Open Day at Herrison Hospital, Dorchester

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On Sunday, 7 April 2019 the doors of Herrison Hall were thrown open to anyone with an interest in the old Herrison Hospital in Dorchester and before the exhibition was officially opened every space in the car park was taken as people seemed to be heading for the hall from all directions. We had to park some distance away and as we walked we met up with a man who was excitedly returning as he told us he had started work in the kitchen, many years ago, on leaving school. Many came with items or photographs to share but many came just with their memories and it was the sharing of these memories that set up such a buzz around the hall. Herrison Hall was originally the ballroom and was saved from demolition and replacement at the time the site was redeveloped and the new housing was added.

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Gravestones

Map of Home Farm

The Open Day organised by Dom White and a group of ex-staff members and was attended by the Dorset History Centre, consisted of information, much of it collected and retained by individuals involved with the day to day running of the hospital, together with photographs, newspaper cuttings and much more besides. At the back of the hall was a fascinating display of items found when the building had to be cleared. These items survived thanks to the man who used to run the market garden at the hospital where he met his future wife who was a nurse. He was one of the last people left on site after the hospital closed, when they were told to throw everything out of the windows into a skip, so he started saving bits and pieces and some of these many items were on display. Apparently he has more stuff at home! I watched as the official photographer, using a light box, photographed some of these items and we both agreed that it was very fortunate now that someone had managed to retrieve all these tangible objects carrying with them their messages to us of a former time.

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The Charlton Down Local History Society was well represented and a history of the hospital and its redevelopment can be found here on the village hall website.

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Many of us, with extensive Dorset family trees, are likely to find that one or two members of our earlier family will have ended their days at the hospital and I know that I have made this discovery in the past which is why I was so keen to attend the exhibition. The Dorset History Centre is very pleased to have received a £56,000 grant from the Wellcome Trust for cataloguing and conservation of items, documentation and photographs for the hospital which should enable all the major conservation treatments to be completed and to catalogue the whole archive. Much of it will remain subject to the Data Protection and GDPR Legislation, but all the building records and staff and patient records over 100 years old will be available for local and family historians. Sophie Smith, Archives Services Officer (Cataloguing), is the project Archivist.

Barbara Elsmore April 2019

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8 Responses to Open Day at Herrison Hospital, Dorchester

  1. Carol says:

    Thank you Barbara.
    This will be another great resource for Dorset family historians.

  2. barrybrock says:

    Thank you Barbara!

  3. Prevaricat says:

    Hi Barbara… I would have been interested to have seen this exhibition. I remember back in the early sixties I visited this hospital a couple of times to visit my mother who was an in-patient at what I remember as Forston.

    • sdfhs says:

      Hi Karen – you are one of the many with a personal memory of the hospital and it was great to see so many people revisiting and yes you would definitely have enjoyed being there and seeing the area as it is now.
      Barbara

  4. Barbara Adcock says:

    Really interesting information and marvellous research. This project and the insights recovered make such interesting reading.

  5. What a brilliant expose of ‘yesteryear’ to be secured for posterity. Where are our west country universities in promoting ‘scholarship’ and ‘lottery’ funding for a ‘deserving’ project?

    GrahamE Livings
    Trustee: http://www.mendiphospitalcemetery.org.uk

  6. sdfhs says:

    Many thanks for your kind words, Rachel.

  7. Rachel Hassall says:

    Thank you Barbara for sharing your impressions of the day and all your wonderful photographs. It really was an excellent event and proved that there is real interest in the history of the hospital, not only from those who used to work there or had a connection with the hospital, but also from those who now live at Charlton Down and want to find out more about its history. Well done and thank you to everyone who was involved with the Open Day.

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