Cottage Convalescent Home at Quinton

Recovery from severe illness is generally a tedious matter, even when people possess all the advantages which money can command. For the poorer classes in great towns the trial is especially severe, for the smoke-laden air and closely-packed rooms which are prejudicial even to persons in full vigour, are certain to retard convalescence, and too often the unfortunate patient suffers a re-lapse, or sinks into permanent ill-health.

A member of the firm of Messrs. Chance Brothers, proprietors of the Alkali Works at Oldbury, near Birmingham, determined to provide a remedy for this evil as far as the work-people connected with their firm were concerned, and at the end of 1872, as soon as he had matured his scheme, he called the employees together, in order that it might he explained to them. They at once recognised the merit of the project, and unanimously assented to it. All the members of the firm also lent their willing aid, and the result is the institution, of which we publish an engraving, which is situated at the village of Quinton, about five miles from Birmingham, on the Hagley Road, about four miles from the works, and which is intended for the benefit, not only of the workmen, but of their wives and families.

Facilities having been afforded by Lord Lyttleton for procuring a suitable plot of freehold land about three-quarters of an acre in extent, in an elevated position, commanding beautiful views, a pretty, substantially built Gothic cottage was erected. It is approached from the road by a short carriage drive. On the right may be noticed a thriving colony of bees on the left a choice shrubbery. To the right of the small entrance hall is the dining-room, with kitchen and scullery in the rear. On the left is a cosy sitting-room, with a smoking-room behind it. Another comfortable sitting-room completes the list of apartments on the ground floor. Above are bedrooms, airy and light, and commanding fine views. The furniture is simple and homely, no part of the house is papered, the walls are washed of a pale grey tint, and everything is scrupulously neat and clean. On two sides of the cottage is a pretty verandah, communicating with the smoking-room. A kitchen garden supplies vegetables enough for the use of the Home, there is a miniature but well- kept lawn, a productive orchard, a rustic garden house, and an American bowling alley. The Home contains accommodation for eight inmates, four males and four females.

Cottage staff dated circa 1910 Cottage Governing Body circa 1910

They take their meals together under the presidency of the matron, Mrs Colbourne, who has by her gentleness and kindness won the gratitude of the successive inmates of her establishment. The food is plain but wholesome meat once a day, including home-made bread, whilst the milk, butter, and eggs are procured from adjacent farms. Intoxicating liquors are not allowed, except by order of the surgeon, who visits the Home weekly. Between meals the inmates stroll about the grounds or the surrounding country at their will, the greatest liberty being allowed. Sixty-five persons have already passed through the Home, and with few exceptions the record is “Quite strong, and able to resume work."

The building and furnishing of the Quinton Home cost about £1,200 half of which sum was voluntarily subscribed by the workpeople, and the remainder provided by the Messrs. Chance. As for the maintenance, 600 men are employed at the Alkali Works, who each contribute a penny a week, and this amount, with an annual donation of twenty guineas by the firm, is found sufficient to meet all requirements.

Thus, for one penny per week, the workman secures to himself and family the advantage of a beautiful rural retreat in case of sickness, with every comfort and care till perfect health is restored. More than this, the Home is regarded by the workmen as a kind of country house which they may visit whenever they think fit. On fine summer days they are at perfect liberty to visit the Home, which is, in fact, their own property-stroll in its pretty grounds or amuse themselves in its bowling-alley, and they can wind up the day by taking tea in the rustic summerhouse. Mrs. Colbourne's wholesome fare being forthcoming for a moderate sum. The affairs of the institution are managed by a committee of seven, consisting of three foremen, three workmen, and Mr. A. M. Chance as chairman.

Their management is easily and efficiently performed, and never has the least cause for dissatisfaction, been given. The members and employees of other large firms throughout the country may profitably study the advantages conferred by the Quinton I-Tonic, which possesses the great merit of being a self-supporting establishment.

Ed’s comment-Another article published in the society’s early years when the Oracle was in a short A4 format. However, I feel it is well worth reprinting for our more recent new members.

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