Local History Resources

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The Alex Story: A portrait of Brighton's Childrens' Hospital 1868-2007

By Jennifer Drury

In August 1868, one of England's earliest children's hospitals opened in two or three rooms in a property in Western Road, Brighton.

Modest beginnings
From this modest beginning emerged what was arguably to become the town's best loved hospital, The Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children.  Certainly the news that the building it eventually occupied in Dyke Road was to be replaced with a brand new building on the Royal Sussex County Hospital site was not greeted with universal approval.  Indeed, a campaign was launched to convert the doubting parents and some hospital staff of the necessity for change.

Archive photographs
Using pictures and material from hospital archives and a range of other sources including former patients and members of staff, this book charts the development of 'the Alex' as is was affectionately known, from its humble beginnings to become one of the country's leading children's hospitals until its eventual closure in 2007.

The author
The author, Harry Gaston, began work as a junior clerk in Brighton hospitals in 1950 and took early retirement in 1983. He was founder and editor of the hospitals' national award winning house journal for forty years until 2007. He helped in the research and wrote the commentary for two major photographic exhibitions of the history of hospitals in Brighton and Hove, including The Alex Story on which this book is based.

Lavishly illustrated
The Alex Story is lavishly illustrated and contains historic black and white photographs as well as two chapters of full colour photographs of the hospital's final days.  Not only does The Alex Story chart the development of this most important hospital, it also allows the reader a fascinating glimpse into the experiences of children, parents and professionals whose lives it touched.  This is a 'must buy' book for anyone interested in the history of this well-loved institution.

The Alex Story (ISBN 9780955846717) price £12. On sale at City Books in Hove and Kemp Town Bookshop.

This page was added on 12/04/2009.
Comments about this page

They certainly kept me in the land of the living in 1948-9. Three spells in an oxygen tent and grease gun sized lumber punctures, preceded a couple of years in Convalescent Home and an Open Air School. Then another ten years of regular X-Rays. They did well. I am 65 now, something I never expected to be able to say.

By Jeremiah (27/04/2009)

I was whisked up to the Casualty there as a friend had hit me on the head with an axe! The Sister was so pleased with me for not crying when the wound was stitched up I was allowed to take all the red jellys out of the sweety jar for it.

By Patrick Kite (08/08/2009)

I was a patient at the childrens' hospital in 1951 for 9 months when I was 5 years old. I had a fall and was paralysed for nine months from the waist down. I can remember some of the time there. The only people who could visit was close family. The rest had to wave to you from the garden and you were on the balcony. Two children I can remember were Sheila Stoner and Harry Jones. We all ended up living in the same road in Coldean. Luckily I am OK now. I am now 64 years old.

By Michael Hale (18/02/2010)

The early pictures reminded me of my childhood when, on two occasions, I was an in-patient in Dyke Road Hospital. The exact date I cannot remember but it was during the war and each night our beds were pushed down a slope into the underground air raid shelter and a Mr Cobbold used to read us stories before we went to sleep. I was in for the removal of a branchial cyst. The second time was for Ts and As and the anaesthetic I have never forgotten. Using a Shimelbush? mask onto which chloroform was dropped was a terrifying experience. In spite of this I obviously enjoyed my stay for when my mother came to collect me matron asked why I was crying and mother had to tell her it was because I did not want to leave as I had had such a good time.

By Dr Derek Clark (24/01/2017)

I had my tonsils removed here sometime around 1958. I was two-and-a-half. I remember very little about it except that I was obviously kept in for some days because I remember the lights being switched off at night and the whole ward being in darkness. No mum to stay with me, either!

By Janet Beal (24/01/2017)

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