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Corbett Hospital gates, a threshold against infection

By rob taylor  |  Posted: November 02, 2012

The gates to Corbett Hospital.

The gates to Corbett Hospital.

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Relics of our past that remain at the site or in the position they were originally intended are becoming few and far between, so it was with some concern that the gates of the old Corbett Hospital in Amblecote were recently observed missing from their location next to the nearby former Hospital Lodge.

There may well be a perfectly good explanation for the gates’ removal (both the lodge and gates are listed on Dudley MBC's Historic building Register) which the Bugle is unaware of, and we would be delighted if a reader could enlighten us in this regard. But highlighting their absence provides the opportunity to describe a little more in detail about the purpose of the Hospital Lodge, courtesy of Nick Baker from Amblecote History Society: "The function of the Lodge was to control access to the hospital and there were two main reasons why. Firstly, only those eligible for treatment were allowed in no matter what their complaint. The hospital may well have been originally created as a philanthropic gesture by John Corbett, but there was never any suggestion that it was open to all-comers. Corbett was a great believer in helping those who helped themselves, and for that reason entry was by ticket only. Tickets could be obtained by subscription, paid for either by an employer or workers’ association, or issued at the behest of a local worthy such as a clergyman. It must be remembered that the hospital was originally intended as a place for the treatment of industrial injuries, and that in consequence John Corbett expected those entering to be engaged in some kind of useful industry themselves. The lodge was the first point of contact and a porter would have met those seeking entry at the gate and only allowed them in if they had the requisite paperwork.

“Secondly, the Lodge was a form of early infection control.

The Corbett Hospital, in dealing principally with industrial injuries, was a largely surgical establishment, and whilst early 20th century doctors were relatively good at surgery, they were less competent at preventing and controlling infection — even after the introduction of antiseptics during surgery itself.

“Meanwhile the great epidemic killers of the pre-antibiotic, primitive vaccination period, such as diphtheria and measles, simply could not be helped by admission to hospital, to say nothing of the danger this would present to surgical patients. Thus the Lodge and the hospital gates became a threshold beyond which infectious patients were not permitted to cross, being sent instead to the workhouse infirmary just up the road at Wordsley”.

jworkman@ blackcountrybugle.co.uk

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