Object of the Month January 2018

This month’s object once again comes from the Cabinet of Curiosities exhibition and is a simple blue plaque to Richard Henry Wood.

But firstly, what is a blue plaque?

Blue plaques are signs that are installed in public places linking the location to a famous person or event. There are many such schemes operating across the country.  In 2004 Rugby introduced a comprehensive trail marking out famous buildings, people and events.  Can you think of any you’ve seen?

blue plaque
Richard Henry Wood was born in Manchester and came to Rugby in 1874 and lived at Penrose House on Little Church Street. He identified himself with local affairs but is best remembered for his gift of St. Cross Hospital to Rugby.  Wood was inspired to give money for a hospital following a tragic accident to a railway engineman.  Victims of such accidents were usually taken by rail to either Birmingham or Northampton but on this occasion the railway man’s injuries required an urgent amputation.  He was taken to Castle Street where the operation was performed in a bed as there was no operating table.  Unfortunately, the young engineman died.  When Elizabeth Wood heard of this she presented Castle Street with an operating table. The Woods were invited to visit and realised that the premises were simply not suitable for a hospital. The rest is history and by 1882 the Woods had offered to build and endow a new and larger hospital on land they owned on Barby Road, the current site of St. Cross.  St Cross, Rugby’s local hospital, was to be ‘for the relief of such poor persons suffering from accident, and diseases not infectious or contagious, who reside with the parish of Rugby’.  During the first decade of the hospital there were improvements in staff and nursing and an expansion of demand.  R.H. Wood’s first financial endowment was joined by others from local people, the most handsome amount of £9,000 coming from the estate of George Charles Benn and other family members.  By 1895 Wood left the town for Sidmouth, due to ill-health, he was not qualified to be a patient in the hospital he had founded due to being too wealthy.

A final thought -  why is it named St Cross when there is no such saint with the name?  Well, the latin inscribed foundation stone describes the hospital as ‘Sancte Crucem’ which translates as Holy Cross. So, it is entirely possible that over time this became St. Cross.


Little Church Street, Rugby, home of Richard Wood

Source: Google Maps

Author: Hermione Noyce December 2017

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