At a time when banners around Banbury remind us of the need to ‘Keep the Horton General’ it is very easy to lose sight of the fact it was way back in 1872 that the Bishop of Oxford opened the hospital.
It contained 20 beds and a dispensary. The association enabled working-class people in those pre-health service days to secure medical treatment by payment of a weekly sum of 1d per week or 3d for a whole family.
Attention was also possible because of subscriptions paid by parishes or as a result of payments received from employers or other donors.
Donations have played a very important part in the development of the hospital. At the heart of this in the early days was the Banbury and District Workpeople’s Association. The weekly contribution scheme started in 1909 and by 1939, the date of an important progress report published in the Banbury Advertiser newspaper, there were 10,000 members. Between these dates members had raised over £96,000 for new equipment. The group embraced all people but very prominent between the world wars were Captain Snowball who had been a key figure in the First World War munitions factory in Grimsbury and Baron Profumo of Avon Dassett.
It is essential to record leading firms in Banbury played their part as well. The Northern Aluminium Company contributed £379 in 1939 and with other substantial amounts from Hunt Edmunds, Henry Stone and Son, Spencer corsets and the Grand Theatre.
The 1939 annual general meeting was held in Banbury Town Hall on, February 10 where the association revealed the total of contributions to the hospital had reached a new record and £5,200 was handed over (over 10 times the cost of a three-bedroomed house). Amongst the leading supporters was mayor Richard Martin who was a founder member of the association and in 1914 had been its chairman. Another senior member of Banbury Borough Council with a notable involvement was Alderman Collingridge. During his connection with the Workpeople’s Association which went back to 1922, he had occupied most roles within the body.
An especially important source of income was the annual plate which attracted huge support from townspeople. Money from the 1938 event and routine fundraising was directed towards the New Hospital Fund and amounted to £592 4s 1d. Villages around Banbury were also active on this front. Typical were the social events organised by Lower Heyford and Swalcliffe.
But there was no doubt the biggest fundraising event of the year was the Hospital Carnival Fete. On July 29, 1939 an enormous number of people lined the route to watch a seemingly endless succession of company vehicles each with a distinctive display, which wound its way through the town centre before reaching the hospital. During the year under review many committee members had made regular visits to the Horton and were pleased to note the high standard of working conditions. Unsurprisingly there were very good relations between the hospital staff and association members.
During the meeting there was a significant comment from RH Holbeck on behalf of the hospital’s governing body. He apologised for slow work on the new hospital and was glad to offer reassurance a building tender would soon be accepted. His overwhelming concern was for a good outcome. To this end there had been a handsome donation from Lord Nuffield.
When Dr Gardiner-Hill spoke on behalf of the medical staff he was able to announce 5,381 patients had been treated at the Horton, an increase of 700.
The advent of the NHS did not obviate the need for fundraising. The A&E unit opened in1989 at a cost of £600,000 much of it raised by the public in over 14 months. The 1994 scanner appeal enjoyed similar success with the £560,000 target being realised in under year. Public subscriptions were also a key factor in funding the cancer centre.