Steve Thompson's talk on 2nd October in the Borough Theatre starts at 7.30pm. Non-members may join on the night.

From Cradle to Grave

Helen Morgan reports:

It is said that Aneurin Bevan modelled the National Health Service based on a workmen’s scheme that provided medical care in Tredegar until 1948. But the truth is more complex than that. Helen Morgan from Abergavenny Local History Society reports.

True, the Tredegar society was one of the most robust, comprehensive and democratic health schemes that existed before the NHS. Its roots lay in 19th-century industrialisation when, like other iron and coal employers, the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company appointed an on-site doctor. Workers paid the doctor via compulsory contributions but it was the company who appointed or dismissed him. This lack of control was a source of bitterness. Workers complained that while they paid the piper, they rarely got to call the tune and suspected the company of pocketing any surplus So, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, many workers across south Wales took over and workmen’s committees were established to enhance the basic features.

From here on, doctors were employed on set salaries, and surplus funds were used to extend services available to workers and their families. By the 1920s the Tredegar committee included “town members” from among the middle class as well as railway workers and others not employed by the steelworks. They had five doctors, one surgeon, two pharmacists, a physiotherapist, a dentist and a district nurse at their disposal. For an extra four pennies a week, the Tredegar society also offered hospital care to members. Depending on the ailment, patients were treated at the cottage hospital, or at the Gwent in Newport or Cardiff Royal Infirmary. Convalescent homes such as Nevill Hall, bought in 1920 by Blaina & District Hospital were  established.

Yet rural areas without heavy industry, such as Abergavenny, had a modicum of health care. A Dispensary, funded by the wealthier residents, opened at 45 Castle Street in 1828 to provide medicine for the poor. By 1890, a cottage hospital was established at 56 Castle Street, maintained by voluntary subscriptions and fund-raising events. But by March 1895 it had eight patients yet only five beds. Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897 was the catalyst that focused minds. Built and maintained by the shop keepers, trades people and professional classes. Victoria Cottage Hospital and dispensary on the Hereford Road opened in October, 1902.

From: Forgotten Abergavenny by Louis Bannon

Abergavenny Local History Society 
          Charity Number 1098582              

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