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Our history

The Horton General Hospital had only two wards when it opened in 1872 - men's and women's - and a total of 12 beds. The architect of the first building was Charles Henry Driver, and the builders were Franklin and Sons of Deddington.

The Horton General Hospital in the 19th Century
The Horton General Hospital in the 19th Century

The Horton General Hospital was built with money left by Mary Ann Horton, whose father William Horton had amassed a fortune from his invention of a machine to make elastic yarn for stockings. There is some evidence to suggest that Miss Horton was influenced in her decision to found a hospital by her doctor, CLH Pemberton, who was to become the hospital's first Honorary Physician and a member of the Committee of Management.

Miss Horton purchased an eight acre site for £3,000 and added £7,000 to build the hospital. Work had started when she died on 19 July 1869, aged 80. Her heir was her nephew John Henry Kolle, a horse hair manufacturer of London, who assumed the name of Horton. A codicil of Miss Horton's will, dated 11 March 1869, ensured that he continued with the building of the hospital. However, he only survived his aunt by three months and, after his death on 11 October 1869, the responsibility was taken on by his son John Henry Horton of Park House, Upper Tooting, Surrey.

The first resident house surgeon was appointed in 1926. Before this local doctors carried out all the treatments and operated a rota for emergencies. As with the cottage hospitals, the Matron was responsible for nursing, medical and domestic supervision and much of the administration. The hospital was approved as a Training School for nurses in 1926. The first consultant started work in 1945.

The Horton General Hospital Children's Ward: 1926
The Horton General Hospital Children's Ward: 1926

A children's ward was opened in 1897, and as other services grew over the years it became obvious that the hospital needed more space. In the second half of the 1930s plans were drawn up, and an appeal was launched to build extensive new buildings. The Second World War and subsequent preparations for the NHS meant that the plans were never fulfilled, but new building did take place during and after the war. This continued in the 1950s and 1960s.

With the advent of the NHS in 1948 the Horton General Hospital became the main hospital of a group of hospitals in North Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire, administered by the Banbury and District Hospital Management Committee.

In 1974 it passed to the North Oxfordshire Sector of the Oxfordshire Area Health Authority (Teaching) and in 1982 became the main hospital of the Horton Unit of the Oxfordshire Health Authority. The hospital became a National Health Service Trust in April 1993 and was incorporated into the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust on 1 April 1998. The Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust merged with the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust on 1 November 2011 to create the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, which becomes a Foundation Trust in 2015.

For more on Oxfordshire Health History, visit Oxfordshire Health Archives.