The Wandsworth Borough News of 17 September reports on 70 wounded soldiers being entertained at Winchester House, which was the Putney Constitutional Club. The soldiers came from Gifford House, which was being used as an auxiliary hospital from King George’s Hospital at Waterloo. Entertainment included tobacco or cigarettes on arrival, followed by bowls or billiards. Prizes were pipes and tobacco and there was then a concert, including singing, “humorous sketches were immensely enjoyed”, recitals and “exceedingly clever ventriloquist sketches”. When the soldiers reached their transport, more cigarettes were apparently showered on them, having been bought specially by club members.
Gifford House was a mansion on Putney Heath, the site is now part of the Ashburton Estate, bordered by Innes Gardens, Tildesley Road and Putney Heath. The house was originally built around 1760 and had a range of occupiers, including James MacPherson and Baron Charles Joachim Hambro, before being purchased by the Charrington brewing family in 1892. The Charringtons carried out extensive remodelling of the house, including adding the ballroom for 120 people, but moved to Ashburton House around 1910. The Duchess of Westminster occupied briefly around 1913, but the house appears to have been empty when it was offered up as a location for a hospital.
Patients in the hospital were expected to follow military rules for discipline and routine. According to Cpl William Lunn, whose reminiscences are included in the book “The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home: A History”, the patients all wore uniform and provided their own cutlery, as it was part of their kit. Patients who were able to regularly headed for London after breakfast, as they were usually allowed to travel for free, but they had to be back in good time. “We had to be back by 1900 hours. Many who were late climbed in over the fence – legless or not… I was caught more than once – and sent back to Roehampton [Queen Mary’s Hospital] as punishment, but they did not have room for me and so I returned to Gifford House.”
Gifford House continued to be a hospital until 1919, when it became the Queen Alexandra Hospital and Home for Discharged Soldiers In memory of Lady Ripon”. It formally opened under this name on 9 July 1919 and stayed until 1933, when it moved to Worthing – where it remains. Many of the QAHH’s old photographs are available online here.
Wandsworth Borough News available on microfilm.
Queen Alexandra Hospital Home: A History available for reference use in the Heritage Service