Horton General Hospital: A History

Mary Ann Horton
Miss Mary Ann Horton

The Horton General Hospital was opened as the Horton Infirmary on 17 July 1872, with two wards, men’s and women’s, and a total of twelve beds. The architect of the first building was Charles Henry Driver and the builders were Franklin and Sons of Deddington. The hospital is named after Miss Mary Ann Horton of The Holt, Middleton Cheney. Her father, William Horton of Chacombe, invented a machine to make elastic-knitted hose and made a fortune from its use in London.

There is some evidence to suggest that Miss Horton was influenced in her decision to found a hospital by her doctor, C.L.H. Pemberton, who was to become the hospital’s first Honorary Physician and a member of the Committee of Management. Miss Horton purchased an 8 acre site for £3,000 and added £7,000 to build the hospital; work had started when she died on 19 July 1869, aged 80. Her heir was her nephew John Henry Kolle, a horse hair manufacturer of London who assumed the name of Horton. A codicil to Miss Horton’s will, dated 11 March 1869, ensured that he continued with the building of the hospital. However, he only survived his aunt by three months and, after his death on 11 October 1869, the responsibility was taken on by his son John Henry Horton of Park House, Upper Tooting, Surrey.

Horton Infirmary Opening Poster
Horton Infirmary Opening Poster c. 1872

The first resident house surgeon was appointed in 1926. Before this local doctors carried out all the treatments and operated a rota for emergencies. As with the cottage hospitals the Matron was responsible for nursing, medical and domestic supervision and much of the administration.

The hospital was approved as a Training School for nurses in 1926. The first consultant started work in 1945.

A children’s ward was given in 1897 and as other services grew over the years it became obvious that the hospital needed more space. In the second half of the 1930s plans were drawn up and an appeal started for extensive new buildings. The Second World War and subsequent preparations for the NHS meant that the plans were never fulfilled, but new building did take place during the war in the shape of four Emergency Medical Service wards, an operating theatre and X-ray department. Building continued in the 1950s and 1960, including a new Maternity Hospital, opened in 1961.

Children's Ward at the Horton General Hospital c.1926
Children’s Ward at the Horton General Hospital c.1926

With the advent of the NHS in 1948 the Horton became the main hospital of a group of hospitals in North Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire, administered by the Banbury and District Hospital Management Committee. In 1974 it passed to the North Oxfordshire Sector of the Oxfordshire Area Health Authority (Teaching) and in 1982 became the main hospital of the Horton Unit of the Oxfordshire Health Authority. The hospital became a National Health Service Trust in April 1993 and was incorporated into the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust on 1st April 1998. This became the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust on 1st November 2011 and later the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in September 2015.

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Text and images on this page written by former archivist Elizabeth Boardman and republished by Radio Horton with kind permission of the Oxfordshire Health Archives.