Freedom Fields - the history behind Plymouth's Workhouse and well-known hospital

Freedom Fields Hospital was an acute hospital in Plymouth which closed in 1998. The site formerly occupied by the hospital has now been largely redeveloped for residential use.

The only standing part of Freedom Fields hospital. Image credit: Mick Lobb, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Originally opened in 1858 as the Plymouth Workhouse, it was enlarged several times and eventually became the Greenbank Infirmary in 1909. Upon the workhouse system ceasing in 1930 it became the Plymouth City Hospital.

The facility was designed by Arthur and Dwelly as a workhouse and built on a site to the east of the junction of Longfield Place and Greenbank Road between 1852 and 1858.[1] Enlargements included a major expansion of the medical facilities between 1907 and 1910. It became the Greenbank Infirmary in 1909 and the Plymouth City Hospital in 1930.

As from Sunday August 18th 1940 the visiting hours at Plymouth's City Hospital (otherwise known as Freedom Fields Hospital) were: to wards 1 to 8 inclusive, Tuesdays only, between 5.30 and 6.30pm; to ward 14 and the maternity and children's wards, Sundays only, between 2.30 and 3.30pm; to wards 15 and 16, Fridays only, between 5.30 and 6.30pm. Only one visitor was allowed per patient in the Hospital at any one time.

Being a rather distinctive building on the brow of a hill, it became an easy target for the air raids of the Second World War. Wards 6 and 7 were totally wrecked on the night of January 13th 1941, with the loss of 60 bed spaces. One 12-year-old girl was killed and five women were injured. Worse was to come during the night of March 20th, the beginning of the Plymouth Blitz. The brand new maternity block, built by Mr A N Coles and which had only been opened by Lord Astor, the Lord Mayor, on Saturday February 1st, received a direct hit, killing four nurses, nineteen babies and one mother. The names are listed in Second World War/Blitz (March 1941).

A map of the site. Image credit: Plymouth workhouse site.

After that the expectant mothers were sent to Flete House.

Shortly after the inauguration of the National Health Service in 1951 it became known as Freedom Fields Hospital. It underwent tremendous enlargement, with the addition of a new casualty department, pharmacy, sterile supply department, radiography department and intensive care unit.

Closure commenced in January 1982 when the Renal Unit was transferred out to the new Derriford Hospital. This process went slowly, though, with Maternity Department now moving until 1994 and the last patients not leaving until February 1998. The site has now been redeveloped as affordable housing, the only remnant being the Freedom House that was added in 1909 to house the Board of Guardians.

Renal services transferred to the new Derriford Hospital in 1982, maternity services transferred there in 1994 and the remaining services transferred in February 1998. The site was redeveloped as a housing estate in 2000 and virtually all the hospital buildings have now been demolished.

Bits of information from the following sources:

Brian Moseley -

Plymouth workhouse

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