Nottingham’s Healthcare Development was financially

supported by the Tobacco Industry!

To organise and stage any major corporate or public event, it is almost certain those organising the event will have approached, a multi-national company to sponsor the event.

In a world that relies on big money to hold large public events, sponsorship has become ubiquitous.  For example, the organisers of the 2012 London Olympics have already signed sponsorship deals with 55 multi-national corporations.

Corporate sponsorship is something we take for granted, just as long as it doesn’t prick the public’s moral conscience, which recently it has. It came when it was discovered that one of the sponsorship deals signed for the 2012 Olympics was awarded to a chemical firm reputed to be responsible from the production of Agent Orange, a chemical that was used during the Vietnam War.

However, mention the words ‘tobacco company sponsorship’ and any grumblings over a chemical firm’s sponsorship deal is eclipsed by the paroxysms of rage coming from hand wringing members of the public.

An example of this outpouring of public emotion came in 2001 when the British and American Tobacco Company gave the University of Nottingham £3.8 million to fund an international centre for the study of corporate responsibility. Amidst all the toing and frowing of arguments, there were calls for the money to be returned; the campaign group ASH said: ‘BAT is one of the world's most irresponsible and anti-social companies, and is under investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry over its role in tobacco smuggling.’

In truth, the fallout from tobacco sponsorship comes mainly because we are aware of the harmful effects that tobacco usage can bring. However, turn the clock back to the early part of the 20th century and the story is quite different.

Nottingham during the early years of the 20th century was quite unlike it is today. Back then Nottingham’s retail trade was mostly a conglomerate of small independent businesses, and its main centres of mass employment were the cycle, brewing, coal mining, pharmaceutical, hosiery, and tobacco industries.

Unlike today, it was these industries, through their owners philanthropic endeavours that bank rolled much of Nottingham’s welfare facilities.

Before the days of the National Health Service, hospitals were unlike anything like they are today.  They were a miss-match of local authority hospitals, cottage hospitals and voluntary hospitals. In Nottingham, hospitals like the City came under the management of the local authority, whereas the General, Women’s and Children’s Hospitals were all voluntary hospitals.

Voluntary hospitals, for their finance and upkeep, relied upon subscriptions, donations and legacies; legacies which invariably came from local aristocratic and business leaders. For example, just before the turn of the 20th century in 1899, Sir John Robinson, the owner of Home Ales, donated £10,000, which is today worth £1,011,500.00. This was followed in 1926 with a further donation of £5,000, today worth £239,000.00. Earlier in 1920 the owner of Boots the Chemist, Sir Jesse Boot made a donation to the tune of £51,850 for the development of the Nottingham General Hospital that in today’s money is worth £2,105,110.00.

These are just a few of the many thousands of pounds worth of donations by local business leaders which in today’s money would be worth millions. But the one benefactor that the General, Women’s and Children’s hospitals were to benefit most from were from the brothers William Goodacre and John Dane Player of John Player and Sons.

Children’s Hospital Extension: Opened in 1923, costing £40,000

William Goodacre and John Dane Player were largely responsible for the expansion of services at all of the above three hospitals. Combined, from 1915 to 1943, they donated a total of £166,250.

The ‘Ropewalk Wing’ opened in 1927

These donations brought much needed expansion. To highlight a few, the building of new wards at the Nottingham Children’s Hospital at Forest House, opened 1923 came at a cost of £40,000 to John Dane Player. Later in 1939, he made a donation of £25,000 to extending the facilities at the Women’s Hospital on Peel Street. This was followed in 1927 when William Goodacre Player made a £50,000 donation to the cost of building the Ropewalk Wing at the General Hospital, only to be followed in 1932 with another donation amounting to £25,000 to build the ‘Player Wing’ on the steep west face of the General Hospital site overlooking the Park Estate. In 1943 a second-floor was added to the Player Wing with all costs being met by W. G. Player. Earlier in 1929, at considerable cost to himself another storey was added to the Jubilee Wing.

Player Wing, General Hospital, opened 1932

Jubilee Wing extended in 1929 by W. G. Player

The other two hospital projects the Player family contributed to, was an earlier donation by W. G. Player in 1915 of £1,250 to the modernisation of the X-ray department. This was followed in 1932 with a £25,000 donation from J. D. Player as a contribution to the building of the Pay Bed Wing.

Pay Bed Wing, opened 1933

These are the donations the Player Family made we know of. Although not publicised, during the height of the Second World War in 1943 the Player Family made a donation of £250, which would today amount to £ 9,255 to the upkeep of the Nottingham Children’s Hospital.

A combined total of £166,250 today doesn’t seem all that much, but allowing for inflation those combined donations would today amount to a staggering £6,154,575.

It is worth bringing to mind, if people then thought the way we think today and refused the many generous donations given by the player family, because of the industry they were allied to, the history of Nottingham’s hospitals would be a lot different.

Finally, the tobacco industry donating large sums of money to healthcare expansion, today seems an inconceivable thought. However, with the ever increasing commercialisation of the National Health Service in England; with ever imaginative ways to try and generate income, just imagine if Imperial Tobacco decided to make a donation of £6,154,575, the 21st century equivalent to the amount originally donated all those years ago, to the building of a new health centre or hospital building. With a £6 million plus price tag, just think what be purchased with that amount of money. But before all that, what do you think the public’s reaction would be...I will leave you the reader to decide!

John Dane Player

William Goodacre Player

John Player Snr.

John Player and Sons