Whilst I'm pleased I haven't had to go there that often, I'm also glad we have a small hospital in the town, where on the couple of occasions I've had to go to the minor injuries unit, my GP has been in attendance. When I've had to go to Bristol or Bath instead, I've hated the depersonalisation going to such a large facility brings, even though I know full well to have done so in Chippenham would be uneconomic.
However, in much earlier times no-one would have been glad to go to the pictured building as it was Chippenham's workhouse. Built in 1858-9, it would have been considered the place of last resort (and dread) for the poor and needy. If a man entered the workhouse, his family had to go with him. Life was harsh, the diet poor and all the able bodied were expected to work extremely hard for their watery porridge. Occupants were free to leave if conditions allowed e.g. work became available outside. However, many didn't and the sick and elderly often became confined to the infirmary until the end of their lives.
Families wouldn't be housed together: children were separated from their parents and the men from the women. Chippenham's building has two main wings, opposite each other (the above link has a map and plenty of extra photos showing the layout) and I imagine one housed the men and the other the women. The 1881 census shows there were 225 residents from a wide area in and around Chippenham.
I haven't been able to find out when the workhouse became our hospital, but as it would have been one the town's largest public buildings at the time and contained some medical facilities already, I wonder if there is some connection with the formation of the National Health Service (NHS) in the 1940s.
NB the links about Chippenham's workhouse are taken from a fascinating website which has lots of information about the general social history, politics, architecture and life of the workhouse.
This is for ABC Wednesday and forms the 24th of my themed posts about Chippenham.