Zachary Merton Hospital celebrates its 80th birthday this year, and to mark the milestone Rustington Museum has opened a new exhibition telling the story of the hospital from its opening in 1937 to the present day.
That story began with the death of a wealthy philanthropist called Zachary Merton.
He left a large amount of money – £350,000 – to be used to build and equip convalescent homes, and his trustees oversaw the development of 12 homes, many attached to, or overseen by, large hospitals all around the country.
Rustington was chosen to be the site for one of them — the sea air was considered to be beneficial to health — and a convalescent home for mothers and babies, mostly from London, was opened there on April 24, 1937.
Sheila Marsden, the co-ordinator of the exhibition, said: “The outbreak of war in 1939 brought many expectant mothers down to the coast, evacuated away from London, which was perceived to be under threat, and the convalescent home became a maternity hospital, a role it continued to fulfil after the war, joining the NHS in 1948.
“It became a community hospital in 1979, and remains a cherished local asset to this day.
“Many local people have fond memories of their time at the hospital, with many ‘Zachary babies’ still living in the area.”
The exhibition looks at the man behind the generous bequest, the convalescence movement, and the history of the hospital itself, using original documents and artefacts generously loaned by members of the public.
A collaboration between Rustington Museum, Rustington Heritage Association and the Zachary Merton League of Friends, the exhibition will run until the end of the year.
Rustington Museum, in The Street, is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 4pm.
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