Origins of the names behind wards at the Wrexham Maelor


Rhian Waller

MOST hospital visits are either unexpected or at least unwilling.

So it’s a rare person who enters the lobby of the Maelor Hospital in Wrexham and, rather than rushing through the labyrinth of corridors to an appointment, stops to think about the deeper history of the wards.

So when an anonymous gentleman contacted the Wrexham Leader asking why the Maelor wards were called what they were, we were intrigued.

With the help of Michael Crumplin, former consultant surgeon at the Maelor Hospital, we delved into the names that so many people walk past every day.

Considering the modern Maelor was opened by the Duchess of Kent in 1985 after the War Memorial and Maelor General Hospitals came together, there was plenty to think about.

Mr Crumplin worked at the Maelor from 1977 to 2001, and now retired is an author, researcher and historian as well as a curator and archivist for the Royal College of Surgeons in England.

He said: “The wards at Wrexham Maelor Hospital carry names that are a mixture of those from the former Maelor General and other earlier hospitals on the site.

“Others came across when wards were transferred as part of the relocation of services from the former War Memorial Hospital and some new names that have been adopted as new facilities open on the site. Over time a number of ward names have also passed out of use.”

A number of the wards are simply named after their specialty – the eye ward for ophthalmology, the Children’s Ward and the High Dependency Unit, for example.

Others are tied into the history of the area.

Near the main entrance lie the Overton and Evington wards.

Mr Crumplin said: “We know they are named after local families who were significant benefactors to the wards. We believe the same may be true for Cunliffe Ward, although we couldn’t uncover any records to confirm this.

“Because of the thematic naming of groups of wards in the hospital, we suspect this may also be the case for Mason Ward. However it has also been suggested the name may reflect Masonic support – there are a number of Masonic lodges in the Wrexham area that might have acted as benefactors.”

Tackling a flight of stairs or taking the lift will bring you to the Fleming and Lister wards – names you may recognise from more than a family visit.

Mr Crumplin said: “The principal surgical wards are all named after people who made a notable contribution to medical or health science.

“Alexander Fleming is famed for discovering penicillin and effectively heralding the use of antibiotics, Joseph Lister was a British surgeon and a pioneer of antiseptic surgery and Richard Bright was an English physician and early pioneer in the research of kidney disease.

“Louis Pasteur was one of the most important founders of medical microbiology while the former Lewis ward was named after Ifor Lewis, a great Welsh oesophageal surgeon who did some locum work at the former Maelor General Hospital.”

Some names are on the verge of being lost in time, like the Hans Anderson and Lewis Carroll wards, named after children’s writers, which were amalgamated into the larger Children’s Ward.

Deeper into the complex within obstetrics and gynaecology, we find ward names that are no longer in use such as Gilliatt Ward.

This has now been taken over as a gynaecology ward and renamed Bonney. On the other hand additional ward names have been brought back into use such as Blairbell which is now an ante-natal day unit.

Mr Crumplin recalled: “Sir William Gilliatt was an obstetrician and gynaecologist at King’s College Hospital, London, who served for more than 20 years as gynaecologist to the royal family.

“Coincidentally, in the mid 1900s the queen’s surgeon-gynaecologist was Sir Andrew Gilliatt, who supervised the births of Prince Charles in 1948 and Princess Anne in 1950, but we are not aware of whether he was related to Sir William.

“William Blairbell was the founder of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.”

The Bonney, Simpson and Lawson Tait wards were likewise named after pioneering gynaecologists, including Sir James Simpson, who discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform.

Others are named after cultural rather than medical heroes, including the Owain Glyndwr ward – although why it was named after the famous Welsh warlord, no one is sure.

Toward the rear of the main Maelor building lies the Prince of Wales Ward, although it predates Charles’ investiture.

Mr Crumplin said: “The Prince of Wales Ward was named after Prince Edward after he laid the foundation stone for the War Memorial Hospital in Wrexham. The name came across to Wrexham Maelor Hospital when the ward moved to the site in 1986.

“The nearby Pantomime Ward was named after the Walter Roberts Pantomime Company who performed annually and donated the proceeds from their productions to purchase beds for the ward.”

Wrexham patients resident in the Maelor can take comfort from the fact they are never too far from home, as other ward names indicate.

Mr Crumplin said: “Bromfield, the isolation ward, is the historic name of a county division, actively used in Wales from the 16th to 19th Century in the Wrexham area which formed one of the Marcher lordships. Its use as a ward name is consistent with other wards whose names link to local geography.”

Likewise Yale ward could either take its name from an archaic district, or from Elihu Yale, a benefactor of Yale University in the USA, who was buried in the grounds of Wrexham Parish Church.

Others names reflect their Welsh heritage.

The newer Onnen and Bedwen rehabilitation wards, built as part of the re-provision to replace the former Meadowslea, Dobshill and Trevalyn Hospitals, were suggested by staff. They are the Welsh names of trees: ash and birch respectively.

Some wards have gone beyond the confines of the Maelor grounds.

Mr Crumplin said: “Named after the famous nurse, the Nightingale ward is notable as being where consultant anaesthetist Dr Graham Arthurs first set up a clinic for pain relief in the hospital.

“This developed into a ward with Macmillan nurses for patients with cancer which became the starting point for the vision for a hospice in Wrexham, leading to the fundraising and then construction of Nightingale House Hospice, which took its name from the ward.”

So next time you visit the Maelor, if you have a moment, ponder on the history of the hospital.

See full story in the Leader

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