Originally, the plot of land on which Fairford Hospital now stands was donated to Fairford free of charge by the Lord of the Manor, Raymond Barker with the express request that it be used to build a hospital. Fairford people then went about raising money out of their own pocket and the foundation stone for the hospital was laid to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887. The cost of the building was in the region of £447. The architect was Mr Waller of Gloucester. In 1908, a new wing (a room with a bedroom above for the Matron) was added and this was paid for from a bequest from J R Arthur Gibbs (see below) of Ablington Manor. There is a plaque in the hospital saying that the wing was paid for by J R Arthur Gibbs and his parents.
From the hospital’s inception, people subscribed annually to pay for the running of the hospital. The Fairford Carnival in 1906 (the Biggest Show in Gloucestershire) and subsequent Carnivals and house-to-house collections were the biggest fundraisers. This was continued until 5th June 1948 when the NHS took over cottage hospitals.
The hospital continued to serve the local communities of Fairford, Lechlade and the surrounding villages until 2006 when the Primary Care Trust closed it despite strong public opposition after a sham consultation exercise. Throughout its long history right up to the present day, the hospital was supported by the League of Friends of Fairford Hospital – locals raising money for state-of-the-art beds and other equipment, a day hospital and various services. Visit their website: www.friendsoffairford.org.uk.
On Wednesday, 1st March 2006, Fairford Hospital Action Group (FHAG) conducted a Valediction Service outside Fairford Hospital to mark the final closure of the in-patient beds. Members of FHAG also heard the unexpected news that the Minor Injuries Unit would close on the same day. The Service was held at 11.30 a.m. following the last of the regular 11 a.m. Wednesday Communion Services.
Around 150 people attended the Service to say farewell to a much loved community asset and to show the strength of feeling at the hasty closure of in-patient beds. Cllr Chris Roberts, Mayor of Fairford, thanked everyone for coming and said that the fight to save Fairford Hospital would continue and quoted from the first speech Winston Churchill ever made as Prime Minister. David Phillips also said a few words about the valuable service provided by the hospital and its staff and stressed that the League of Friends’ house-to-house collection at the end of March would continue and asked people to give generously. People attending the Service then heard June Lewis Jones explain the history of Fairford Hospital and how the land had been donated to Fairford and the building built and maintained by public subscription. Rob Winney, on behalf of the Royal British Legion, Fairford Branch, then spoke about the service given by the hospital to the ex-service population of Fairford and this was followed by Adam Bayliss, bugler with Fairford Silver Band playing the Last Post. A minute’s silence followed and then Rev Brian Atkinson said a prayer and gave the blessing. A single bell from St Mary’s Church tolled a final farewell.
This was a very sad occasion and marked the end of an era. When staff at Fairford Hospital tried to lock the door of the hospital on Wednesday night, the key would not turn on the outside of the door. This was the first time in anyone’s memory that the hospital had had to be locked from the outside, as it had always had people inside. For the first time ever, the hospital was empty at night.
Fairford Town Mayor’s Speech at the Valediction Service – 1st March 2006
I would like to thank you all for coming today on this very sad occasion. But we mustn’t be completely despondent – we should think of this merely as a temporary set-back in our war against the injustice of the PCT. We’ve lost the first battle and here – our beloved hospital – has become a casualty of the war – a wounded soldier!
It is very appropriate that we have representatives from the Royal British Legion here this morning. The care that staff has given to our ex-service community over the last 60 years has been considerable.
It is also very apt that I quote from Winston Churchill’s first speech that he made as Prime Minister in 1940. He of course was speaking about the war in Europe, whereas – 66 years on – his words are particularly relevant today with regard to Fairford Hospital:
He said: “We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all, victory, however long and hard the road may be.”