Skip to main content

Beaufort War Hospital in the First World War


Written by Stella Man

Share this

Glenside Hospital was a purpose-built Victorian Asylum, but in 1915, as more and more wounded soldiers came into Bristol Temple Meads Station, the Asylum was requisitioned by the War Office.

The mentally ill patients were dispatched to asylums across the South West and the building transformed into Beaufort War Hospital.

The first convoy of wounded was received on May 24 1915. The greatest number of soldiers sleeping under the roof of the Hospital on one night was 1,487. Over the four years, 29,433 patients were admitted and 164 deaths recorded, of which 30 were civilian emergencies from the influenza epidemic of 1918. In February 1919 the Hospital returned to be a hospital for the mentally ill.

With the support of Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund, Glenside Hospital Museum has been researching and collecting individual stories to shed light on what it must have been like.

The Museum is in the Beaufort War Hospital chapel, a grade 2 listed building. Using First World War postcards the exhibition – Postcards from a War Hospital –  tells the story of the staff and soldiers. Postcards played an important role in the First World War.

The postcards show soldiers in wards, in the grounds, with friends and medical staff, individual portraits, summer fetes, plays, musicals. Immediately you want to know, who they were, what had happened to them, and where they came from.  Although all the photographs are black and white, you can imagine the pink grey stone building, with its majestic clock tower surrounded by green and pleasant land. You can see men on the expansive lawns and some are wearing the special blue flannel uniforms.

One of the postcards shows an orderly who was to become famous for his paintings; once Sir Stanley Spencer scrubbed the floor of the Museum chapel. In 1915 Stanley Spencer wrote ‘I had to scrub out the Asylum Church. It was a splendid test of my feelings about this war. But I still feel the necessity of this war, and I have seen some sights, but not what one might expect. The lunatics are good workers and one persists in saluting us and always with the wrong hand. Another one thinks he is an electric battery… ‘

He painted a series of extraordinary scenes from his time at Beaufort War Hospital, at Sandham Memorial Chapel in Hampshire.

Another selection of postcards were collected by an orderly and found 100 years later by his grandchildren. They were brought in to the museum to be scanned. Many of the 17 postcards were portraits of him and his friends. 

If you have a story about Beaufort War Hospital please get in touch.  


Glenside Hospital Museum is open Wednesday and Saturday morning 10.00am until 12.30pm or for larger groups by appointment. Entry to the museum is £5.

Your web browser is out of date. Update your browser for more security, speed and the best experience on this site.

Find out how to update