This week we resume our examination of the history of healthcare services in High Wycombe, picking up where we were in the last article on August 3, just before the start of the second world war. 

We had traced the history of the foundation of the Wycombe War Memorial Hospital, which was on the same site as the present hospital, although considerably smaller, from its opening in December 1923 and the first extension which was built in 1932. 

Six years later in 1938 a new Health Centre was opened on the northern edge of The Rye, which at that time was referred to as Dyke Meadow.

This is now occupied by the Busy Bees nursery school, a use for the building which is entirely in keeping with the reason for its being built in the first place.

The Bucks Free Press (BFP) reported that “The opening of the Health Centre is the outcome of a long and carefully considered policy of the Maternity and Child Welfare Committee, to provide a building in which to coordinate many of the activities which constitute their contribution to the health services of the Borough”.

Note that this was 10 years before the National Health Service and entirely at the initiative of the Borough Council.

The BFP continued “Foremost among these [activities] is the care of mother and baby. The first infant welfare centre in High Wycombe was opened on the 27 October 1908 in a room in Church House, Crown Lane.

"One mother attended with her baby. This movement was the outcome of the High Wycombe Health Society by Dame Frances Dove and Mrs A.J.Clarke.

"The average attendance of mothers during the first six months was six, but from then onwards the attendance progressively increased.

"A few years later the Centre was moved to the old National School in White Hart Street, and subsequently to Christ Church School [this was situated in Queen Victoria Rd, between the Council Offices and the Post Office).

"During the war years [that is WWI] in was held in a YMCA hut on the site now occupied by the Public Library [now the old library].

"Since January 3, 1922, the greater part of this work has been done in the Town Hall, a building never intended for this purpose.”

The report then went on to provide annual attendance figures, which rose from 6,133 in 1934 to 10,522 in 1937, “making it more necessary for a Centre to be erected on modern lines”.

The various facilities to be provided in the new Heath Centre were then explained, making it clear that that the primary purpose was educational – to ensure that mothers were proficient in “mothercraft”.

This was not however the only purpose of the Health Centre. As the BFP reported  “One of the greatest of the health services in the borough has been carried on for many years as a voluntary agency – The Wycombe & District Orthopaedic Voluntary Committee.

"Hitherto it has been carried on in cramped and unsuitable premises. From now on this committee will have their headquarters at the Health Centre. A weekly clinic will be held and all orthopaedic work will be undertaken”.

The building was designed by the Borough Surveyors Department and constructed by Messrs George Biggs & Sons from Great Kingshill. It was built using “Naphill bricks and Twyford tiles”.

The Health Centre was formally opened by Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, who was in 1938 Mary, the Countess of Harewood.

She was the third child and only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, born in 1897.

During WWI she launched a charity campaign to support British troops and sailors, assisting with projects to bring comfort to servicemen and their families.

Mary eventually became a nurse and in 1926 became the commandant-in-chief of the British Red Cross Detachments. 

To be continued...