Blandford's first hospital opened in
1883 and was financed by Miss Portman, a member of Bryanston’s Portman family.
It could be found adjacent to the Corner Coffee House near the junction of
Salisbury Street and White Cliff Mill Street. The Coffee House was run by the
Church and was a sort of welfare centre.
One of its earliest patients was a man who had been involved
in a wagon accident at Tarrant Hinton. According to the Blandford Express of 17th
March 1883, he was taken to ‘the new
Cottage Hospital.’ From 1885 to 1887 it became known as ‘Nurse House’ but did not take
in-patients. They were sent to hospitals in Bath, Dorchester, Weymouth or
In September 1887, Blandford Hospital Sunday took place when
members of friendly societies and public bodies joined a procession to
Blandford Church. The service collection and other donations were passed to
local hospitals including the Nurse House. While the previous week the village
of Pimperne had passed on the vegetables and flowers donated to decorate the church
for Harvest Festival.
Julietta Forester was the wife of Lord Portman’s steward. In
her diary she wrote, a little smugly, of a lady patient. After receiving a
large inheritance, the lady celebrated by drinking quite a bit of alcohol. She
went to bed but then decided to partake of a drop more. Sadly the lady
stumbled, fell down the stairs and broke her leg.
Jane Short was the matron and she was called to the scene of
an accident to town crier, Charles Rolls. He had been hit by a runaway horse
and cart startled by a Wimborne to Blandford train. Despite her efforts, his
injuries proved to be fatal.
In 1888 plans were made for Nurse House to become a Cottage
Hospital but it is not known if it ever did. In 1889, 46 patients were admitted
15 of which came from the surrounding villages. The limited facilities were
frequently overstretched and it became evident that a much larger building was
required. This led to the expenditure of £3165 on the building of a new
Blandford Hospital on the current site. Again, this was much due to the generosity
of the Portman family. Consisting of twelve beds, four cots and two private
wards, Blandford Cottage Hospital opened in April 1891.
(Illustration: Blandford’s new 1891 Cottage Hospital.)