Our last look at Mid Cheshire buildings that are no longer there is a house in Wharton that became a local hospital.

Highfield House was located near Winsford Station and behind another building called Winsford Lodge, also no longer there.

On the Cheshire tithe map dated 1841, Winsford Lodge is shown as a house and gardens owned by Reverend John Ingham; however, although the surrounding plot is also owned by him, there are no other buildings shown.

It is safe to say, therefore, that Highfield House was built sometime between 1841 and 1871, as it appears on the 1871 census record, inhabited by one of our notable businessmen, Joseph Verdin and his family.

At the time, the Verdin family were the leading salt manufacturers in the UK; at its height in 1881, the firm was producing 350,000 tons of salt a year, employing more than 1,000 men, and owning a fleet of flatboats and many railway wagons to transport the salt.

Knutsford Guardian: William Henry VerdinWilliam Henry Verdin (Image: Rose Hurley)

Members of the Verdin family continued to live there until 1885; by 1891, they were living at Darnhall Hall - yet another historic building long gone.

At some point, Joseph Verdin gave Highfield House to his son, William Henry. It remained in William’s possession until Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee year in 1897, when he bestowed the house to the people of Winsford and Middlewich as a Diamond Jubilee gift.

There was a huge town celebration when the house was formally opened as the Albert Infirmary on October 20, 1898, once it had been converted into a hospital.

The Duke and Duchess of Westminster were invited to open it, and they arrived by train at Whitegate Station, where they were then escorted to Darnhall Hall for lunch with various dignitaries before proceeding through the town via Swanlow Lane, High Street, Wharton Road, School Road, and Crook Lane.

Knutsford Guardian: Albert InfirmaryAlbert Infirmary (Image: Rose Hurley)

On route, many lavish floral arches and Venetian poles adorned with streamers to mark the procession route, and many houses had their own decorations.

Over the arches, large signs were mounted, one at the entrance to the Infirmary which read: “May the Infirmary revive the patients, and may the patients survive the Infirmary."

There was a further procession after the opening going to the gymnasium of the Verdin School, which included the Yeoman guard, volunteer band, cyclist club, swimming club, fire brigades and ambulances from Winsford and Middlewich and many other groups.

All in all, it was a very grand event. A plaque commemorating the opening was placed in the Albert Infirmary and now has pride of place in the reception of the Grange Nursing Home, which stands on the site of the old hospital.

Knutsford Guardian: Plaque now in The Grange Nursing HomePlaque now in The Grange Nursing Home (Image: Rose Hurley)

The plaque reads: “This building was generously given by W H Verdin Esq DL JP of Darnhall Hall for the benefit of the inhabitants of Winsford and Middlewich and the surrounding district.

"It was opened by her Grace the Duchess of Westminster, on the 20th day of October 1898. The operating theatre was erected by public subscription and opened by the Countess Grosvenor on 8th June 1910.”

The Albert Infirmary served the populations of Winsford and Middlewich for many years.

However, its future was questioned in 1944 when the new National Health Service White Paper was going through Parliament, and the current voluntary hospital system was thought not to be sustainable.

However, it continued to thrive, and many of our more senior readers will still recall it in use until 1971, although it was closed for a couple of years 1961-63.

Knutsford Guardian: Operating theatre at Albert Infirmary circa 1920sOperating theatre at Albert Infirmary circa 1920s (Image: Rose Hurley)

The downfall of the hospital was the opening of a brand-new South Cheshire hospital at Leighton. Leighton Hospital would have at least five times the capacity of the Albert, and for many of the local small cottage hospitals, their fate was sealed.

These included Nantwich Cottage, Alvaston Hospital, Linden Grange maternity home, Coppenhall Hospital and the Albert.

Highfield House/Albert Infirmary was finally demolished and made way for the Station Road bypass in the late 1970s.

Yet another historic building with so many memories turned to dust.