Wharfe Grange Hospital

Taken on the cold snow afternoon of Monday the 21st of January 2013 Copyright: M Taylor

Here we have three Wetherby News articles relating to the Hospital which tell us of the history and the sale of the building

AS YET another Wetherby institution is lost to the town, leading historian Dr James Lodge has traced the history of Wharfe Grange Hospital which closed last week.

The closure of Wharfe Grange was a significant event in the history of Wetherby. Some will recall the ‘crocodile’ of patients walking to the Rodney cinema twice a week; more will remember the smaller ‘crocodile’ which could recently be seen walking into the town.

Dr James Lodge

When after the last war, Wharfe Grange became a hospital for mentally sub-normal women it was a general opinion that these patients would not make ‘old bones‘. However medical science and good, kind nursing care “‘ disproved this! Many of these ladies lived well into old age, one receiving a telegram from the Queen on her 100th birthday

It is good that some them are now living at Benedicts Ashfield – no longer as patients but as old ladies being cared for to the community. It is also nice that thanks to the staff, several of the garden seats from the hospital are now in the Garden of Rest at Wetherby for all our old people to use.

But how many people now will remember Wharfe Grange when it was the Board of Union Poor Law Workhouse for Wetherby and district. The Victorian Work House got a bad name, but this one, when Mr Gwynfor Popkins was Master, bore little resemblance to the novels of Charles Dickens.

Progress is strange but those living rough on the streets of Leeds and London today are less well fed, get worse care and relative to the time, worse medical attention that those in Wharfe Grange in 1945.

Wharfe Grange was built as the ‘new’ Work House in 1863 for a cost of £5,000 to replace the existing one at Northfields. It was the largest building in Wetherby and had an ample board room to match.

When local government as we know it was introduced in 1894 (an event I think we should celebrate next year), both the District and Parish Councils met in that board room until 1938 – when the present council offices were opened in West Gate. During those 44 years many major issues which still affect our lives were decided.

The sale sign says it all

Of interest, too, is the stone building on the left at the start of Spofforth Hill. This I am told was the armoury for Wetherby Home Guard. The smaller building behind this was a mortuary where for many years the Coroner’s post mortems were carried out – but with a junior police constable always present as part of his training. (I attended as a medical student.)

The whole site is now for sale and money as always will be the prime consideration. I hope that fate and in particular town planners do not lightly allow this interesting and historic complex of buildings to be bulldozed into oblivion.

I also hope that these few remarks may encourage others with memories of Wharfe Grange to put them down on paper and send them either to me or to the Wetherby News.

Source :Wetherby News Scrapbooks Album 62 Page 18


Wetherby Grange Hospital

WHARFE GRANGE Hospital of sixty-one beds for mentally handicapped patients, situated at the junction of Linton Road and Harrogate Road Wetherby, began its days as Wetherby Workhouse, having been built in 1839, to house homeless and penniless people. It continued with this function until the Poor Law Act was passed, when it also housed the homeless and rejected – and changed its name to the West Riding Institution, Wetherby.

It continued as such until the creation of the National Health Service in 1948, -and the administration had been largely carried out by the traditional Male Superintendent and Matron under the auspices of the West Riding County Council.

When the National Health Service was formed, it again changed its name to the more sophisticated title of Wharfe Grange Hospital for the care of the mentally handicapped, under Harrogate Hospital Management Committee.

Since re-organisation it now forms part of the Special Sector of Leeds Area Health Authority being part of Leeds Eastern Health District and administered by a nursing officer in charge and the traditional nursing domestic and ancillary staff. This is a far cry from the original function when it was built as a workhouse almost a century and a half ago.

Workhouse 1979 Wetherby News article



A FORMER workhouse site at Wetherby which is being redeveloped by Arncliffe Houses, will retain its name – Wharfe Grange – and historic character.

The company also promises improved visibility and a safer passage for pedestrians at this busy junction of Spofforth Hill with Linton Road where Wharfe Grange is sited.

Arncliffe technical director Phillip Macer says: “One of our major priorities is to ensure access to the development is as safe and secure as possible – and our plans include the re-alignment of a boundary wall at Spofforth Hill and the construction of a 1.8m footpath where none exists at the moment.”

This will also improve visibility for road users at the junction.

Historic Wharfe Grange: once a workhouse and soon to be apartments and houses

As reported, worried mums – backed by the Wetherby News – successfully campaigned for an improvement package there some years ago. But the area still causes anxiety.

Local residents have also been concerned about vandalism at the redundant hospital and the overgrown state of the grounds. And stretches of the boundary limestone wall have been stolen.

Now a spokesman for Wetherby Town Council says: “Early development of Wharfe Grange hospital was felt necessary by the council to minimise risk of further deterioration on the site.

“We welcome Arncliffe Homes’ plans, particularly the opportunity to improve the traffic situation at the junction of Linton Road and Spofforth Hill. We also welcome their sympathetic treatment towards the historical character of the buildings.“

The main part of the hospital which was built in 1863 from natural stone and slate will be retained and transformed into apartments and houses. In addition I6 new houses will be designed to preserve the “unique historical character“ of the site.

Arncliffe’s MD Mike Stafford says: “We have received tremendous local support for this project so we would very much like local people to have first choice.”

But judging by early inquiries, they would be wise to register their interest without delay, he added.

Wetherby News articles Workhouse links

Wetherby Workhouse, 2 Linton Lane, Wetherby

Date Event
Pre-1834 Small poor house called Stone Dene in North Street, Wetherby. Also one in Kirk Deighton.
1834 Poor Law Act passed
1839 Building for the homeless & penniless provided. This continued until the Poor Law Act was passed when it housed homeless and rejected people and became known as the West Riding Institution, Wetherby. [The Poor Law Act was passed in 1834! See above.]
15 Feb 1861 Wetherby Union formed.
1862-63 Wetherby Workhouse built.
1869 Block used as an infirmary dates from this year. [The Infirmary Block is not on the OS 1893 map.]
20 Jan 1907 20 bed single storey Infirmary Block opened at a cost of £2000. [This is on the OS 1907 map.]
1930 Came under the control of West Riding County Council. Architect’s report on the condition of the buildings recommended closure. However, a new role was found for it and under the name of Wharfedale Lawn, it provided care for elderly women and for the mentally handicapped.
1930s Mentally Handicapped people admitted.
1947 Became all female when last 3 men moved out.
1948 Became part of the National Health Service as Wharfe Grange Hospital.
1966 74 beds
1980 61 beds
Sept 1989 5 ladies moved to a house in Hallfield Lane and others to one in Orchard View.
Dec 1989 Infirmary Block closed
1991 20 beds
1992 NHS bought ‘Benedicts’ in Ashfield and converted it at a cost of £820,000 into a nursing home for 20 people. It was run by St Ann’s Shelter & Housing Action.
21 Jan 1993 Official closure of Wharfe Grange & opening of ‘Benedicts’.
26 Jan 1993 Remaining 17 residents transferred to ‘Benedicts’.
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