Bradford War Hospital - St Luke’s Hospital

St Luke’s Hospital was administered by the Bradford Board of Guardians and was the workhouse infirmary, it became the Bradford War Hospital and treated soldiers straight from France.


The infirmary was detached, but part of, the new workhouse built on Horton Park by the Board of Guardians and opened in 1851. The infirmary underwent several enlargements and extensions and eventually increased its expenditure to provide a suitable level of healthcare. The Board of Guardians separated the administration of the hospital, which became known as St Luke’s, from the workhouse in November 1912.   “It is hoped  that these measures will do something towards removing the sentimental objection that still prevents the public from accepting poor law relief” (Triennial Report Board of Guardians, 1915). The infirmary at this time provided 700 beds with, amongst other things, surgical facilities and an operating theatre all in a separate institution so was ideally placed to become a base war hospital for Bradford.




The Guardians had already handed over Bowling Park Colony for use by the military authorities in April 1915 but in June of that year the Guardians were already considering the possibility that they might have to provide some beds at St Luke’s. In July having received verbal agreement from the War Office and the Local Government Board a letter was sent to the Commander in Chief of the Northern Command setting out the conditions on which the Guardians would hand over a portion of the St Luke’s Hospital for use as a base military hospital. The agreement would provide 544 beds and a nurse’s home for 50 nurses to be administered by the Guardians and separated from the Union House with a separate entrance. Part of that agreement required the military authorities to relinquish the use of Bowling Park as an auxiliary hospital.


This offer was not accepted by the military authorities until October 1915. Immediately arrangements were put in place to transfer the existing patients to other Unions. Wibsey School was lent by the Education Committee to accommodate 100 old and infirm women and Horton Hall was lent for the accommodation of nurses.


The first Red Cross Train arrived on the 9th December 1915 bringing wounded soldiers straight from France to the Bradford War Hospital. However only the day before the military authorities had already asked the Guardians to consider whether they could provide further hospital accommodation. By the end of the month they had agreed to hand over the whole of the Horton Lane Premises (except the medical officer’s residence and the casual wards). This required additional temporary buildings to be erected at Bowling Park at a cost of £15,000 to accommodate 450 displaced inmates of the Union. The North Bierley Union Guardians agreed to accomodate 40 male sick patients, Allerton School was used to accommodate 100 men and Wibsey School altered to accommodate 150.


A War Hospital Extension Sub Committee was formed to deal with arrangements. The existing military accommodation was to be rearranged to provide 600 beds, four Union blocks provided 300 beds and a further 300 beds were provided by building three new blocks bringing the total to 1,200 beds.The Bradford War Hospital extensions were officially opened by Princess Marie Louise on 5th October 1916.


It wasn’t long before they were again asked if they could provide further hospital accommodation in February 1917, however Bradford Corporation agreed to hand over Leeds Road Hospital instead.


A final request for additional accommodation was received in April 1918. This time it was arranged that one school, two Sunday Schools and Horton Hall should accommodate wounded soldiers as well as 10 tents of 10 beds each erected in the hospital grounds adjacent to the main building. This provided an extra 348 beds. However the local newspaper reported that “in less than a week 700 cases nearly all surgical were admitted to the hospital and other convoys were expected as soon as the cases can be cured and passed on to some other place” (Bradford Daily Telegraph, 9th April 1918). This was the time of the German spring offenses with heavy losses on both sides it was also to be a time when influenza was attacking nursing staff and soldiers of the war hospital with extraordinary virulence putting even more strain on the remaining nursing staff.



After the war


Following the end of the war it took several months to finish treating the remaining wounded soldiers and the hospital was finally vacated of all military cases on 26th July 1919. It was a further three months following cleaning and refurbishment of the Hospital and Union House that the first inmates were returned.


On the 31 March 1920 the Ministry of Health approved the transfer of St Luke’s Hospital to the Bradford Corporation. Bradford was “the first city to provide general hospital treatment from public funds, without the stigma of Poor Law” (The Texture of Welfare, 1923)



Bradford Board of Guardians Finance and General Purpose Committee, West Yorkshire Archive Service 

Bradford Daily Telegraph

Bradford Poor Law Agenda’s, Bradford Local Studies Library

St Luke’s Hospital Committee minutes, West Yorkshire Archive Service

The Texture of Welfare A Survey of Social Service in Bradford (1923) P.S. King & Son, London



Bradford Workshouse History