£1,500 for a hospital bed
Documents given to the safe custody of the Civic Association open a lens on the period
between 1923 and 1963 when Ruthin Castle was a hospital
A 36-page 9″ x 6″ brochure dated September
1950 promotes the hospital and the virtues of
Ruthin itself which in the ‘Eden of Wales’ enjoys
a ‘mild and equable but not relaxing climate’.
From 24 guineas a week for a bedroom and up
to 40 guineas a week for one with what today
are called en-suite facilities, plus 30 guineas for
preliminary lab or X-ray investigations, patrons
had access to first class medical staff and full
board. It was certainly not for the indigent. 40
guineas equates to about £1,500 per week
Sounding like something out of Richard
Gordon’s fictional St Swithin’s, the brochure
acknowledges one Sir Edmund Ivens Spriggs
as co-founder and senior physician. Upon
Spriggs’s retirement, his replacement, Sydney
Wentworth Patterson, was credited formerly as
consulting physician to no other than king
Edward VII. Edward, of course, was Bertie, a
frequent visitor to Ruthin Castle when titled
prince of Wales, visiting the then home of the
In 1913, Duff House in Banff, Aberdeenshire,
was the first private hospital of its kind to open.
Success there resulted 10 years later in ‘a general demand for doctors and patients that similar work
should be done in a place more easily reached from larger centres’. Ruthin was the place deemed to
be ‘more easily reached’ hence the purchase of Ruthin Castle & grounds.
As if to emphasise Ruthin’s accessibility, the brochure includes maps showing Ruthin as the focus of
the road and rail networks of the time. This, of course, was 12 years before the closure of the LMS
passenger line through Ruthin. There were indicative rail times from London, Birmingham,
Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and, unsurprisingly, Aberdeen. As for travel by car,
‘Ruthin is easily reached by motor from the midlands and northern
regions of England and from north and south Wales’.
In a town known for the purity of its water, the brochure boasts ‘A
pure and private water supply flows from a spring and reservoir
on the property’. To guard against drought, the Castle ‘has been
connected with the Birkenhead Water Supply and this can be
drawn on at any moment’.
For its time, the facilities at the hospital were impressive. Then
again, you wouldn’t spent £1,500 a week for a back street clinic.
The moat and south wings were newly constructed for the clinic,
as were the specially built kitchens.
The hospital boasted two ‘new and enlarged’ main laboratories
with eight accessory rooms, accessible by crossing the bridge
over the middle moat.
These were fitted with ‘modern appliances for chemical,
bacteriological and pathological work’. There were separate
‘laboratories of radiology’ at the junction of the moat and south wings.
There was a fixed and a portable electrocardiograph. There was also a ‘properly lighted and fitted
operating room’ with sterilising room adjoining. Those patients who were likely to be X-rayed were
asked to bring pyjamas or nightdresses not made of silk.
There was a slightly perverse-sounding ‘douche-massage bath’ and this was seemingly a rather
primitive piece of equipment designed for some unspecified ‘abnormal complaints’. There was an
electric light bath for obesity and for kidney disorders, and an intestinal douche for bowl disorders.
The rather mediæval-sounding ‘Faradism, galvanism, diathermy, the short wave and similar
methods’ were provided ‘and the Bergonié chair’, which appears to be a non-lethal electric model.
‘Sufferers from every form of internal disease are receiving diagnosis and treatment at Ruthin
Castle’. Among the long list of suggested maladies were high tension, rest after overwork, habitual
constipation, emaciation and ‘the Anæmias’.
There were also exclusions, in bold type, including those with ‘infectious diseases, including active
pulmonary tuberculosis; inebrity, severe neurosis, hypochondriasis; epilepsy in any form or mental
Unstable, drunken, afflicted sufferers of covid-19, real or imagined, need not therefore apply.