- 1919-1947 (Creation)
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Fairfield was the first TB sanatorium to be opened by York Corporation. It was the culmination of several years of searching for suitable premises.
Efforts began at the turn of the century but they were redoubled after the establishment of the local anti-TB scheme of 1912 (for details of the scheme see introduction to archive list for Chest Clinic, York). A small open-air ward for early cases of phthisis was opened during 1912 at the Fever Hospital at Yearsley Bridge. However the process of finding a more suitable site with more accommodation continued. Part of the 1912 scheme included a proposal that York Corporation should approach the North and East Riding County authorities with a view to opening a joint sanatorium of about 200 beds. The North Riding decided in October 1913 not to combine with any other authority for sanatorium provision but the East Riding was willing to negotiate and an initial conference was held on 25 November 1913. In 1914 York and the East Riding decided to purchase the Raywell Estate, near Hull, as the location for a jointly run sanatorium.
However, the First World War delayed this project, while at the same time it increased sanatorium demand from discharged soldiers. As the waiting list lengthened, York and the East Riding jointly urged the Local Government Board for permission to proceed with the Raywell scheme. In the meantime, York considered acquiring a small estate to be operated as a TB farm colony, which would also take advanced cases and accommodate workshops. This would also relieve the growing pressure on existing TB beds at Yearsley Bridge Fever Hospital. The TB sub committee initially submitted a scheme to acquire Gate Helmsley House, with six acres of land for this purpose, but this was plan was foiled by vociferous local opposition.
In 1918 arrangements were finally made by the Corporation to purchase a large Georgian house and a site of 100 acres about two miles north of the city. Some of this estate was subsequently retained after purchase by the Corporation but a large part was sold to the North Riding Asylum Committee, and added to the estate of the North Riding Asylum at Clifton. The house was converted to TB accommodation by the Corporation, and was named Fairfield Sanatorium. Local Government Board approval was conditional on the sanatorium being available on a priority basis to discharged military personnel.
Although the intention was to develop Fairfield Sanatorium as a Farm Colony for convalescent or chronic TB cases, and as a centre for open air workshops, the house was initially used to accommodate men, women and children suffering from active TB pending the opening of Raywell Sanatorium. Patients were housed within the main building and also in shelters around it. There were 30 male and children’s beds on the lower floor of the main block while 24 beds were provided on the upper floor for women and children. Other women’s accommodation was still provided in the open air ward at the Fever Hospital at Yearsley Bridge. Other female shelters were transferred to Fairfield. Advanced cases of TB were housed at Yearsley Bridge at a newly built hutment block. Fairfield Sanatorium had a total of 54 beds. The first patients were admitted on 3 November 1919 and 54 patients were in residence by 1920. There were 153 admissions in 1920.
The formal opening was performed by the Lord Mayor of York on 2 June 1920. On the same day a sanatorium school was opened at the hospital: this was housed in a former army hut erected in the grounds. A permanent teacher was appointed to teach 15-25 children. The 34 acres of farm and garden were used to employ patients and provide foodstuffs for the sanatorium.
Fairfield was originally intended for men, women and children, but by the early 1920s women were being provided for at Yearsley Bridge Fever Hospital while Fairfield accommodated men and children only. Other beds for men, women and children were available at Raywell Sanatorium, which was finally opened in 1920. The division of TB accommodation in 1925 was: at Fairfield Sanatorium 54 beds for all types of cases in three wards for men and five for children plus 12 single bed shelters in the grounds; at Yearsley Bridge Fever Hospital 12 beds and a hutment block of two small wards totalling 8 beds, all for the use of females, and including advanced cases; at Raywell Sanatorium 21 beds for York patients, divided into 9 beds for men, 6 for women and 6 for children; and at York County Hospital 6 beds reserved for non pulmonary TB surgical cases. At various times TB patients were also maintained in special institutions elsewhere: for example in 1926 York had three cases at Lord Mayor Treloar Cripples Hospital at Alton, and another case was admitted to Wensleydale Sanatorium. After the opening of the Yorkshire Orthopaedic Hospital at Kirbymoorside on 31 July 1925, which was partly supported by York Corporation, beds were available for the treatment of tuberculous bones and joints of children, and three cases were admitted there during 1926. However, Fairfield Sanatorium in turn took some ‘county’ patients from outside the city: for example, on 31 December 1929 there were 47 city cases and 12 county cases being treated.
A scheme for the long awaited scheme for an extension to the Fever Hospital at Yearsley Bridge was agreed on in 1928. The scheme involved the eventual demolition of the open air ward at the hospital and the transfer of all female TB cases to Fairfield. Before this could be accomplished, TB accommodation had to be expanded and rearranged. The building of a new 24 bedded pavilion at Fairfield was agreed: this would house children, leaving accommodation for the transferred female cases in the main building.
The new Fairfield pavilion was begun in January 1928; its construction necessitated the removal of two of the single bed shelters in the sanatorium grounds, reducing bed numbers temporarily to 26 beds for men and 26 for children. The pavilion was completed by 1 April 1929 and the children were moved in. The accommodation in the main building was then arranged for 21 men and 18 women. In addition, 7 single bed shelters in the grounds were retained. After the completion of the works, bed numbers at Fairfield totalled 63. Subsequently, all female TB patients were transferred to Fairfield from the Fever Hospital at Yearsley Bridge and the 12 bedded open air ward and the hutment block of 8 beds at the latter were closed in June 1929. The open air ward at Yearsley Bridge was subsequently demolished to make way for the new extension, while the hutment block was converted for the use of scarlet fever patients.
Fairfield Hospital continued to be well used in the early 1930s: for example, on 31 December 1934 there were 47 patients; end of year resident numbers were 39 in 1935; 35 in 1939 and 39 in 1940. After the closure of the York beds at Raywell Sanatorium in 1937 there was still ample accommodation for cases at Fairfield, and it was never filled to its full capacity of 63.
In 1937 work began on the erection of a new brick built school at Fairfield to replace the existing hutted accommodation. The new building was opened on 11 January 1938 and was soon more than fully occupied: in December there were 22 boys and girls in premises designed for 20; however numbers fluctuated and only 16 children were in residence at the end of the following year.
Plans were made to build farm workers’ cottages and a new nurses’ home in 1938; the cottages were completed but the nurses’ home plan was interrupted by the outbreak of war; consequently nurses were occupying the farm cottages in 1947.
The Ministry of Health’s Hospital Survey, published in 1945, made several recommendations for the future of sanatoria in general, including the concentration of cases at a few large sanatoria within Yorkshire and the closure of smaller existing ones as independent units. Within the recommended group for eventual closure was Fairfield. Despite this, Fairfield continued to be utilised as a sanatorium by York ‘A’ Group Hospital Management Committee when they took it over in 1948. But the results of the Ministry of Health survey did prompt a considerable amount of upgrading at the hospital, which continued into the 1950s.
In fact the new Leeds Regional Hospital Board discovered a shortage of sanatorium beds in Yorkshire in 1948 and for this reason they controlled admissions to sanatoria at Regional level. Admissions to Fairfield came under the Sub Regional Admission Bureau at Hull. This was not altogether satisfactory in the opinion of the York Medical Officer of Health because York citizens no longer had priority and waiting lists initially grew.
During the 1950s York ‘A’ Group Hospital Management Committee ran Fairfield on much the same lines as before. The sanatorium farm continued to flourish: its Guernsey herd provided fresh Tuberculin Tested milk for patients and staff. The sanatorium regime continued much as before, with regular entertainments provided, notably by Rowntree Hospital Service Committee. Art therapy and occupational therapy were available, the former introduced as a new service in 1950 and proving popular with patients. Beds continued to be well used: there were 63 beds available, and the average daily occupancy rate through the 1950s was around 50 with discharges annually of between 100 and 150. Fairfield also continued to operate within a wider TB network. Out patient follow up treatment took place at the Chest Clinics at York and Tadcaster. Eight beds were retained at City Hospital for early investigation and diagnosis of TB. Because Fairfield had no operating theatre, patients continued to go elsewhere for surgical treatment and after 1948 thoracic surgery for sanatorium patients was centred at Castle Hill Hospital at Cottingham near Hull.
There were however some new developments. As well as regular refurbishment and general improvements, five extra beds were provided by the conversion of the former Matron’s flat in the main building, raising the total bed complement to 68 beds in the mid fifties. X Ray facilities at the hospital were improved and a mobile X Ray apparatus installed to avoid patients having to be transported weekly to City Hospital for X Rays.
Developments in the sanatorium in the 1950s and 60s also reflected wider changes. As new TB treatments were developed, demand for beds altered. In 1956 it was noted that chemotherapy was increasingly used and all patients now had drugs administered during the whole of the length of their stay in the sanatorium and afterwards. In 1962 it was noted that the average length of stay of patients was being greatly reduced: for example from an average of 130.59 days in 1960 to 100.8 days in 1961. Use of drugs meant a drop in re-admissions and the demand for sanatorium beds slowly eased. Adult beds continued to be filled at first, although the waiting list disappeared. Then, as TB admissions declined further, other types of chest diseases began to be admitted and by 1962 one men’s ward and one women’s ward were used for general chest cases. The decline in child patients was even more dramatic. By the 1950s it was generally felt undesirable to hospitalise children with primary TB unless there were other urgent reasons. Although children’s beds at Fairfield were still filled in the early 1950s, the later 1950s saw a great decline in children’s admissions, and spare beds were filled with other long term children’s cases: such children benefited from the school facilities provided at the hospital. Although a scheme was outlined for significant upgrading of the children’s block, this was deferred in view of the reducing demand. The 1957/8 annual report of York ‘A’ Group commented on the lower incidence of TB amongst children generally because of better living conditions and improved methods of treatment and diagnosis. The school at Fairfield was closed that year due to falling numbers; educational facilities for the remaining children were provided on an individual basis by a part time teacher. By 1960 the children’s wards were empty and a new role was sought for the spare hospital block. Approval for change of use to a Regional Child Psychiatric Unit was given in 1961 and the Unit opened during 1963.
In 1961 the name of the sanatorium was changed to ‘Fairfield Hospital’ to reflect the fact that it would now serve a variety of functions: child psychiatric, and general chest cases as well as TB. There were other changes in the early 1960s. In accordance with Ministry of Health policy, the farm was let. A new Matron was appointed to be in charge of both Fairfield and Yearsley Bridge Hospitals. The bed complement at Fairfield, excluding the children’s unit, was now 45, and the hospital treated annually between about 160 and 200 chest cases, including TB, during the 1960s. Average length of stay was now only a third of what it had been in the 1950s: around 40 days as opposed to over 130 days.
The hospital was closed on 4 December 1976 after its functions were transferred to York District Hospital. The Child Psychiatric Unit continued as a separate unit. In May 1979 the hospital, excluding the children’s unit and its surrounding gardens, was sold, and the building has subsequently become a hotel. The Child Psychiatric Unit was transferred to Lime Trees Unit in 1989, and was subsequently used by the Ambulance service.
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