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Support Buildings


In 1883, it was felt that the laundry needed an uplift.  It had never been enlarged nor had any new machinery added since it was built.  Due to the increase in work, alterations were agreed and new machinery and enlargement cost £3,500.

1893 saw the building of a new laundry and equipment. 

With the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948, an idea was put forward in 1949, to centralise laundry services so that Exminster laundry served the 3 main hospitals as well as Devon Mental Group.  The Committee objected and the scheme was abandoned due to lack of funds.  The Committee, however, did agree with having the three hospitals within the Exe Vale Group (Exminster, Digby and Wonford House Hospitals) laundries centralised but this was revoked in 1951.

A new dry cleaning apparatus was installed in 1953 at a cost of £2,000. In 1961, new ventilation was installed.

In 1965, it was again suggested that Exminster laundry served as a centralised unit – repeating the proposal of 1949 – covering all Hospitals (General and Mental).  After enlargement and modernisation the idea was to receive laundry from Digby Hospital and the City Hospital (Heavitree) and later from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.   A year later it was approved and adaptation was made to the Exminster Laundry to accommodate this change.  In 1972, a dry cleaning unit was added.  Also in 1972, the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (Heavitree) transferred its laundry services to the newly built Central Laundry situated at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (Wonford) and the Exminster Hospital laundry was again remodelled.


The Boiler House was one of the most essential buildings within the Hospital.  Without it, there would be no heating or hot water and eventually it supplied the majority of their electricity.

The boilers were originally run by coal and would be collected in a cart pulled by a horse from the Exminster Railway Station at the other end of the village.  Later to become a full time Driver's job accompanied by two or three working patients - 7 loads a day would be transported to the Boiler House. It would use 17 tons of coal a day.  1957 saw 3 new boilers installed and in 1964 a new Boiler House was constructed.  In 1967 the boilers were converted to oil firing and in 1971 the Boiler House roof ventilation was installed.

Later on, there were dynamos, driven by steam, that were fed by the boilers to provide the majority of the electricity to the Hospital, which made a tremendous difference to the lives of not only the patients but the staff too.


The Mortuary was situated to the right of the Hospital, to the left of the Boiler House. 

As early as 1846, a year after the Hospital opened, an outbreak of 'English Cholera' occured resulting in the death of 12 patients and in 1866 there was a second outbreak, 45 male patients had been affected with 30 deaths which put immense pressure on the Mortuary.

A mortuary chapel was built in 1878, which enabled relatives of patients or staff a quiet area to go to.

In 1920 the Hospital was settled down and over the effects of the Great War, although not without the loss of staff that had fought during this war.  On a good note, with the food situation improved, the death rate had fallen from 26.76% in 1918 to 8.56%.  The early 1920s also brought about new methods of treatment and Occupational Therapy to assist patients to readjust themselves to modern life.  This lowering the death rate and the work of the mortuary staff.

In 1939 the Committee agreed with the Ministry of Health to set aside wards for the admission and treatment of service and civilian casualties. 320 beds were to be given up and on 1st January 1940 the Emergency Medical Service (E.M.S.) was opened. Any deaths that occurred from 'civilian' patients were initially dealt with by the mortuary staff but unlike the psychiatric patients - who invariably did not have relatives to carry out funeral arrangements for them - were only kept at the mortuary temporarily until their relatives took over their funeral arrangements.  On the night of 23rd April 1942 the hospital was bombed.  Three mental hospital wards and two E.M.S. wards were destroyed, resulting in 9 patients killed and 35 injured.  Also, during this period, the number of deaths averaged 151 each year compared with 236 in the Great War, yet the average number of patients was greater in this war by 300.  The diet was kept at a high standard which was felt to be a contributory factor in there being fewer cases of Tuberculosis, therefore fewer deaths.  Also, many patients being recovered and discharged (and those not improved but returned home following application by relatives) had risen, these factors playing a huge part in the use of the Mortuary and its staff.

The introduction of modern tranquilisers, and improvements in treatment of patients, such as special units, and the reduction of overcrowding, greater liasing with general hospitals, and improvement in the environment within the hospital, in the late 1950s and 60s brought about vast changes to the psychiatric patient meaning they were living more fulfilled and healthier lives.  One example of these improvements (use of the tranquiliser Chlorpromazine (Largactil)) was a male patient, a manic-psychotic, previously living in a single room for 10 years because of his destructive behaviour, vastly improved within 10 days.  Within months he became a helper in the Engineer's stores and was discharged 6 months later.  1957 brought about the building of a new cold room in the mortuary.

A serious flu epidemic hit the hospital in 1969/70, resulting in a number of patients' deaths, putting the mortuary and its staff under tremendous strain.  But as with true spirit of the staff, they coped tremendously and patients' were treated with respect and dignity.

The Management Committee took great care in acknowledging the various religious beliefs of patients and were strong in encouraging the sharing facilities of the chapels within the Exe Vale Group and all denominations held services in the chapels.  This was also recognised in the mortuary, with the different handling of patients with different religious beliefs.






The Transport Building was situated near to the front of the Hospital.  It could be reached by going up the drive towards the Church and then turning right and doubling back towards the main road.  The Transport Department played a huge role in the daily life of the Hospital.

In the early days of the hospital there were horses and carts that would transport goods e.g. food from the fields, coal - from the railway station at the other end of the village, and other important provisions to the Hospital.  In later years, the Hospital lorry driver, with two or three patients, would go down to the station and load seven loads of coal a day and take it to the Boiler House at the Hospital every day. 

The early 1930s saw patients being taken on trips weekly, in the old  "char-à-banc"  by the transport staff.

When the N.H.S. began in 1948, Exminster Hospital had one lorry and two vans for utility purposes.  With Digby Hospital having no vehicles and Wonford House Hospital only having a large limousine to take women patients for afternoon drives.  Later a 20-seater coach for the collection of staff and for trips for the patients was added.  In 1951, a minibus was bought for general purposes as well as taking resident staff to Exeter for evening recreation, twice a week as well as transporting staff to and from work. In 1958 the Transport Services were centralised and based in Exminster.  The vehicles were serviced by the Engineering Department.  Patients from the 3 Hospitals were taken on all-day trips twice a week. Although this ceased in 1969 when the transport was provided by outside firms. There were now 3 coaches (74 seats altogether).

Due to pressure from higher authroities, the Hospital Management Comittee were compelled to charge staff a nominal amount for their transport to and from the hospital) which was deducted from their wages)

In 1974 the Group's fleet of vehicles included 1 lorry, 4 vans, 2 cars and 5 coaches (with 148 seats in all for staff and working patients).  

The amount and variation of vehicles was only slightly altered by the time the Hospital closed in 1987.

There were many other services carried out by the Transport Department, such as, transporting the food trolleys to Deepway House and Spurfield.  Transporting laundry from the wards and to the other hospitals. Taking patients for appointments at other hospitals. Any equipment from any of the departments or wards that needed to be taken elsewhere. Plus any other services they were asked to carry out at short notice.



The Workshop was situated next to the Boiler House close to the Nurses' Home.

The skilled tradesmen that worked from here consisted of: Engineers, Fitters, Electricians, Painters and Decorators, Carpenters, Plumbers and Bricklayers (Upholsterers had their own area within the main building of the Hospital).  The highly skilled workers were an asset to the Hospital as any work that needed to be carried out could be done by the Hospital's own skilled employees, thus saving money by not having to use outside contractors.