The Old Hospital, Minehead – Chapter 2

It’s damp; as I shield myself under the umbrella from the rain at 6 am this Monday, walking past The Old Hospital.

This beautiful and meaningful “Neo-Gothic” style structure was built in the late 1890s by Thomas Ponsford, arguably the most attractive and useable public assembly rooms in the area.

This dominant face located in the heart of The Avenue, Minehead, with a frontage of 33.3 meters, hides over two hundred years of stories.

The coldness of the damp weather doesn’t affect me, as I absorb the atmosphere of the morning together with the spirit of the building.

Dripping rain from my umbrella, likewise the water from the roof, falling down the drain pipes make me think as I look at the flowers surrounding the entrance that they need this rain.


As I stroll around the frontage, reflecting in windows and my memory. Wondering how we would define a window, counting some 106 window frames or what could be a glass opening window? I would argue that the mental vision I had of 40 windows was the main structure of what I would call a window.

Centre to this magnificent property is the dominating blue castle door standings securely welcoming in gesture. Being aware of the dry steps as they are protected by the overhanging balcony above, considering the thousands of individual feet that have astride this threshold into this property and their memories.

The symmetry of the fascia is interrupted by the wheelie bin; the advertisement “want to use this space” is contradictory in terms. Would you hire the space for a wedding with this ugly wheelie bin in front of this beautiful building, like the rubbish, the Costa Coffee cup on the pavement? It’s all about attention to the detail.

There’s a new tenant, Treat Suite, a play on words, as their menu is mainly sweet’s, that’s cakes for my waistline, I say to myself.

Their metalheads stand proudly in front of the cafe. Local designer Stephen Heard a disabled former carpenter with around 150 of these sculptures around the town. The community has embraced these unique pieces of art.

I do wonder to myself as I stand there, does the corporate branding black-and-white compliment historic colours of the Old Hospital?

As I placed my hand against the wall, the grittiness of the 200-year-old bricks that hold the moisture within is a unique sensation—reminding me of coral, or pumice stone, absorbent to water with millions of holes. No wonder nobody wanted to buy this building from the NHS.

A question for me to find out, what are the aerials for, who uses them and why.

As I return towards the street, turning and looking up at the flats, my wondering thought is who lives in them or are they empty?

Comments (1):

  1. Dr Charlie Mansfield

    June 29, 2021 at 7:26 am

    A useful way of reviewing a piece of writing is to use 2 stars and a wish. Pick out 2 points that are particularly affecting or effective for readers, then finish the feedback with something you would like to see developed.

    My two star points in Mark’s Chapter 2: that opening line. It has a powerful statement of conditions ‘It’s damp’ then goes on to give readers all the key time and place data in a narrative nutshell. It takes courage to write short sentences or clauses as incipits, ‘it’s damp’, but their immediacy has a strong impact.

    My next star would have to go to ‘reflecting in the windows’. It uses that gently play on words of thinking as reflecting and of visual mirroring, so it has literariness without strong humour and it addresses one of the exercise challenges on trying to count the windows to compare with what the imaginary held and told before the field visit. I used to put too much humour into travel pieces and I found it prevents you as a writer from tackling serious ideas later. This piece by Mark holds on to the seriousness, which means readers continue to treat the whole text as worthwhile. So that when we reach the paragraph that mentions ‘a play on words’ it acts like a dialogue or link back to Mark’s own play on ‘reflecting’. This gives narrative structure. We have met that idea before and here is the echo.

    Now my wish. The flats. Where are they? The final paragraph with its turning and looking up leaves me lost; are they up above Poundland? Alternatively, are they in those dormer windows? I wish he had drawn attention to a feature that would identify the windows of the flats more easily for the readers. I would like to see this developed in the third and final post, written in past tenses.


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