Interesting history of hospital site

QUITE recently, I was privileged to be shown the building at the corner of Avenue Road and Tower Street, that now contains Harrogate Sign and Display Ltd, and the Home Guard Club, which I understand was established immediately after the end of the Second World War.

I have long been interested in this structure, as it has a varied and uncertain history, so I jumped at the chance of a guided tour, when one was offered. The building was probably erected before the year 1873, because historian William Grainge wrote that the existing cottage hospital was transferred to it in 1873. Logically, there must have been something in existence before 1873 for the hospital to move into.

The building did not then have its current appearance, as the section next to St Peter’s Schools was added after the hospital moved into even larger premises – the current St Peters Schools – in 1883.

The vacated old hospital was then taken over by the Masons, who doubled the size of the old building, and added to the structure various symbols associated with Freemasonry. The main upstairs room used by the Home Guard Club still has remnants of the masonic hall 's decorations.

It is recorded on Ordnance Survey maps that the current St Peter's schools building once had a detached "dead house", or mortuary at the back, but this disappeared in 1906 when an extension wing was added to the infirmary. Less known is that the old hospital next door also had a mortuary in the basement, which is one of the less pleasant areas of old Harrogate that I have inspected. As for the site of Harrogate's very first Cottage Hospital, opinion is mixed about where it was located.

A 1935 publication of photographs of old Harrogate shows the three red brick cottages that still stand at the end of Tower Street opposite the Home Guard Club, as having been the very first cottage hospital, known to have been established in 1870 following a meeting at old St Mary’s Church. However, historian Grainge reports that the location in Tower Street was at the other end, in a now demolished terrace called Belford Row, where the car park is now to be found.

My thanks to Advertiser readers Andrew Town, for insight into the construction of the building, and to Clifford B Hopes, for this week's very rare postcard view.