Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection


The Burnley and District Infectious Diseases Sanatorium at Kibble Bank was opened on 11th November 1899, to treat infectious diseases other than smallpox. Built on land purchased from Lady O'Hagan, it consisted of a scarlet fever block, an isolation block, and administration block, including staff quarters, a laundry, (fitted with the very latest equipment for disinfecting) and a porter's lodge with stabling and mortuary. It had 20 adult beds and more beds for children were to be created. The local newspapers reported that the matron was to be Miss Girling "late of Victoria Hospital", and the Medical Officer was Dr. Ferguson. The elevated site was said to be healthy, well drained and "amply supplied with the town's water."

Messrs. Collinge were responsible for all fixtures and fittings, the staff sitting rooms were fitted in oak with specially made pieces, the matron's bedroom was furnished in American Walnut, and the bedrooms for the nursing and kitchen staff "are furnished in satin walnut, each containing one or more wardrobes with dressing tables and wash-stands to correspond." The Burnley Express grumbled at the cost.

Soon over-crowded

The Sanatorium soon became overcrowded, although some months were worse than others. In his monthly report for June 1900, Dr. Ferguson said it was the busiest they had ever been, with 53 cases, all beds were occupied, he had been obliged to put two different diseases in the same ward, and also put men and women in the same ward and been obliged to turn away cases from the Workhouse.

In his report for October 1900, Dr. Ferguson complained that he had great difficulty examining throats, owing to the bad light, particularly in the isolation pavilion and requested permission to buy an electric throat lamp, at a cost of no more than 5 guineas.

In his first annual report, published on 8th May 1901, Dr. Ferguson reported that 244 cases of infectious diseases had been admitted, by far the greater number (170) were scarlet fever, 30 were typhoid, 24 erysipelas, (a bacterial infection of the skin), 16 diphtheria, three puerperal fever, one chicken pox, one (an infant admitted with its mother) ophthalmia (conjunctivitis of the newborn which can cause blindness). 24 patients had died, a higher rate than he would have wanted, but many didn't come to the hospital until it was too late. The most fatal diseases were typhoid and diphtheria.

The new pavilions would provide much needed extra capacity and they would then be able to cope should there be an epidemic. The Express wrote, "Whilst hoping there would not be an epidemic forewarned is fore-armed and it is proper that provision be made for an outbreak that may never come. We have for years been priding ourselves on a low death rate which bubble the census has now pricked." The population for the borough had been found to be less than believed, (97,043 as opposed to 117,000).

Dr. Ferguson is also quoted as saying "we have a nursing staff as perfect as it is possible to get." No doubt due in large part to Miss Girling, the Matron (pictured right), who remained in post for a remarkable 40 years.

You can read more about Miss Girling by clicking on her image.

The Sanatorium eventually became the Marsden Hospital, closing in 1992.

See images of the Sanatorium from Lancashire County Council's Red Rose Collections

Miss Girling in 1939 on retirement
On 2nd August 1902, the Burnley Express described a tour of the Sanatorium, and painted a glowing picture. We give below an abridged version.

The Burnley Fever Hospital (Express Special) 2nd August 1902

"Nothing can exceed the situation and the beauty of the surroundings of the Burnley and District Sanatorium. Below lay the good town of Burnley wreathed in the pall of smoke from its thousands of chimneys," (but not so pleasant "when the winter blasts howl over the hills and the east and north winds rage" )

Matron, Miss Girling is described as "brisk cheery, genial, with an eye for everything".

They meet a small child being allowed home after weeks in the hospital, clinging tightly to his father's hand "as if afraid to lose it once more". "He's had everything heart could desire" his father said, thanking the Matron.

Staff consisted of "Matron, one sister, four nurses and five probationers" and despite only being open three years the hospital is too small and is being enlarged. They visit Matron's own comfortable quarters, and an office set aside for Doctor Ferguson the M.O.

There is a grassed area in front of this block where "boys play cricket" "the materials having been provided by Mr. Altham". The boys looked pale but bright and cheerful. Convalescent girls played hide and seek. They continued their external tour, "Naturally we did not go inside." Families were "sometimes allowed to stand at the windows and look in". Anybody unfortunate enough to have an infectious disease was "particularly fortunate in having such a home to which retirement can be made".

A "glimpse of the ward showed the little scarlet fever patients either in bed or moving about" and everything was so nice, "it is a sort of illness in luxury" and fresh air was beneficial, unlike at home in the crowded streets. There were 41 scarlet fever cases in one block and six in the isolation pavilion but 8 were being discharged that day. The hospital was overcrowded and the extension would be a boon. In the isolation block where diphtheria etc. cases are placed, there were four diphtheria cases and one typhoid, the latter being one of the nurses but who was on the mend. "Everything is in apple pie order. Attached to each ward is a little kitchen,...the floors shine with polish"..and everything is "carefully prepared so that there is as little chance as possible of the deadly fever germs" lodging anywhere.

They move on to the laundry where "garments are steeped in a bath of izal before passing into the hands of the laundry maid". In the coach house they see the "specially devised cab used to convey patients to the Sanatorium" although it looked just like an ordinary cab, there was an "air couch" and a seat for an attendant, the end of the cab opens, and couch and patient are lifted out." All is frequently disinfected.

Next they come to the mortuary. The bereaved relatives cannot approach but "By an ingenious arrangement.. may look on the face of the dead". Miss Girling explains that the death rate is very low, only four of the many scarlet fever cases had been lost the previous year. The death rate was higher for diphtheria as many of the cases were already dying when they arrived.

They were then shown where everything was disinfected and left, hoping never to be a patient there but convinced they would receive "every kindness and all the skill medicine and nursing can provide".