Essex County Hospital Through The Lens

deb    Deb Wiltshire

ECH Main Entrance 1918 #5

Many of us will at some point have spent a happy Sunday afternoon rummaging through the treasure trove that is a photograph album or box of old family pictures.  We were fortunate to find such a box at Essex County Hospital. These images allow us to see Essex County in its early years and to trace how it has changed over its 200-year history.

There are photos which capture the main site. In this early picture from 1884 we can see the hospital as it was orginally designed.

ECH 1884

In this aerial photo from around 2001 the original building is still apparent with its distinctive white portico. We can also see how much the site has grown around it – as had the scale and the needs of the local community.

ECH site

The photographs discovered don’t just tell us what the hospital looked like, they show us how the buildings were used and what services were provided at Essex County.

ECH pharmacy B ECH pharmacy F

The above pictures show the dispensary or pharmacy at the turn of the 20th century, whilst the picture below is of the operating theatre around 1921.


There are also many photographs showing life on the wards, including the charming pictures of the wards at Christmas which were the subject of an earlier blog.


People are a vital part of any hospital community. Amongst the photographs were a number of formal group photos of medical staff dating from the late 1800s.

ECH Medical Staff 1880 ECH staff 1926

Within the box of photographs, we found an almost complete photographic record of the women who were in charge of the wards – the matrons – spanning from Miss Robertson (matron from 1877 to 1881) to Miss Wyman (matron from 1958 to 1974).

Miss Robertson 1877_1881 Miss Wyman 1958_1974

We also found a number of informal photos, many of the hospital’s nurses relaxing in the grounds surrounding the hospital and nurses’ home.

Night nurses home Oxford Rd 1948

We were pleased to find a photographic record of staff whose work is not always as well documented as that of nurses and doctors. Mr Lamb, a porter, appears in a number of pictures, carrying water and tending to the hospital gardens under the watchful eye of a young patient.


Some of the photos were annotated with dates and names, but many were not. All of the photographs have been digitised and can be found on the ECH Heritage Flickr page and we invite you to look through the collections. Perhaps you recognise some of the people, or perhaps you can tell us more about life at the hospital? If so, please do get in touch with us via our Contact page.

Or you can come and visit us at the Heritage Open Day to celebrate and commemorate 200 years of service on the 30th June 2018. Stay tuned for more details soon!

One thought on “Essex County Hospital Through The Lens

  1. Excellent photographs … thanks for the peek into times past. Miss Wyman was Matron when I was working in the St. Helena Group Hospital Management Committee Group Offices in Pope’s Lane, 1967-71.


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