Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 26, 2017.
Webpage updated: July 26, 2017




The South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital was situated in the area between Hospital Road and Clifton Place, to the west of Greenbank Road.  It was later more commonly known as Greenbank Hospital.  Following the opening of Derriford Hospital, it was demolished and replaced with a new housing estate.

The South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital, later known as Greenbank Hospital, Plymouth

A project to open a hospital in Plymouth was started in 1831 and the following year an acre of ground was purchased was the proprietors of some cherry gardens on the south side of Notte Street, at Sussex Place, Princess Square.  The foundation stone of the building was laid on August 6th 1835 by the Reverend John Hatchard, Vicar of Saint Andrew's Church, and it was named the 'South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital and Plymouth Public Dispensary'.  The latter part of the title was soon dropped and the Dispensary continued as a separate enterprise.  It cost 4,435 including furniture.  The building was designed by the local architect Mr George Wightwick. 

It apparently did not open until January 30th 1840, and a commemorative service was held in Saint Andrew's Church on May 27th.  There were twelve beds originally, although another wing was added in 1852 to bring the number of beds to 55.  The resident surgeon was Mr George Henry Silvester while the secretary and treasurer were Mr J Walter Wilson and Mr Henry Brown respectively.  There was a children's ward of which Mr F Hicks was the treasurer.  A Miss Smith was the Matron.  There as also an associated Private Nursing Institution for private nurses to private patients.  In 1863 the Royal Albert Wing was added to the west of the centre block, providing an additional 50 beds.  One of the wards had been fitted up at the expense of the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe and was for the reception of additional patients upon payment of 10 shillings, the actual cost of maintenance.  A children's ward was added in July 1868.  The children's ward were assisted in their fund-raising by the formation in 1875 of the Unity Sunday School Choir.  This comprised some 280 children selected from  the 6,000 being taught at the 19 principal Sunday Schools, plus 50 lady and 50 gentlemen teachers, all under the leadership of Mr Arthur Faull, the conductor.

In 1877 it was decided to extend the Hospital.   A report was prepared by an architect, Mr Wyatt, which concluded that 'altering the present building would be extremely expensive and comparatively useless'.   He considered that 5,000 would be needed to deal with the drainage and that, after allowing 2,000 cubic feet per bed, it would only offer a gain of four extra beds.   He estimated that a new building for 100 beds would cost only 13,000 and that it was pointless wasting 5,000 for such a small gain.

It was, therefore, decided to erect a new building and for that purpose three acres of ground were purchased at North Hill for 5,000.  The foundation stone laid July 22nd 1881 by the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe and it opened quietly on September 27th 1884, when the patients were simply transferred from one building into the other.   The building, which comprised six connected blocks accommodating 130 patients, cost 38,696 16s 11d, most of which was raised by subscriptions.  It was designed by Mr H E Cole of Furnival's Inn, London, and built by Mr Jonathan Marshall of Plymouth.  The old premises were sold for 4,500. 

Sir Massey Lopes, 3rd baronet, was a great benefactor: in 1884 he donated the Lopes and Maristow Wards and in 1895 presented the Hospital with a Chapel dedicated to Saint Martin.  In 1897 a new wing was added by a Mrs Haines of Alton Terrace in memory of her brother, Mr John Haye, for which she gave 20,000.  The architects of this new wing were Messrs Hine and Odgers.  A new theatre was added as a memorial to Mr Connell Whipple, surgeon to the hospital from 1869 to 1908.

During September 1902 a new out-patient building in Hospital Road was taken into use.  Until then out-patients had been dealt with in two small rooms in the Hospital.  The single-storey building had a central corridor giving access to two large waiting-rooms, one for each sex.  Another corridor intersected with the main one and gave access to the consulting-room and a small operating-room.

It was stated in the press at the time that during the previous year 2,795 out-patients had been treated, who between them paid 10,778 visits to the Hospital.  It was hoped that this new facility would ease the problems that caused in the main building.

Reference was also made to some mismanagement by the Hospital authorities.  Apparently, when the Hospital was built none of the doors or windows were wide enough to admit a stretcher and the new out-patient block had been erected within the limits of a plot of land upon which there was a covenant prohibiting any buildings within a certain distance.  This oversight cost the authorities over 100 for breach of contract, which could have been put to a better.

On July 21st 1928 HRH Princess Mary, Viscountess Lascelles, laid the foundation stone of an extension.

In the 1930s the it absorbed the Ear and Throat Hospital and in July 1934 became part of the Prince of Wales Hospital, Plymouth.  It was more widely known as Greenbank Hospital.

The foundation stone of a further extension to the Hospital was laid by HRH the Duchess of Kent during the afternoon of Wednesday May 3rd 1939.  

The Hospital was bombed during the Second World War on the night of Monday January 13th 1941.  Luckily a concrete roof on one building managed to withstand not one but two high explosive bombs.  There were no deaths but two nurses were injured in the raid.

The following plaque from the Greenbank Hospital used to be on a wall in the former Greenbank Restaurant at Derriford Hospital:

The Prince of Wales Hospital
records with gratitude
the receipt during 1941 of $6,700
and gifts of equipment
Bundles for Britain Inc.
New York City, USA
Our American friends thus provided
comforts and necessities for the
many victims of enemy air raids
treated at this hospital

Greenbank Hospital was closed in the 1990s and the site has now been redeveloped with low-cost housing.