Medway Memories on Screen

'St Bartholomew's Hospital' (1930) - Research Notes

Research notes on the film of St Bartholomew's Hospital, also known as 'A Day In The Life Of St. Bart's' (produced in 1930)

Research & shotlist by Keith Lambourne


ISt Barts Hospitalntroduction
The film was produced in the latter half of 1930 for St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Rochester, in order to raise funds to clear their crippling overdraft. The film shows the viewer round the hospital, as well as including shots of local streets and industry. It also features the work of 'The Association Of Friends Of St. Bart's' who commissioned the film. The Friends were a body of volunteers, with branches throughout the area, who were committed to raise large sums for the hospital through small contributions from the local population, usually by the installation and collection of 'penny-boxes'. The driving force behind the film was a leading 'Friend' - Alderman Alfred Ernest John Price. Also featured are 'The Ladies Of Linen' - a body of volunteers led by Florence, Lady Darnley, who supplied bed linen and garments to the hospital.

St. Bartholomew's lays claim to being the oldest existing hospital in England, founded in 1078 by Bishop Gundulph 'for the poor and leprous'. It was originally funded by rents from lands that it owned, grants and private contributions and remained funded that way right up to the 20th Century, despite several disputes over the ownership of the hospital's lands (sometimes involving the Crown) and tales of corrupt administration of grants. None of the original hospital exists anymore, apart from its chapel. The current main hospital building is mid-19th Century, largely funded by a donation from the Watts' Charity. By the late 1920's, though, the hospital was in the red - and something had to be done.

St Barts Hospital 2The Association Of Friends
The Association of Friends was founded in 1928 as a scheme specifically set up to eliminate St. Bartholomew's deficit. The President was The Dean Of Rochester, Dr. R.T. Talbot. The hospital's annual report states that their purpose was 'to raise each year pennies enough to DESTROY our present debt and CREATE an adequate income, so that the debt shall never come to life again". Committees were quickly established throughout the local area in 1929, and results were instant. The 1929 foreward to their annual report states that 'God has raised up to the hospital 10,000 friends....these friends, these box holders, by the power of the weekly penny have made £1000 new money"..."it was so dull when all we could say was 'the hospital was in a bad way'. Well now we have got a new song in our mouths".

In 1929, there were 500 volunteer collectors, going door-to-door picking up boxes of pennies saved up by the local people. In 1930, there were 650 volunteers and in 1931, there were 1000. The Friends Committee described them as "the living bridge between thousands of homes and the hospital" and advertised for 'friends not acquaintances". The Dean's Foreward of 1930 reported that "when this plan was broached, faces were dark with doubt. Now you are making those same faces smile. Now some doubt whether you can go on, but thousands of voices swell the chorus 'By God's Grace, we will' " By the end of 1931, there were 17,200 box-holders, and £5000 had been raised 'contributed largely out of the pence of the poor'.

The local paper of 1st August 1930 features a poem written by ‘Aunt Marigold’:-

St Barts Hospital 3When I have sixpence given me,
(Of course, I don’t get many)
I knew St. ‘tholomew’s will be
Pleased to accept a penny.

For here, it is that little mites,
In pain, perthaps, and sickly,
The good, kind doctors ‘put to rights’,
Be that they grow strong quickly.

It seems a lovely thought,
A little, sick child mended,
The nicest sweets a penny bought,
Could never be so splendid.

Not only were there contributions from local house-holders. Businesses were encouraged to put ‘penny-boxes’ in their workplaces and among notable contributors in 1930 included HM Dockyard (£1054 4/7d), Aveling & Porter (£133 19/-), Edward Lloyd, Sittingbourne (£534 6/8d), Short Brothers (£336 6/4d), Southern Railway (£144 4/1d) and The Canning Town Glassworks, Queenborough (£118 2/7d).

The hospital’s overdraft was £15567 17/1d in 1930.
It had been reduced to £10844 12/10d in 1931.

Origins of the film
The Chatham, Rochester & Gillingham News reported on the quarterly meeting of the trustees in their edition of 1st August 1930 – and introduces us to the driving force behind the film – Alderman Alfred Ernest John Price, J.P., known to all as ‘Ernest’. “Alderman Price remarked upon the anxiety which money matters gave the trustees and urged everyone to do their best to secure increased support for making the household box scheme more widely known”. There was also some concerned discussion about confusion with St. Bart’s, London, who had placed automatic ‘lottery’ machines to raise funds in railway stations. The meeting was closed with a film demonstration by Messrs. Kodak Ltd., featuring ‘all phases of hospital life and work’ at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. This may well have been at the instigation of Alderman Price as ‘it was decided that the House & Finance Committee, together with the Association Of Friends, should take steps towards arranging for a similar film, illustrating the work of the hospital, to be made. The cost of such a film, together with apparatus was given at approximately £100. Alderman Price said he thought he knew of a friend of the hospital who would help to provide the apparatus”.

Consequently, from the annual report of the Association of Friends 1930:-
“The Committee have the pleasure to report that a portable cinema has been placed at the service of the Association through the munificence of a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. A comprehensive and interesting film picturing the hospital at work has been produced and will be shown at meetings during the coming months. In this connection, the generous and untiring assistance given by their Vice-Chairman A.E.J. Price JP, to whom they tender their heartfelt thanks”.

There is no reference to any payments regarding the film in either the Association Of Friends or the hospital accounts.

The local paper of 24th October 1930 reports that ‘the film of the local hospital and its work was complete and had only to be approved for showing’ and Ernest Price was quoted he ‘hoped the showing of the hospital film in the country districts would help to raise enthusiasm there’.

There must have been some delay on the approval as the Chatham, Rochester & Gillingham News reported the film as ‘nearly ready’ in its issue of 23rd January 1931.

From the 1931 annual report:-
“The hospital film has proved to be of the greatest value in our work and we acknowledge with deep gratitude the generous help Alderman A.E.J. Price JP has given in connection with it. Mr. Price not only conveyed the apparatus, but acted as operator and spoke on behalf of the hospital at 33 public meetings”.

Sadly, the Alderman’s involvement with the film would be short-lived.

Alderman Ernest Price
The alderman was a man who seemed to work tirelessly for the good of the Medway Towns. He not only contributed time to St. Bart’s, but was on sundry other committees, including the Fire Brigade, the Waterworks, Foord Almhouses and many more, as well of being on the board of governors of both Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School & Rochester Grammar School For Girls. He was mayor of Rochester from 1921-1923 (not, as has been previously stated in the Screen South East shotlist, when the film was being made. The mayor in 1930, was S.J. Brice).

His selfless workload may have proved too much for him, for he was taken ill unexpectedly whilst on a short holiday in Wales. He was transported back to St. Bart’s, where he died after an unsuccessful operation in April 1932.

His funeral was a grand affair, taking place in Rochester Cathedral. His obituary from the Chatham, Rochester & Gillingham News of 22nd April 1932 states the service at the Cathedral was ‘followed by procession through Rochester and thousands of people lined the route’. The obit also remarks on his work with the film - ‘Price travelled far and wide addressing meetings….and educating village people in the outlying districts upon the hospital’s work and its needs for funds’ and that Price had died in Bart’s ‘in the hospital for which he had worked so hard and done so much’.

Canon MacKean’s tribute at the funeral adds a post-script to the funding of the film for he states ‘he went to many places with the film he had purchased’.
Price was obviously the man behind the making of the film, and from this, it would appear he may well have personally funded it too. It is, however, not clear who he employed to make it. The film show at the end of trustees meeting may well be a clue, mentioning Kodak.

There may have been other donations towards its making, especially from the anonymous contributor of the portable cinema.  The film may give one clue, though this is no more than conjecture. It features extensive coverage of Edward Lloyd’s Paper Mill in Sittingbourne. Lloyd had already donated £10,000 in 1926 to have a ward named after his wife, Helen. He made further yearly donations to the hospital. Obviously a wealthy benefactor and surely Price would have known him well…

Finally, the 1932 report of the Association of Friends said of the death of Price ‘he left us with a lasting memory of a valued friend and benefactor. Mr. Price was a man of action, this was exemplified by the long journeys he took throughout the area served by the hospital to exhibit his film at meetings of the Friends’.

The Ladies Of Linen
Also featured in the film is the Annual General Meeting of The Ladies Of Linen.
This voluntary organisation had been set up in 1910 with the object of providing the supply of garments, linen, blankets etc. required for the in-patients of the hospital. The President in 1910 was Florence, Lady Darnley. She still held that position in 1930.

The 1930 Report states that these redoubtable ladies had to subscribe 2/6d annually and contribute two or more garments or two articles of ward linen. It was 5/- if you didn’t supply any garments! In 1929, they have provided 4449 articles. In 1930, they provided 2629 – but only because they had been asked to slacken their efforts as the hospital had too much! By 1931, it was stated they had supplied 23,000 garments in 21 years.

The 1930 report also states under the charming title ‘Stitches Of Hope’ that the annual meeting ‘differed from its predecessors in that the proceedings were filmed and will ultimately be incorporated in the film which is being taken in connection with all branches of the hospital and which is intended for public exhibition’. This part of the film, therefore, can be precisely dated as taking place on 25th November 1930, flying in the face of the newspaper report above that the film was complete in October!

As the intertitle says, the ‘happy bunch of workers’ are addressed by Florence, Countess Of Darnley, DBE. What is not mentioned is that it is followed by Alderman Price himself offering thanks. The Mayoress of Rochester, Mrs. Brice, then seconds the vote of thanks.
The meeting took place in the new out-patients department, which was brought into service for the first time on the following day. A new X-Ray department was also opened on that day.
The Darnleys were very much the local aristocrats, living at Cobham Hall since the early 18th Century. However, Florence and her husband the 8th Earl were forced to leave the mansion in 1924 to live at Puckle Hill. The Hall had become too expensive to run. It did, however, stay in the family till 1955, when it was sold to Westwood Educational Trust who turned it into a private school for girls.
An interesting footnote: The 8th Earl of Darnley’s name was Ivo Bligh. He was England’s cricket captain in 1882/3. in the first ever series where The Ashes were at stake. The previous tour had ended in defeat and was declared ‘the death of English cricket’ hence the burning of, possibly, a bail. Bligh was presented with the urn containing these Ashes when he emerged victorious, beating the Australians 2-1. The Countess presented the urn to the House Of Lords after Ivo’s death in 1927.

Updated Shotlist
The first intertitle is an introductory ‘The Hospital Of St. Bartholomew, Rochester, Kent. Founded by Bishop Gundulf, 1078. The oldest hospital in England”. The film was, however, referred to in the local press as ‘A Day In The Life Of St. Bart’s’. Maybe that title has been lost.
A long top shot pans slowly left to right past St Bartholomew's Hospital, revealing the River Medway behind and Chatham Dockyard is in the far distance.
The hospitals’s patron (and the Friends Of St. Bart’s President) The Very Reverend The Dean Of Rochester, Dr. R.T. Talbot, walks toward the camera.
The 15th Century Seal of the hospital carved in a wall.
‘Our hospital serves a population of a quarter of a million’ followed by top shot of hospital with buses passing it along New Road.
The chapel of St. Bartholomew – very quick exterior, followed by shot of the interior showing the Norman apse.
Dr. Ludford Cooper, Chairman of the Extensions Committee, speaking in mid-shot (no shots of the meeting) (Cooper was also the honorary consulting physician of the hospital and sat on the board of management. He also had a ward named after him).
The Hospital's Chaplain leads a dedication service for the new casualty and outpatients departments. Nurses and doctors gathered. Hospital exterior. The Reverend continues.
‘The Hospital At Work’ – ambulances past camera – first is St. John’s Ambulance, Sheerness, followed by two more unidentified, then a Chatham & District Ambulance, then a Borough Of Gillingham ambulance. The five ambulances drive up a street and turn R-L, then follow each other toward us in Rochester High Street past a temperance café, with Rochester Bridge in background, then past Rochester Guildhall.
A staged interlude charts the admission of a child who has been involved in a street accident – a City Of Rochester ambulance arrives, the boy is carried from its back into the hospital main entrance (a donations box is hanging at the entrance); ‘casualty’ sign; the patient is carried to a bed and examined by a doctor; chest x-ray is taken; operation in progress; the patient examined in ward; the patient eating – ‘well on the way to recovery’.
Nurses in uniform walking towards from nursing home
‘The wards. Where 2000 patients are treated annually’:- nurses at work in wards – three top shots panning left to right – all beds occupied. Visitors with patients, including boy with leg suspended in sling. Nurses with children in the children’s ward, close-up of young girl, nurse feeding baby as other children eat, close-up baby.
A round-up of Special Departments follows starting with Pathological ‘where ‘science plays its part’ – lab technicians at work with test-rubes and microscope;
The Ophthalmic Department – man having eyes tested;
The Orthopaedic Department ‘where the cripple can be made to walk’ – girl with very thin legs walking toward camera and back to bed; ‘orthopaedic students in training’ – schoolgirls going through physical exercise and walking along a beam. ‘Sunlight is harnessed to fight disease’ – man having heal treated by sunlamp; ‘Electricity costs money but works wonders’ – man having leg massage, other leg is attached to electrodes.
The Ear, Nose & Throat Department – man having his throat examined
The Dental Department – man being given gas in the dentist’s chair and undergoing dental surgery.
‘The Out-Patients Department, where 70000 attendances are made annually’ – full to bursting! ‘15000 yds of bandages and 39000 yds of Surgical Dressing, costing £750, are used in a year’ – boy with injured finger being attended to by nurses, administrator stamps patient’s book, doctor examined boy in surgery, woman doctor with female patient.
The Dispensary – pharmacist pouring out measure of liquid, many bottles on shelves in front of her.
‘Feeding a family of two hundred and fifty’ – milk churn carried to creamery van; meals being prepared in kitchen
‘Boiler House. Furnaces have appetites and cost over £1000 a year to feed’ – furnace stoked with coal
‘The Laundry. Three thousand articles are washed weekly’ – clean linen being sorted
‘Sewing Room’ – two women at work at foot-powered sewing machines making sheets
‘Peace…which passeth all understanding’ – two shots of horse-drawn ploughing
‘The Ladies Linen League. A Happy Band Of Workers. Florence, Countess of Darnley, D.B.E. addressing the annual meeting’ - This part of the film took place on 25th November 1930.  The Countess enters, followed by The Dean R.T. Talbot, and examines articles of linen that have been supplied by The Ladies. The meeting in progress in the new out-patients department (it was to be opened the following day). The Countess speaking. Alderman Ernest Price offering thanks, followed by The Mayoress of Rochester, Mrs. Brice, seconding.

‘Our patients come from field & factory’ – livestock sale at market (probably Maidstone), schoolchildren walking in line with teachers along street, traffic including buses in Military Road, Chatham (tramlines also showing); The Dockyard gates; workers boarding buses outside HM Dockyard; traffic in shopping street that is possibly Luton Road, Chatham; Style & Winch pub – The George Inn; train pulling truck of paper bales; list of accidents at the mill; ambulance leaving the mill; factory interiors and exteriors; steam rollers along street (possibly at top of end of Railway Street, Chatham); plane under construction at Short Brothers; woman worker sanding wing; shots of the River Medway showing factories; heavy plant work; crane unloading barge; gasworks across river; sacks along conveyor

‘£ S. D. IS A DAILY PROBLEM. Our hospital needs 9d every minute. Voluntary workers render valuable assistance’ – volunteers belonging to the Friends of St. Bart’s collecting donation boxes; volunteers walking along New Road carrying boxes. ‘Love. Sacrifice. Devotion’ – volunteers with boxes in office. ‘£20000 is required every year for maintenance’ – poster proclaiming ‘The Power Of The Penny’ tilt down to four cheques for £1000 each – ‘£4000. The Friends First Year’s Gift To St. Bart’s’. The film ends with the seal of St. Bart’s.

UID: 1186
AN: K 990525 / 1
Date: 1930
Length 31mins 40 secs
Mute with Intertitles.

Click here to read the film record and view a clip from the film in our Online Database, Screen Search


Research & shotlist by Keith Lambourne
23rd September 2010


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