Ashcombe House was a mansion built off of Milton Road, Weston-s-Mare for the Capell family, after being empty for a number of years it was compulsory purchased by Weston Urban District Council in 1914 under a bill sanctioned by Parliament.
It was loaned by the Council for use as an Auxiliary Red Cross Hospital with a capacity of up to 82 beds. In 1917 a large annexe was built in front of the building to increase the bed capacity to 166.
BRITISH RED CROSS REPORT 1918
Ashcombe House Auxiliary Hospital Weston-super-Mare
Commandant: Dr. WALLACE.
Medical Officers: Dr. WALLACE and Dr. PRANCE.
Lady Superintendets: Miss PETHICK and Mrs. F. W. BERE, in alternate months.
Ashcombe House is lent by the Urban District Council of Weston-super-Mare, and was first opened as a Hospital in December, 1914. The annexe was opened in October, 1917, and by arrangement with the Y.M.C.A., one of their larger huts was erected in 1918 for use as a Mess Room, in addition to the purposes for which the Association Huts are generally used.
The total available beds in the Hospital (including 12 at the General Hospital for surgical cases) number 166, but on January 14th the upper storey and part of the roof of Ashcombe House were accidentally destroyed by fire.
During 1918 the total number of inpatients was 1,022 and of outpatients 92 (12 officers and 80 other ranks). The average number of patients resident daily was 111.2. Much kind help had been given by friends in the gardens and grounds, and the local public, as in previous years, has generously supported the Hospital by gifts in “kind” as well as of money privately subscribed and collected through various forms of entertainment. One of the most successful was a Garden Fete given by the Vice-President, Mrs. GRAVES-KNYFTON which bought in £306. The Weston-super-Mare Red Cross Needle Work Society under the superintendence of Mrs. LOVIBOND assisted by Miss TUCKER as Hon. Secretary provided 5,600articles including, bandages, moss dressing. possession bags and garments of all kinds and a collection amounted to over £200.
In January 1918 there was a fire which destroyed the roof and caused serious damage to the rest of the building but the generous people of Weston raised money towards the repair of the house with collections and fund raising events.
Fire Brigade Report
The local fire brigade, at their station in Oxford Street, were alerted to the fire but were unable to find a horse to pull the engine – councillors still refused to purchase a motor fire engine and even a horse had to be supplied by a third party, usually a local trader or cabman; but many horses had been commandeered for war work – so in desperation the brigade chief, Captain TEMPLE, contacted the local office of the Bristol Tramways & Carriage Company, who sent several motor taxis. A hose cart was attached to one and used with the others to convey firemen to Milton Road, where by now a considerable crowd had gathered, many of them muttering about the late arrival of the brigade for it was now well after six o’clock and Mr. MARSH, hall porter at Ashcombe House, alleged he had operated the break-glass fire alarm pillar in Hill Road around five-thirty, soon after the fire had been discovered.
Views of the Fire Damaged building.
The fire, that was later decided to have been caused by a faulty chimney flue, had been discovered on the top floor of the three storey building by one of the patients. By the time the brigade arrived much of that floor had been destroyed and flames were licking from windows on the floor below. Luckily during the intervening time hospital staff, led by Sister WHITE, had moved the patients, all servicemen, to safety in the hospital annexe or other buildings and there were no casualties.
Despite their, blameless, late arrival the Weston brigade were quickly at work, some members overcoming the lack of ladders by climbing adjacent trees and aiming their water hoses from the lofty branches. Eventually the blaze was brought under control, but not before considerable damage had been done; the top floor, which had been contained within the roof space, was totally gone with only the stonework of the dormer windows remaining. The lower floors had not suffered serious fire damage, but little had escaped either falling debris or the gallons of water poured onto the inferno, although firemen, police, hospital staff and onlookers had managed to bring out much of the lighter contents to a place of safety.
Captain TEMPLE’s later report on the fire indicated that the first alarm had been received at the station at 5.55pm and the first four men arrived at Ashcombe House in a taxicab at 6.10pm. The roof was already well alight. A second cab arrived at the fire at 6.12pm and two lines of hose were got to work from hydrants in Manor Road, but only at low pressure, high pressure water not becoming available until 6.25pm when pumps were switched on at the waterworks. The fire escape arrived at 7.15pm having been manually pushed from the station. The fire was brought under control by 8.00pm and extinguished by 11.00pm, with firemen remaining on the scene until 10.00am the following morning.
Christmas 1917 at Ashcombe House.