Exhibition tells story of Rustington community hospital

Present day matron at the hospital, Lucie Brumder, looking at the exhibition  ks170853-6
Present day matron at the hospital, Lucie Brumder, looking at the exhibition  ks170853-6
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Zachary Merton Hospital celebrates its 80th birthday this year, and to mark the milestone Rustington Museum has opened a new exhibition telling the story of the hospital from its opening in 1937 to the present day.

That story began with the death of a wealthy philanthropist called Zachary Merton.

Sheila Marsden, honary curator of the Rustington Heritage Association with some of the old photographs on display in the exhibition  ks170853-5

Sheila Marsden, honary curator of the Rustington Heritage Association with some of the old photographs on display in the exhibition  ks170853-5

He left a large amount of money – £350,000 – to be used to build and equip convalescent homes, and his trustees oversaw the development of 12 homes, many attached to, or overseen by, large hospitals all around the country.

Rustington was chosen to be the site for one of them — the sea air was considered to be beneficial to health — and a convalescent home for mothers and babies, mostly from London, was opened there on April 24, 1937.

Sheila Marsden, the co-ordinator of the exhibition, said: “The outbreak of war in 1939 brought many expectant mothers down to the coast, evacuated away from London, which was perceived to be under threat, and the convalescent home became a maternity hospital, a role it continued to fulfil after the war, joining the NHS in 1948.

“It became a community hospital in 1979, and remains a cherished local asset to this day.

Alison Cooper, chairman of the parish council looking at the exhibits  ks170853-3

Alison Cooper, chairman of the parish council looking at the exhibits  ks170853-3

“Many local people have fond memories of their time at the hospital, with many ‘Zachary babies’ still living in the area.”

The exhibition looks at the man behind the generous bequest, the convalescence movement, and the history of the hospital itself, using original documents and artefacts generously loaned by members of the public.

A collaboration between Rustington Museum, Rustington Heritage Association and the Zachary Merton League of Friends, the exhibition will run until the end of the year.

Rustington Museum, in The Street, is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 4pm.

Pauline Farr, chairman of the League of Friends and contributor to the new exhibition, with an old weighing machine  ks170853-1

Pauline Farr, chairman of the League of Friends and contributor to the new exhibition, with an old weighing machine  ks170853-1

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Graham Tyler, chairman of the museum management committee, with a drawing of the old hospital  ks170853-4

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Harry Clark, chairman of the Rustington Heritage Association  ks170853-7

Harry Clark, chairman of the Rustington Heritage Association  ks170853-7