this page has already improved drastically since this website began,
and what we can guarantee is that the available information
presented here is as good as (if not better than) the casual researcher
is going to get without spending countless hours sifting through dusty
papers in elusive archive vaults. Sources used have been credited
at the bottom of the page, and if you can add anything yourself (for
instance, specific dates and events) it is here more than anywhere
else on this site that your input would be appreciated. With your
help, this section can be far more comprehensive.
CANADIAN RED CROSS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
- A SHORT HISTORY -
Explore our historic photo section
& The First Hospital:
the First World War, at least 2,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen from
the Maidenhead area were killed. Townsfolk who had emigrated to Canada,
Australia and New Zealand returned to Europe to fight and die. As
well as those who were killed, the wounded were beyond number and
the Maidenhead area, like many others, was quickly filled with hospitals.
most powerful and influential of local families, the Astors, insisted
upon doing their bit. Casualties of the Great War came to their Cliveden
estate in 1914 when the Canadian Red Cross were invited to construct
a military hospital over the existing tennis courts and the bowling
alley next to Taplow Lodge. It
was named The Duchess of Connaught Red Cross Hospital, and
during this time, over 24,000 soldiers were treated at the hospital.
who exactly was the Duchess of Connaught I hear you ask?
think we'll hand you over to nursing historian Michael Zwerdling:
Duchess of Connaught was born Alexandria Victoria Alberta Edwina Duff,
Duchess of Fife, daughter of Alexander William George Duff, Duke of
Fife and Louise Victoria Alexandra Dagmar of Great Britain.
married Prince Arthur (1883-1938) Duke of Connaught in 1913. She is
shown above in two photos. The one on the right seems a bit odd for
a Patron of a British war hospital during the Great War, but it should
be remembered that when the photograph was taken, in 1890, Britain
and Germany were closely allied and Queen Victoria, German herself,
employed German regiments as her guard. The uniform is that of the
Eighth Brandenburg Regiment."
out Michael's website here
for further historic nursing joys. But meanwhile...
BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO EMAIL US WITH YOUR THOUGHTS ON HISTORICAL INNACURACY, READ ON ...
the above information was first put online, we've had a plethora of
suitably-informed people claiming that it isn't quite correct. Not
being the sort to put all our eggs into one basket if it isn't a speciality
subject of ours, here are a few further views - which will hopefully
provide you with a fuller picture...
says: You are mixing up two different women. The Duchess of
Connaught was wife of the Duke of Connaught (Governor General of Canada
during WWI). The Duchess was born in 1860 and was a German princess
- her given name being Louise Margarete. She died in 1917 after her
and her husband returned to Britain after his tour as Governor General.
women referred to as the Duchess of Fife was the daughter-in-law of
the above couple. Princess Alexandra Duchess of Fife (born 1891) was
married to Prince Arthur of Connaught (born 1883) who was the son
of the Duke of Connaught and Louise Margarete. Both father and son
had the first name of Arthur and both were princes. The father was
Duke of Connaught (born 1850) and the third son of Queen Victoria.
The son (born 1883) was referred to as Prince Arthur of Connaught,
since his father was Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught. The son died
in 1938, the father died in 1942, so the son never inherited his father's
dukedom, since the son predeceased his father.
Duchess of Connaught was ill during much of her husband's term as
Governor General of Canada. The daughter-in-law , the Princess Alexandra
Duchess of Fife (wife of Prince Arthur of Connaught) was very active
as a nuring Sister in WWI in Britain
Yerich says: The photo of the Duchess of Connaught is not the
photo of the Duchess of Connaught you refer to. The lady in the photograph
is Prince Arthur's (Queen Victoria's son, the Duke of Connaught) wife
who was born a princess of Prussia. She would be the mother in-law
of the Duchess of Connaught (the daughter of the Duke and Duchess
of Fife) that the text refers to.
says: The info you have listed for Duchess of Connaught is
about her daughter-in-law Princess Alexandra of Fife. The Duchess
pictured was married to Queen Victoria's son Prince Arthur. She was
a Prussian princess by birth, hence the uniform in the one picture.
She and the Duke were married in 1879, and had three children. Their
only son, Prince Arthur married Princess Alexandra in 1913, but she
was never Duchess of Connaught as Prince Arthur died in 1938, 4 years
before his father.
So, to clarify:
The above photos depict Louise Margaret (25 July 1860 – 14 July 1917), Duchess of Connaught, the daughter of Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia and wife of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn (1 May 1850 – 16 January 1942). Arthur derved as Governor General of Canada between 1911 and 1916, hence why the hospital was named in honour of his wife, Louise Margaret.
We are also indebted to Marchi Eduardo who also points out that, contrary to the above photos, Michael Zwerdling is actually speaking about Louise Margaret's daughter-in-law, Alexandra Victoria Alberta Edwina Louise (17 May 1891 – 26 February 1959), Princess Arthur of Connaught and Duchess of Fife ... who, of course, the hospital was not named after - though she did indeed serve as a nurse at St. Mary's Hospital in Paddington.
there you have it. Thanks to the above authors, and indeed everybody
else who's written to us concerning the Duchess of Connaught. Hopefully
we're now closer to the bottom of the matter - and by way of a small
reward to those of you who are interested in this early period of
the hospital, here's a very rare view of it, looking south from the
north of the site - as captured by Sgt. J.R.Howe. It appears here
courtesy of the Ansell et al book (see the bottom of this page
particular interest in the above image is the T-shaped building in
the foreground. Although the rest of the buildings in the shot were
(seemingly) demolished in order to make way for what would become
the CRCMH, this building was retained. Believe it or not, it is the
very same building referred to throughout this website as the "Stage
Room". This means that, when it collapsed of its own accord in
the late 1990s, the Stage Room was in all probablility the oldest
remaining building on the entire site. It's amazing what a photo can
tell you, isn't it? Anyway, back to the story...
November 3rd 1916, The Times hailed the Duchess of Connaught
as "one of the two best hospitals in England" and
its many visitors at this time were King George V and Queen Mary.
Those soldiers who died at this makeshift yet "nice and clean"
hospital were buried nearby in Cliveden's War
Memorial Garden, created in 1918.
the war, the hospital continued operation and from September 1919,
it became known as Number 15 Canadian General Hospital. The
Astors' son, Michael, said that during the 1930's Cliveden was like
a club attached to the hospital with cricket matches, estate dances
and parties. The atmosphere throughout the entire estate was apparently
"like living in a hotel".
& Beyond: 1940 - 1948
the Second World War, the Canadians built a larger, more substantial
hospital on the same site. These
buildings were to remain in use, largely unchanged for 45 years. Further
equipment was sent from Canada and put to use in treating more casualties.
It was at this point that the building aquired the name Canadian
Red Cross Memorial Hospital for the first time. The
stone tablet which once stood just to the right of the entrance doors
commemorated the event:
The present whereabouts of the above tablet is completely unknown.
Still, it is reproduced accurately here from official documentation
(even down to the typeface). It was removed in the mid-1990s (presumably
by workmen at the site) and with any luck it has been put in storage
with a view to being displayed somewhere thoughtful as opposed to
being completely discarded.
Factoid #1: During
WWII, the official organist of the CRCMH chapel was a Mr J. F. Agg,
who was retained in England solely on account of his services in that
capacity - being much appreciated by both staff and patients. Perhaps
the subsequent ability of Pwürg's resident pianist Lucas Bones
was somehow inherited by the sheer amount of time he spent lingering
in the rooms that Mr Agg had long graced with his presence?
the CRCMH was presided over by the National Health Service, which
provided a valuable income to the National Trust. The
hospital became a national research hospital for children suffering
from arthritis and a school was established for long term patients.
This evolved into the world's leading rheumatology department, using
the resources of the entire hospital.
Life in Taplow: 1947 - 1952
Read about life as a CRCMH cadet here
more importantly, courtesy of Jeanne Hopkins (former CRCMH nurse)
we are pleased to share the following memories and facts about the
hospital shortly after WWII:
an indication of CRCMH staff earnings, in 1948, a sixteen-year old
Cadet nurse working six days a week took home a monthly pay-packet
containing £3 19 6.
names on the staff list around this period included the famous rheumatologist
Prof. Eric Bywaters; the world renown Paul Wood visiting from London
Heart Hospital (remembered as a brilliant diagnostician); and Arthur
Holman - allegedly instrumental in developing the heart/lung
machine. The highly respected and successful Dr. Barbara Ansell CBE
also joined the CRCMH under Prof. Bywaters around this period.
staff of this period were mostly Estonian and Latvian refugees. Many
were successful professional and business people who had lost almost
everything during the war. They were housed separately in a building
originally meant for nursing staff and one day the place went on fire.
There was lots of shouting and screaming, windows were flung open,
and suddenly the air was full of fur coats being thrown to safety.
Nobody was seriously hurt and the fur coats lived to warm another
Lady Astor, long remained one of the prime fund raisers for the hospital,
and amongst the additional equipment bought for the children was a
hydrotherapy pool. A maternity wing was also added and each Christmas
the children from the school would stage a nativity play in the Community
(Stage) Room at the north of the site. It was usual for a baby from
the maternity ward to be used as the infant Jesus. The pantomime Aladdin
was also put on here by staff in about 1950, and the room also featured
about a year later on cinema newsreels across the country when Princess
Margaret, accompanied by Lady Astor, presented the year's Gold Medal
to a very bright and newly qualified student nurse.
CRCMH geography: The large central window on the upper floor, behind
the front pillars, was Matrons office. The other upstairs rooms were
for the Matron's secretary, the telephone exchange and a small store
windows below, on the left, belonged to the outpatient/casualty department.
The front double doors opened into a large foyer with a desk for the
receptionist. It was here the mail was sorted for the wards and where
the staff came to collect theirs. The windows on the right belonged
to the offices of the Senior Night Sister and her staff.
large enclosed place in front of French windows (the inner courtyard)
was once a lawn where, on fine days, the nursing and medical staff
would relax for a short break after meals. Behind the French doors
was a large lounge with lots of chairs and sofas. This fronted the
equally large dining room (it was all open-plan) where all of the
staff, including Matron, Senior Surgeons, and Doctors ate together.
Staff were allowed 45 minutes for dinner and 30 minutes for all other
meals. While waiting for the food to be dished up, some of the Junior
Nurses would feel under the chairs and tables to see how many pieces
of fossilised chewing gum they could find. The chewing gum had obviously
been conveniently 'parked' under the dining room furniture by North
American military wartime staff. At the back of the dining room was
the large kitchen containing a smaller diets kitchen where students
nurses came to observe. At that time the kitchens were clean, clean,
but by no means least comes the 'Grand Corridor'. Not only was it
said to be a 1/4 mile long, but on murky mornings, nobody could see
the opposite end for mist.
Later Years: 1952 - 1986
more detailed information from this period will be appearing soon
courtesy of the "Looking Back" book - see bottom of page)
is well known locally that for
decades almost every baby in the town was born in its maternity unit.
As a result, it has been estimated that some 60,000 babies were born
at the CRCMH.
Factoid #2: A Burnham
woman, who gave birth to two children in the CRCMH maternity department
in the late 1970s, insists that the hospital was absolutely infested
associated with the hospital agreed that it was a very special place
made extra-special by the nursing staff, many of whom were trained
there. The Canadians never lost touch with the hospital either and
each time the Canadian Mounted Police took part in the Windsor Horse
Show they took time out to come and visit.
Unfortunately, the hospital was forced into closure in 1985 (NHS funding
shake-ups?), and while all those present felt saddened by this they
held wonderful memories in their hearts. It has remained both a derelict
haven for exploration and the perennial location for potential re-development
discussions ever since. The first convincing signs that its days were
truly numbered came in 2001 when the National Trust sought expressions
of interest into the site's future. It appears likely that the CRCMH
site will become a housing estate sooner rather than later.
17th April and 6th May 2000, an exhibition was held at the Maidenhead
Heritage Centre entitled "Canadian Red Cross Hospital Birthplace
of many Maidonians". Let's hope they stage another one soon.
Factoid #3: "CRX"
was, and indeed still is, shorthand for CRCMH for those who were really
"in the know." Virtually nobody who either worked in, or was a patient
at the hospital refers to the place as anything other than the CRX.
Our usage of CRCMH was chosen purely because it is the acronym of
the undeniable full title of the hospital. Nevertheless, we'd like
to acknowledge and pay homage here to the term CRX - which is what
many of you out there use when you're talking about the old hospital
that you know and love.
those who might be interested, Buckinghamshire County Council's Records
and Local Studies Service claims to hold the original CRCMH Christening
records (surely they mean births?) from 1947 until its closure in
We are unable to verify everything above as unquestionable fact, but
most of it is straightforward, and at least the general scheme of
things is true. The bits that either haven't been gathered personally
or that are pure general knowledge are taken from the following sources
- to whom we are utterly indebted in most cases:
(Cadet nurse/Student nurse/SRN at the CRCMH from 1948-1952)
(CRCMH photographic department staff member - see below:)
Magazine of St Peter's Church with St Mark's
Hospital Church was
a useful source containing a transcript of Jean's CRCMH-related talk,
although this is no longer on their website, unfortunately. I'll see
if I can dig out a copy of it at some point.
Footsteps Series Website - Pokin' Round Cliveden
(a walking tour of Cliveden)
(Maidenhead's respected weekly newspaper)
(Lovely people you pay taxes to)
and Community Relations Department.
Hamilton Public Library
must credit The National Trust too because they actually do a
lot of good work (ahem...aren't they the ones who want the CRCMH
demolished in the first place?). If you want to know anything
about Cliveden itself - then you'd be wise to get the official
guidebook from the Trust (left) - it's fairly interesting in places
(though don't expect glossy posters of the CRCMH or anything like
that in there).
UTTERLY ESSENTIAL READING
only book ever to solely focus on the CRCMH - written and published
in 1997 by hospital stalwarts Ansell, Bywaters, Spencer and Tyler.
Containing staff information alongside bits of history, it's an
interesting read for anyone formerly associated with the CRCMH
- or indeed for those more recent converts.
Excerpts and images from this very scarce yet valuable resource
will be appearing on The Shrine soon. But try and hunt down a
copy at Amazon.
Maidenhead - A Pictorial History
by Luke Over
by Eric Fitch
by Angus MacNaghten
books should all be available from Maidenhead Library (to either purchase
or borrow), and indeed other local bookshops or historical societies.
The latter two are reputedly out of print, but good detective work
might well help you turn up a copy.
With Maidenhead - A Pictorial History, Luke Over, the long-time
definitive Maidenhead historian, presents the definitive visual
history of Maidenhead. Bear in mind that it is a more visual
than written affair, but well worth picking up a copy.
Fitch's Unknown Taplow and environs is also rather wonderful
- detailing many points of interest from this overlooked corner of
the globe, and is perhaps the most interesting local non-fiction work
ever produced. There's barely a mention of the CRCMH in it (well,
there's one to be precise), but hey - that's why this website is here.
Berkshire lists assorted tales from across the borough. Not exactly
what you would call comprehensive (and to the dismay of the potential
ghost-hunter, it tends to omit precise addresses and locations - and
indeed The Flincher), but it's a good read nevertheless. So,
what are you waiting for - check them all out!