BYGONE HARROGATE by Malcolm Neesam

The Grand Duchess's hospitals

ALTHOUGH this week's Bygone Harrogate article is accompanied by a rather faint photograph, it is of such historical interest as to merit publication. The photograph shows Queen Alexandra, consort of the late Edward VII, during her visit to Harrogate in August 1917.

The location is the corner of East Parade and Dragon Parade, outside the building that later became a clinic. During the Great War, a number of private hospitals were opened in the town by a remarkable lady known as the Grand Duchess George of Russia.

This was not the same person as Princess Alix of Hesse, who stayed at Cathcart House on West Park, and who eventually became Empress of Russia.

The Grand Duchess George, more accurately known as Maria Georgievina, had married the Grand Duke Georgi Mikhailovitch, grandson of Tsar Nicholas 1st, in May 1900, and she was no stranger to Harrogate, which she seems first to have visited in July 1910, with her invalid daughter.

When the Great War broke out in August 1914, the Grand Duchess opened a hospital for soldiers at no 1 Tewit Well Avenue, in a building that later became a home for Dr Barnado's Orphanage. Three further hospitals were opened in Harrogate, all funded by the Grand Duchess, who not only gave very large sums of money, but who also nursed the soldiers herself, working in the often cramped wards.

Indeed, this illustrious and privileged lady also contracted lice from the often verminous soldiers, but was said to have treated it lightly. From her rented house on York Place, she ran the hospitals at Heatherdene, Wetherby Road; St. George's, Duchy Road; the Tewit Well Avenue hospital; and St.Nicholas, at the junction of East Parade and Dragon Parade.

This week's photograph shows the Grand Duchess at right - with a box camera - just after she had shown the Queen-Empress around the hospital. Unfortunately the Grand Duchess lost her husband in January 1919, when he was murdered by the bolshevics.

After the Great War, a small stone cross was place on the Stray at the junction with Wetherby Road, which commemorates the soldiers who died in the four hospitals. I think that the Grand Duchess deserves a plaque of her own.

There was once a lovely story told about a badly-briefed relief policeman, who met Queen Alexandra in James Street, but that will have to wait for another occasion.