The History of the Winsford Cottage Hospital

The Winsford Cottage Hospital

In April 1899 Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857 – 1941) was commissioned to design the Winsford Cottage Hospital in Halwill, Devon. Although it was a public building with a private benefactor he did not automatically develop a new architectural vocabulary, and given the strong philosophical base and careful reasoning behind his style it would have been surprising if he had done so. Instead, he took into account the rural location and the small scale for the building and he designed a hospital, which from the outside might easily have been mistaken for a Voysey House.
It is a single storey building with a deep delabole-slate roof and projecting wings with a sheltered veranda between them. The building is set close to its boundary on the north side with a clear straight path to the front door, asymmetrically arranged in a gabled bay.

The Benefactor

The Winsford Cottage Hospital erected in Memory of George Webb Medley by his wife Maria Louisa Medley 1900

A plaque in the gable gives details of the benefactor (Maria Louisa Webb-Medley) but from the lane the first glimpse of the hospital is of a long low roof half hidden behind a boundary hedge.
The hospital was quite unlike a Voysey house inside. It was conceived to combine sanitary and practical considerations with a perspective understanding of the requirements of patients and nursing staff alike. Voysey gave particular attention to providing draughts only where they were beneficial; “the floors of the wards are boarded on solid beds of concrete, so that there is no cold damp air or any harbour for rats below,” and “Cross-ventilation is provided in each ward by means of separate air flues.” The floors were all on one level so that wheel chairs and beds could be moved with comparative ease, and they were cheerful as well as practical: the hall, corridors and veranda were paved with a yellow mosaic tile, contrasting with the green painted doors, and the kitchen floor was made of massive slabs of slate.

Architectural Plans

Voysey’s drawing dated October 1899

The image you see of Voysey’s drawing dated October 1899 is signed by Mrs Medley and M White, perhaps Medland White, a local builder. RIBA drawings and archives collections, SB106/VOY.

The plan was arranged with a row of small utilitarian rooms along the north elevation, with the mortuary at one end, the nurses’ room at the other and the operating room next to the entrance hall towards the middle. There were four generous wards: a men’s ward and an accident ward in one wing, and a women’s ward and children’s ward in the other wing with only two beds in each (apart from the accident ward which was designed for a single bed). Both the men’s and women’s wards enjoyed southerly views across a garden to the landscape of Dartmoor beyond and Voysey was careful to arrange the children’s ward so that it would overlook the railway which is the only entertainment near the site’.

“I mention these points,” he told the Builder’s Journal “as the hospital faddists are apt to forget them.”

Extract from English Heritage Register of Listed Buildings

SX 49 NW 1/44 – Winsford Hospital 15.4.78 GV II*

Small hospital. 1899-1900 by C.F.A. Voysey. Rendered walls with stone window dressings. Slate roof, hipped to left end, gabled to right and with 3 gables and the front and 2 at the rear. 7 rendered stacks, all axial apart from a front lateral stack towards the left end. The plan is very unaltered from the original with an entrance hall to the right of centre which gives access to a corridor running along the rear of the building onto which a number of small front rooms open. Two small wings project at the rear towards either end between which a C20 sun-lounge has been built. Single storey. Asymmetrical 16 window front of 1, 2 and 3 light mullions. There is a large gable to its right; a smaller gable is to the right of centre over the entrance with another large gable immediately adjoining to its right. The 2 larger gables are extended to the rear into small wings. The front door is part glazed with a 2-light window also under the gable immediately to its left. In this gable is a plaque with an inscription commemorating the founding of the hospital by Maria Louisa Medley and bearing the date 1900. Very unaltered interior with original fittings such as plank doors with their wrought iron strap hinges; decorative ventilation grills, and chimney-pieces of which the one in the hall is carved with coats of arms including those of its benefactress and another has inverted heart design. This building is a rare example in Devon of a Voysey building which still serves its original purpose and is very unaltered.