Reputedly the first cottage hospital in England was opened at
138, Piccotts End in 1827, although several other establishments lay claim to be the first of this particular genre of hospital.
It was opened by
Paston Cooper, one of the most celebrated London surgeons of his time. To escape the demands created by such popularity, Astley Cooper retreated to Gadebridge Park, an estate near Hemel Hempstead where the
surgeon entertained ambitions to become a gentleman farmer. But persistent patients trailed him to his country retreat and
it is said that he opened the hospital as a means of affording them local accommodation.
During World War I, Gadebridge Park and the house became a hospital for officers
suffering from sexually transmitted diseases. The
house was demolished in the 1960's
The house at Piccotts End has a remarkable collection of 15th century wall paintings which originate from the time when the house was a mediaeval pilgrim's hospice. For a short while in the 1980's, an owner of the house ran a small medical history museum there but currently the building is not open to the public. An article on the Piccotts End hospital appeared in the Daily Telegraph at the time it was up for sale in October 2000.
The Verulamium Museum has a small collection of Roman surgical instruments excavated in the Roman town. The cathedral is the site of one of England's greatest shrines, the remains of the proto-martyr Alban. The 14th century pedestal was restored in the 1870s. It has healing holes (cfSalisbury) in its base into which the limbs of diseased persons were placed and many miraculous cures were claimed here.
The remains of a suite of 3rd century Roman Baths can be viewed in a specially constructed vault under the Welwyn by-pass, now part of the A1. Open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays 2.00-5.00pm (or dusk if earlier). Telephone: (01707) 271362