Northampton General Hospital was given its name in 1903, but a hospital has stood on the site since 1793.
Northampton’s first infirmary on George Row was set up in 1744. For 46 years, it coped with its town house premises, even though the number of beds increased considerably. However, by 1790, surgeon Dr William Kerr realised they needed a new building and started fundraising.
The land to build the new infirmary was purchased from Reverend Walter Griffiths for £1000. An extra piece of land was also bought in order to build a road to the infirmary from St Giles Church. The infirmary would accommodate 100 patients and have its own brewhouse, bakehouse, and laundry. The total cost of the building was £15,000, which went £5000 over budget, causing hardship and bankruptcy for most of the builders involved.
In May 1790, the Medical Committee appointed Mr A. Saxon as the architect, who also acted as the surveyor on site. Local firms that worked on the infirmary included Adson & Gordon (masons), Moore & Lewis (carpenters), Mr Whitney (plumber), and Dadford & Mitchell (plasterers). The facing stone was donated by John Drayton from Kingsthorpe quarries. It was estimated that this donation was worth over £1000.
When the infirmary opened in 1793, the staff consisted of a surgeon, apothecary, matron, four nurses, four maids, and a porter. House rules were strict and religion played a large part in the daily routine. When the patients started to recover, they were expected to look after those less able - washing, cleaning and fetching meals. Assisting in the pharmacy was a popular choice. However, after staff discovered this was because it was where the wine and spirit stores were held, patients were closely supervised by a porter!
In the early days, patients were generally poor and were grateful for the free treatment, care, and food during their hospital stay. In the 19th century, some patients were less compliant and did not follow the house rules.
The hospital expanded several times in the 19th and 20th centuries, as did the town. What began as an infirmary built on an 8 acre site on the edge of town, with open views down to the River Nene, is now a town hospital on a site covering 46 acres.