“The Hospital will be a living memorial of the dead, and by its nature more endurable than any monuments of stone or brass.”
Watford Observer circa 1917 (taken from David Wellings historical displays for the Peace Hospice Appeal in the early 90s).
In 1917, discussions began within the District Hospital Board to build a new modern hospital as a memorial to those who had died in the First World War. Existing hospital provision was inadequate for a town of Watford’s size and increasing numbers of war casualties. The Armistice ended the fighting in Western Europe on 11 November 1918. The Appeal for a Peace Memorial Hospital combined the need for a new Hospital with the wish to construct and appropriate and practical memorial to honour the 700 men from the local area who had died in the war.
HRH Princess Mary, 24 June 1925
“Watford has truly surpassed itself never in the town’s history has there been such a united and successful communal endeavour.”
Watford Observer, 27 June 1925
Between 1918 and 1925, the Watford community raised £90,000 to build the Watford and District Peace Memorial Hospital. In the 1920s, people did not expect Government or the Local Council to provide money for the new Hospital. The plan was ambitious and required the full support of people from throughout South West Hertfordshire. Trustees of the Watford and District Peace Memorial Hospital lead the appeal and people in the community devised many resourceful ways to raise funds at a time when a well-paid factory worker was only earning around £2 per week, unemployment levels were high and when funds were being raised in the community for returning soldiers. The community raised sufficient funds to begin building works and the foundation stone was officially laid on 25 July 1923. The Watford and District Peace Memorial Hospital was officially opened on 24 June 1925 by HRH Princess Mary, Viscountess Lascelles.
The cost of the new Hospital was given as £90,000. It opened with 108 beds and was fitted with 5 boilers, 128 radiators, 440 lighting points, 114 bell points and 15 phone points and was billed as ‘the most modern of hospitals.’ It served the areas of Watford, Oxhey, Croxley Green, Rickmansworth, Mill End, Harefield, Chorley Wood, Hunton Bridge, Chipperfield, Sarratt, Leavesden, Garston, Abbotts Langley, Aldenham, Letchmore Heath and Radlett.
This post is part of information gathered during Peace Hospice Care’s oral histories project 2014-16. The project captured 25 years of Peace Hospice Care and explored the legacy of the Peace Memorial Hospital. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Foundation.
Find out more about Peace Hospice Care by visiting www.peacehospicecare.org.uk or the online project archive http://ourview.peacehospicecare.org.uk/ Oral histories from the project will be deposited with Hertfordshire Archive and Local Studies by end 2016.