dispensary Archive.

Since Acomb Hospital was, before 1948, run by the City of York, there will also be information in the archives of York City Health Department, and related bodies, at York Explore.

Publication note

Katherine A. Webb, 'One of the most useful charities in the City': York Dispensary 1788-1988,' Borthwick Paper, No. 74 (York, 1988).

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

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Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion



  • English



Accession area