Moor Top Smallpox Hospital, Meltham Edge, Meltham

The Moor Top Smallpox Hospital, also known as the Colne Valley Smallpox Hospital, treated smallpox patients from 1893 to at least the late 1930s. It predated the separate Colne & Holme Fever Hospital which treated other infections diseases.


A virulent outbreak of smallpox in the Colne Valley in late December 1892 prompted Linthwaite Local Board to lease a remote and unoccupied farm at Moor Top, Meltham Edge, for the purpose of creating a temporary isolation hospital. A committee was quickly formed "for the purpose of hurrying along the [repair] work on, and purchasing the requisite furniture and fittings". A suggestion was also made that a purpose-built joint isolation hospital would benefit the neighbouring townships of Slaithwaite, Lingards, Golcar, Marsden and Meltham, although it would be a further decade before those plans came to fruition.[1]

By late January 1893, two of the victims in the Colne Valley had died, one of whom was 41-year-old weaver Benjamin Lockwood of Royd House in Linthwaite who died on 19 January. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that the deaths had "struck terror into the residents" of the Colne Valley and those who could afford to do so had "sent their children away". A schoolmistress who resided at Dyke End, Golcar, had also contracted the disease due to working at the Wesleyan School in Linthwaite.[2]

Representatives of the local boards inspected the converted farm on the afternoon of Monday 16 January and decided it was fit to start receiving patients.[3] The Huddersfield Chronicle reported:[4]

The two rooms on the ground floor of the farmhouse have been set apart for the caretakers and the nurse, and the two rooms upstairs have been fitted up with six beds and other necessary furniture for the patients.

On Monday 23 January, Linthwaite Local Board appointed John William Garside[5] and his wife as the caretakers for the property. Dr. C.H.M. Williamson was appointed to attended the hospital, which had now been named the Linthwaite Joint Hospital.[6]

In May 1893, a cart driver named Schofield from Golcar was diagnosed with smallpox and admitted to the hospital. Dr. Walker, the Medical Officer for the Colne Valley, was unable to identify how the man had contracted the disease.[7] A couple of weeks later, Fred Beaumont had returned home to the Rose and Crown Inn, Holmfirth, which was kept by his father Abel, and fell ill. The following day it was diagnosed as smallpox and he was removed to Moor Top, with Holmfirth Local Board offering to pay for the expenses incurred.[8][9]

At a joint local boards meeting in July 1893, it was reported that the Moor Top hospital had so far treated a total of 15 patients from the townships of Linthwaite, Marsden, Golcar, Holmfirth, and Meltham. The total cost converting the farm had been just over £200 and the building could accommodate "about a dozen patients". A caretaker was employed on a wage of £1 per week. At that time, Linthwaite Local Board was still bearing the cost of maintaining the hospital, with the other local boards paying as and when they needed to use it. Despite there being interest in operating a joint hospital — to which all the local boards would contribute — the representatives of Meltham were strongly opposed to the idea.[10][11]

The following month, the local boards of Linthwaite, Slaithwaite, Golcar and Marsden agreed to jointly pay for the Moor Top Hospital, and to take cases from Holmfirth only if spaces were available.[12] To reflect the decision, the hospital tended to then be referred to as the Colne Valley Smallpox Hospital or the Colne Valley Joint Hospital.

In January 1896, it was reported that a resident of Brook Lane, Golcar, had contracted smallpox after visiting the Wakefield Christmas Market and was removed to the hospital whilst his house was disinfected.[13] A further outbreak occurred at the end of the month in a family residing on Guy Lane, including the daughter who had refused to be vaccinated against the disease.[14]

Under the provisions of the the Isolation Hospitals Act 1893, discussions continued as to the building of a dedicated facility for townships in the Colne and Holme valleys, but continued objections by the Meltham Local Board meant that the process dragged on until 1901 when the West Riding County Council purchased land at Spring Head, Meltham, in 1901. The Colne & Holme Fever Hospital, designed by Joseph Berry, formally opened on Saturday 3 September 1904.

The Moor Top hospital continued to be run as a smallpox hospital, with a family of nine from Meltham admitted in October 1904.[15] After that, it was seemingly mothballed and only opened when necessary. Newspaper reports of subsequent admissions include: a married couple from Golcar in March 1905[16], an outbreak in the Colne Valley in October and November 1921 which filled the hospital[17], two cases in September 1924 (a boy visiting Milnsbridge from Scarborough and Linthwaite sanitary inspector Albert Mallinson)[18]

The smallpox hospital had seemingly closed by 1940, when it was reported that the Colne & Holme Joint Hospital Board had made enquiries to the Elland & District Hospital Board to ascertain if smallpox patients could be sent to Elland Hospital.[19] However, the hospital was reportedly still admitting cases in 1938, according to that year's "Report of the Medical Officer of Health for the Urban District of Holmfirth".[20]


Notes and References

  1. "The Outbreak of Small-Pox at Linthwaite" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (11/Jan/1893).
  2. "Small-Pox: Further Ravages near Huddersfield" in Yorkshire Evening Post (20/Jan/1893).
  3. "Small-Pox in Yorkshire" in Yorkshire Gazette (21/Jan/1893).
  4. "The Linthwaite Infectious Diseases Hospital" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (17/Jan/1893).
  5. This was likely the John William Garside born circa 1853 in Linthwaite whose wife was named Martha.
  6. "Linthwaite" in Huddersfield Chronicle (28/Jan/1893).
  7. "A Case of Small-Pox in Golcar" in Huddersfield Chronicle (13/May/1893).
  8. "Holmfirth" in Huddersfield Chronicle (27/May/1893).
  9. "Linthwaite Local Board" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (02/Jun/1893).
  10. "Small-Pox Hospital Accommodation in the Colne Valley" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (18/Jul/1893).
  11. Whilst the Meltham Local Board may have resented the opening of the smallpox hospital within the boundaries of their township, the primary reason appears to be that they were considering opening their own isolation hospital and therefore had little interest in contributing to a joint hospital.
  12. "Isolated Hospital Accommodation in the Colne Valley" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (24/Aug/1893).
  13. "Local District Councils: Golcar" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (17/Jan/1896).
  14. "Local District Councils: Linthwaite" in Huddersfield Daily Chronicle (11/Feb/1896).
  15. Leeds Mercury (17/Oct/1904).
  16. Leeds Mercury (22/Mar/1905).
  17. Yorkshire Post (30/Nov/1921).
  18. Yorkshire Evening Post (03/Oct/1924).
  19. Yorkshire Post (10/Jan/1940).