Welcome to the Carlisle and Stanwix Branch of The Royal British Legion
FUSEHILL MILITARY HOSPITAL, FUSEHILL STREET CARLISLE
GRID REF: NY40902 55489 POSTCODE CA1 2HH
FUSEHILL MILITARY HOSPITAL FUSEHILL STREET CARLISLE
The building most younger people now know as a campus of the University of Cumbria, and previously as St Martin’s College, and the older among us remember as Carlisle City General Hospital, has a varied and respectable history.
Until April 1916 it had served as the poorhouse for the City and District of Carlisle. There was no National Health Service then and no welfare hand-outs on the scale we have today. Those unfortunate enough to be destitute were accommodated in places like Fusehill Poorhouse.
By early 1916 it was obvious that existing hospital facilities within the United Kingdom were grossly over-loaded. For example Fazakerly Hospital in Liverpool had reached capacity. Although other poorhouses had been requisitioned it was evident that many more bed spaces were needed.
The target for Carlisle was 1000 beds! By Easter 1917 the Fusehill site – with 400 beds - became operational. Pupils were moved from the nearby Brook Street and Newtown Schools and the classrooms became hospital wards. Those people displaced, the poor of Fusehill workhouse and the pupils of the schools, were moved elsewhere around the city.
By November 1918 the hospital and schools together could accommodate 680 patients. The staff numbered around 80 nurses!
The military hospital closed in June 1919. It had seen a total of 9,809 patients and reached a maximum of 861 beds. There were fatalities of course. Those whose families requested this could have the body sent to the railway station nearest to their home. Others were interred in local cemeteries.
With no further role as a hospital the buildings reverted for a short time to their original status as a poorhouse. However after a time as a military hospital for Second World War casualties Fusehill became part of the new National Health Service. As the City General Hospital, and latterly the City Maternity Hospital, it continued to serve the people of Carlisle.
With the opening of the new hospital buildings at the Cumberland Infirmary, the Fusehill site became redundant and in line for demolition for housing development. However wise heads prevailed. It became St Martin’s College and then with the reorganisation of Universities in the North West, as the University of Cumbria, it is now a major part of the development of Carlisle as a centre of education, with a secure future.
This venerable old building is deserving of respect. Let us hope that it is never again called upon to help repair the broken bodies and minds of the young men and women who serve our Armed Forces.
This small building, now somewhat modernised, is the original Chapel of the old Workhouse which in its long service to humankind was, at various times, a shelter for those who had few personal resources, a Military Hospital, a Maternity and General Hospital, and a place of learning.
This simple Chapel has, for well over a century, provided relief from life’s pressures, a quiet corner for contemplation and commemoration, and a companionable environment for social engagement. It was there for those broken in body and mind during the long years of the Great War. It is still there for the young men and women of the University who may find the stresses of modern life sometimes overwhelming.