It was back in 1874, that the idea of a Cottage Hospital in Fishguard was first mooted. It was proposed by a Dr Watkin who apparently was very much involved in trying to improve the sanitary provisions in the town – however the idea did not reach fruition.
20 years past before the idea seems to have been raised again – when in April 1894 a Provisional committee was formed to consider the establishment of a Cottage Hospital. Over the next few months, subscribers were signed up withvolunteers going round the district to encourage support. It seems that the hospital was to be funded via subscriptions, donations and fund raising – one fund raising bazaar in September 1894, raised £140 which is approximately £15,000 in today’s prices.
The Cottage Hospital opened on February 14th 1895 and local people were invited to have a look round. The first premises were on Main Street, in the property to the left of what is now Manor House Hotel. It seems that even on the day of opening they were asking for donations of pictures, armchairs and linen to furnish the hospital. The hospital was very much reliant upon the support of the well to do of the area.
There was only one member of nursing staff and this was Matron Mary Owen who in addition to looking after any inpatients, was also required to visit patients in their own homes around the area. In- patients were few even though the cost of treatment was free for those not able to afford to pay.
In 1901, as a result of the loss of their premises, (the landlord sold the property) the Cottage Hospital relocated to West Street. It seems to have been above/behind a shop front which the hospital committee rented out to Mr Munt the jeweller for an annual rental of £8. The matron, who by this time had married to become Matron Mary Evans, decided that she would take the opportunity to tender her resignation and said that she would not be moving to the new hospital. It was agreed that a new matron be appointed although not necessarily a qualified nurse !!
The Annual Report of 1901 revealed that there had been only three patients in the past twelve months. The Chairman said they ought to be congratulated on having so few patients but that the need for such a facility had been proved within the previous few days. ” the man who met with an unfortunate accident in Lower Town, and had been brought into the hospital would have every convenience and it was fortunate for him that they had such an institution in the town – if he had been taken to Haverfordwest, the consequences might have been more serious”
In the Summer of 1901, Dr H. Lawton Swete who was GP and surgeon to the hospital, died suddenly at the age of 39. Dr Swete had been the driving force behind the running of the hospital and following his death much of the organisation and impetus to continue with the facility seems to have waned. There was a proposal to have District Nurses instead of a hospital but it was agreed that in respect to Dr Swete’s memory, they would continue as they were.
This decision however was short lived as by June 1902 a report in the County Echo reveals that the former Cottage Hospital had become a Nurse’s home. A nurse was appointed on an annual salary of £60 to include heat and light. Services to the poor were to be given free of charge and the area served was within a five mile radius of the town. Further reports in the County Echo in the latter part of 1902 show that even less use was being made of the former Hospital with accommodation being leased to a journalist, who wanted to open a library. By 1903 the Committee seem to have terminated the lease of their premises with all the contents being auctioned in June 1903.
Although this appears to have been the end of the first hospital in Fishguard, older local residents recall there being a hospital facility in the town during the 1940s and possibly into the 1950s. There is some dispute as to the exact location and nothing is known about the level of service offered – can anyone shed any light on this?