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A LAST REMANT OF THE OLD CORBETT HOSPITAL
IN DESPERATE DANGER OF DEMOLITION
by Nick Baker

Amblecote Corbett-Corbett Hospital, which once dominated the high ground above the main Stourbridge road at the south of Amblecote was completely demolished in 2007, including the remnant of the eighteenth century mansion known as ‘The Hill’ which stood at its core. The site now stands empty, awaiting an economic upturn before the building of residential homes can begin.

Whilst the road leading up to the former main hospital site has been named John CorbettWay (thanks to local Councillor Pat Martin without Lodge_1whom Dudley Council would have named it ‘Stoke Prior Way’!) and a piece of modern commemorative artwork by MBC Artist, Steve Field, is fixed to a new primary care building that occupies part of the site; there remains one important original detail which recalls Corbett’s gift to the town.

Lodge_2This is incorporated in the lodge building which still stands adjacent to the old hospital main gates on High Street Amblecote. This magnificent structure is the only major building of the old hospital left standing (the old Surgeon's house also stands nearby, although strictly speaking this was not part of the hospital itself) and includes on its front elevation a relief of John Corbett’s arms of a raven surmounted by an elephant and castle. There used to be a similar plaque above the door of the main hospital, but this seems to have been lost.

Sadly the lodge is in a desperate state of disrepair and it is only a matter of time before neglect and Johnny-vandal bring about its demise. It belongs to Dudley Hospital Trust whose record in maintaining even relatively small items of historic interest is, at best, patchy. The lodge and its adjacent gates are in fact locally listed on Dudley MBC’s Historic Building Register; although this can mean little when it comes to a lightning demolition.

The function of the lodge was to control access to the hospital. There were two main reasons.Lodge_3

Firstly only those eligible for treatment were allowed in, no matter what their complaint. The hospital may well have been created as a philanthropic gesture by John Corbett, but there was never any Lodge_4suggestion that it was open to all-comers. Corbett was a great believer in helping those who helped themselves and for that reason admission was by ‘ticket’ only. Tickets could be obtained by subscription, paid for either by an employer or workers association, or issued at the behest of a local worthy such as a clergyman. It must be remembered that the hospital was originally intended as a place for the treatment of industrial injuries and that in consequence John Corbett expected those entering it to be engaged in some form of useful industry themselves. The lodge was the first point of contact and a porter would have expected to see the requisite paperwork before allowing entry.

Secondly the lodge was a form of early ‘infection control’. The Corbett, in dealing principally with industrial injuries, was a largely surgical establishment; and whilst early 20th century doctors were relatively good at surgery, they were less competent at preventing and controlling infection – even after the introduction of antiseptics during surgery itself. Meanwhile the great epidemic killers of the pre-antibiotic, primitive vaccination period, such as diphtheria and measles, simply could not be helped by admission to hospital, to say nothing of the danger this would present to surgical patients. Thus the lodge was a ‘threshold’ beyond which infectious patients were not permitted to cross, being sent instead to the workhouse infirmary at Wordsley.