During a meeting of the Bacup Hospital Charities Committee on the 15th August 1914, the
treasurer Mr J.H.Lord suggested that Bacup might follow other towns and villages in
offering a suitable place to the Military Authorities for use as a hospital for the treatment of
the sick and wounded in the war.
Fourteen days later the matter of a Rest Station or Convalescent home was brought once again to the attention of the
local officials of the Nursing Division when a Mrs Tweeddale organizing secretary of the Red Cross Association for
Lancashire visited the Ambulance drill hall at Bacup. Mrs Tweeddale felt that Bacup was an ideal place for the
setting of a Convalescent Home where the injured soldiers could recuperate and take advantage of the bracing
air. The Mayor Councillor J.H.Lord had initially suggested Stubbylee Hall might be suitable but this was passed
over when the widow of Mr William Mitchell J.P pictured left, offered Fern Hill.
The house comprised a entrance hall, back entrance hall and side entrance, dining room, drawing room, breakfast
room, 7 bedrooms, 2 dressing rooms, bathroom and water closet, nursery, store and housemaids closet. domestics
offices comprising lavatory and water closet, servants hall, kitchen, pantries, closets, larder, wine and ale cellars. The
house had outbuildings made up of a six stalled stable, shippon with tying for six cows, cowman's room, saddle room, granary, large
coach house. Large walled in garden containing choice and healthy young fruit trees. The house it was reported, was perfect and required
very little alteration, handed over to the Nursing Division on Monday 16th November, the Mayor Councillor J.H.Lord made an earnest
appeal for support saying:
“ The nurses forming the Voluntary Aid Detachment in connection with the Bacup Ambulance Division have offered Fern Hill the residence
of the late Mr Wm Mitchell, J.P to the War Office as a convalescent home t rest house for the wounded British and Belgium soldiers, and
instructions have been received to have the house equipped at once due to the pressure in the hospitals. We may receive short notice of men
who are on the way to recovery being transferred here to make room for more
serious cases. Mr and Mrs Bertie Mitchell have very kindly granted the free use
of the hall, and much of the furniture, etc, the Nursing Division will actually
take possession on Monday. The men at the front are suffering awful
privations an the sick and wounded need all the surgical and medical treatment
as well as careful nursing that a grateful country can provide. Rochdale and
Haslingden, and other Lancashire towns have already received wounded
soldiers, and I feel sure that their is sufficient patriotism in Bacup and district
to provide 15 to 20 beds for the noble men who have risked their lives for the
sake of their native land. I appeal for £600.00, of which one and half is
practically assured, and also for bedding for 10 beds, felt, towels, cutlery,
crockery, table cloths, couches, carry chairs, soap, drugs, etc, as well as all the
food supplies. Cash remittances may be forwarded to me, and offers of materials and food to the Lady Superintendent, Miss Simpson, Croft
Street, and Bacup.
The layout of the hospital was as follows: on the ground floor there was a recreation room, sitting room, dining room, and number 1 ward
which contained 5 beds. A kitchen, and officers and nurses quarters made up the rest of the ground floor. No 2 ward upstairs, contained
four beds and No 3 ward contained 2 beds. Each room was furnished with a cupboard for dressing, and bandages.
The house had a resident Matron, Miss Simpson, a Superintendent Nurse Mrs Sutcliffe, eight section leaders in charge of 32 VAD Nurses.
These section leaders were: 1st lady officers Miss Rushton, Miss Taylor, Miss S.E.Howorth, Miss Thompson, Miss Blythe, Miss Graham,
Miss Settle and Miss A Howorth. Medical assistance was to be provided by the three local doctors, Dr Taylor, Dr Rigby and Dr Brown.
Initially Patients were to be transferred to Fern Hill from the Rochdale Hospital, where many of the same VAD’s worked splitting their
shifts between hospitals. However soldiers were admitted straight from the 2nd General Hospital Manchester. The first patients 11
Belgium soldiers were due to be transferred from Rochdale on Friday 21st November but something happened and this didn’t happen.
Within the first week of the Mayors appeal over 264.00 had been raised and various items donated such as carpet sweepers, games such
as chess, draughts, and dominoes, bed, bedding, sheets, blankets and various other household and personal items.
.During the early weeks of May 1915, four additional beds had been offered to the War Office making a total of 16 beds. In total by July
1915 over 60 men had been treated and cared for with a range of wounds and illnesses including 30 0f whom were suffering bullet and
shrapnel wounds, 6 cases of rheumatism, 7 frost bite cases, 4 cardiac, 1 dysentery, 1 pluerodenis, 1 case of tonsillitis and 1 soldier who had
completely lost his voice. There were in addition 3 cases of bronchitis, 1 kidney complication and 1 suffering from the effects of gas
poisoning, 1 varicella, 1 neurasthenia and 2 contused ankles, the average stay
of a patient being 38 days.
By early 1916 the accommodation had been extended so as to accommodate a
total of 25 soldiers and by April 1917, 310 patients had been treated there. Of
those 310 five had been discharged totally disabled, 10 transferred to
convalescent hospitals and 295 returned to duty. Of the latter four had
received commissions and about five had gained promotion in the ranks
with four receiving the D.C.M.
Private Joseph Wilson of the 7th Sussex Regiment was presented with a
Military Medal and a framed certificate, during the Grand Gala of July 1917.
A year later in June 1918, despite a severe outbreak of influenza in the area,
another patient received a double honor when on what was described as a
beautiful warm day Sergeant W Graham, Kings Own Scottish Borders, was presented with the Distinguished Conduct Medal and a
framed certificate of the Croix de Guerue.
Towards the end of August 1917, an extension to Fern Hill was opened by using premises at Acre Mill Sunday School. The matron at Acre
Mill was Mrs Nichols; here the layout consisted of a main room which contained 25 beds, a separate sleeping apartment with kitchen and
cooking facilities for the nurses and a portioned area for the soldiers dining area. Acre Mill took its first 20 patients from the 2nd General
Hospital Manchester on the 1st October 1917.By Christmas 1917 both Fern Hill and Acre Mill were operating at full capacity, with a total
of 25 resident at Fern Hill and 17 at Acre Mill.
Fern Hill Military Hospital