After World War One, there was concern on the Isle of Man about the health of new and expectant mothers and their babies, with the Douglas Maternity Association highlighting that “There was a disquieting decrease in the birth rate for the island in 1918, and infantile mortality was somewhat higher” (reported in the Isle of Man Examiner, 6 March 1920). Wealthier women could afford to pay for private maternity homes, or for medical assistance in their own homes, but the poor women of Douglas often gave birth in the cramped and filthy conditions of the slums.
In 1924 an attempt was made to add a maternity ward to Noble’s Hospital for the poor of Douglas. However, the funds could not be found, much to the annoyance of Mayor AB Crookall. In 1927 he solved the problem by donating a house and paying the cost of its refurbishment as a maternity home for Douglas. He named it after his wife Jane, who had died in 1922.
The first Jane Crookall Maternity Home was located at 29 Desmesne Road, in a former boarding-house. It contained twelve beds, one of which was funded by the Football Association, and was open to women from all over the island. Six of the beds were in a general ward, with six in private rooms. It was opened on the 28 March 1927, and the Mayor promised £1 to the first ten children born there, to be kept in a bank account until they were fourteen years old.
Between 1927 and 1932, 680 women were admitted to the Jane, and there were 642 live births there. During this time Caeserian sections were sometimes performed on new mothers at Noble’s, and ergot began to be used as a way to control bleeding.
However, by 1935, the site was no longer seen as adequate. There were few facilities for isolating infectious patients and growing pressure for beds meant that some patients were unable to stay for the full two weeks after giving birth, as planned.