The University as a Military Hospital
The Fielding Johnson Building of the University of Leicester originally housed the Leicestershire and Rutland County Lunatic Asylum, which opened in 1837. In 1909, a year after the last patients left, the Leicestershire and Rutland Territorial Association made plans to convert the former asylum into a large ‘Base Hospital’ in the event of war. These plans were rapidly implemented in August 1914, and the buildings, which had fallen into disrepair, were ‘converted after six weeks of most strenuous effort, from a derelict, dampridden, cobweb haunted maze of buildings into the spic and span, well-appointed 5th Northern General Hospital.’
The first patients arrived on 1st September 1914, and convoys of wounded continued to disembark until June 1919. The original 520 beds soon proved inadequate and new open air wards for 540 were constructed in 1915. The following year new wooden wards provided space for an additional 505 beds. By this time a host of other new buildings had been constructed not just for medical purposes but also to provide accommodation for staff and recreation facilities for patients. The ‘Base Hospital’ also became the centre of administration for a network of 60 affiliated hospitals that at their height provided a further 3480 beds.