The Hospital in the Park

2018 sees the 70th anniversary of the NHS which started life at Park Hospital on 5 July 1948.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/content/articles/2008/07/03/nhs60_trafford_general_hospital_feature.shtml

Originally built by Barton upon Irwell Union in a corner of Davyhulme Park, Park Hospital is now Trafford General.

In 1926, at the same moment as negotiations for the sale of Rickmansworth Park were underway, the Union started building their hospital. It was opened by the Princess Royal (HRH Princess Mary) on 1 June 1929, the same person who presented the prizes at the School in 1927 when it was still at Clapham.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 Park Hospital was taken over by the War Department for use by the Armed Forces. The well-equipped School San came under close scrutiny by Rickmansworth Council at much the same time. They had it in mind to create a casualty clearing station but the School authorities resisted. You could say they repelled all boarders – except those who were female, of school age and were registered as pupils at RMIG!

Park Hospital was de-requisitioned in September 1945 by which time plans for the NHS were well underway. The world’s first universal health care system provided by government was steered to fruition by Aneurin (Nye) Bevan. He died in 1960 just ‘up the road’ from the School in Ashridge House, near Berkhamsted.

So the School Sanatorium, the ‘hospital’ in the park, has some interesting parallels with Park Hospital and the birth of the NHS.

At the time the plans for RMIG were drawn up, the NHS was unheard of and provision was therefore made for the healthcare of all the pupils. This had always been considered as part of the overall package from the moment pupils were accepted by the charity. Medical practitioners offered their services gratis for pupils and there was an awareness from the outset that a group of people living in close proximity were subject to the possibility of contagion. From 1795, all prospective pupils were required to have a certificate, signed by a medical practitioner, to say that they were safe from smallpox and had no defect in sight or limbs. If having a certificate of health pre-admission seems strange, it should be noted that by 1818 some 272 girls had been educated at the School and, of these, only five had died whilst at School. Given the rate of childhood mortality beyond the School, this is quite a remarkable success story.

The first school site being an already existing building adapted for the purpose, it is unlikely to have had a designated area for sick children. When the School moved to Southwark, the floor plans do not specify any area dedicated to treatment and care of sick pupils but there clearly was some. The matron’s duties extended to healthcare although primarily she was responsible for ensuring that the girls remained healthy rather than actually nursing them. It was her job to ensure that any contagion was dealt with swiftly so, for example, in 1821, two girls who contracted scarlet fever were removed to the Fever Hospital in Gray’s Inn Rd.

“The London Fever Hospital (LFH) was founded in 1802 at 2 Constitution Row, Gray’s Inn Lane, just north of Guilford Street … it had 15 beds, and was staffed by three nurses, a medical officer, an apothecary and a porter.” https://aim25.com

An article in The Spectator declared:

The ward fees are seven shillings a day for adults and five shillings for children.

http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/12th-january-1924/14/the-london-fever-hospital

This indication of charges, albeit later than when used by the School, underlines that healthcare could be costly but throughout the School’s pre-NHS history, there was never any question of pupils not receiving the appropriate healthcare on grounds of cost. For example, a pupil in 1921 was treated at the Yarrow Convalescent Home in Broadstairs at a cost of 25/- per week from July for a month, followed by 3 months convalescence. The costs would have been met entirely by the School.

By the time RMIG reached Clapham, there was dedicated provision with resident staff. Often referred to as ‘The San’, it was officially the Infirmary and was referred to formally as such by the Head Governess. However, the two names were clearly interchangeable. For example, a former pupil, Gertrude Craik, in 1920 ‘became the assistant to the nurse in the Sanatorium’ before moving on in 1922 to Great Ormond St Hospital. In another example, Betty Starling ‘Contracted scarlet fever in 1924 and was retained in sanatorium over school holidays, later transferring to the Joyce Green Hospital, Dartford so that the San. could be disinfected.’

The infirmary at Clapham was updated from time to time, as need arose and the school roll increased. It had its own dispensary as the picture from about 1912 below shows.

By the time the School had left the metropolis and moved to the fresh fields of Herts, it was also ready for a larger medical section. At Clapham, it had been recognised that a separate entrance to the infirmary would be a good idea as a method of keeping contagion controlled. At Ricky, it went one step further – well several steps actually – by having the Sanatorium in a separate building. Furthermore, although all the other buildings of the time were connected by underground service tunnels, the San was not (and still isn’t).

Making up the fourth side of a quadrangle, the San had a south façade with larger windows and balconies and a north façade with smaller windows.

The solaria were placed to take advantage of stronger sunlight to aid recovery. The two balconies were designed to enable patients to sit outside (whether they wanted to or not!) on the basis that ‘fresh air is Good For You’.

The architect’s plans show the several entrances, the main one of which was (and still is) flanked by a design probably based on the medical symbol the Rod of Asclepius and crafted by Joseph Cribb.

But probably the thing that most astonishes the modern pupil, for whom the NHS has always existed, is that the Sanatorium had its own operating theatre.

As a former pupil who experienced the facilities both as a patient and, later, as a probationer, said:

There was an operating theatre, consultant room, dental clinic, pharmacy, solarium, wards and single rooms, and, in 1955, even x-ray facilities.

… we were lucky to have such an efficient, highly commendable health care system, especially as [this] was before the birth of the National Health System in 1948.

There were resident nursing sisters who were assisted by school leavers known as probationers. These were girls who wanted to go into nursing but were not old enough to start their formal nursing training. Probationers, under the supervision of the Sisters, were responsible for the care of the girls and day to day cleaning.

“We learnt basic nursing skills which stood us in good stead for our later careers.”

The picture below shows two of these probationers engaged in cleaning the operating theatre.

A doctor visited daily but was not resident and there was also a dentist who treated the girls requiring fillings etc in the dental clinic in the San. (“Having teeth filled in those days was no picnic with no pain killers available,” recalled another pupil, presumably from experience) but anyone requiring orthodontic work was sent to Harley St or the Royal Masonic Hospital.

The two sisters held surgeries morning and evening for basic treatment. Those requiring treatment in the sanatorium were given a bed whilst those needing a little less intensive care were in the sanatorium as day cases. Some eligible for day care were those who needed TLC, especially new girls, which shows an understanding that for some girls being a long way from their families was an ordeal in itself.

All girls were subjected to regular eye, dental and medical examinations.

“For the less fortunate adolescent teenagers with acne, every Wednesday and Saturday, they received ultra violet treatment in the solarium, all sitting in a circle wearing darkened goggles.”

Pupils were regularly weighed and measured at the beginning of each term.

“The skinny ones were fortified by cod liver oil tablets and malt. Those deemed to be overweight were scrutinised at meal times by the House Matron.”

Judging by the numerous recollections of feeling permanently hungry (Children’s Hollow Legs Syndrome), obesity was far less of a problem than it is today.

The San was the equivalent of a 50 bed cottage hospital, quite possibly better equipped than many. For the most part, there would be 6-10 girls staying in overnight or longer but, just occasionally, if an epidemic broke out, extra space would be allocated. For example, in September 1954 a flu epidemic hit the school. The sanatorium was soon full to capacity with the nursing staff run off their feet. Girls at the recuperative stage were transported by ambulance (St John’s) to Ruspini House which served as a convalescent house whilst new cases took their beds in the sanatorium.

“This lasted nearly a month,” recalled a former pupil, “but, true to fashion, it all ran like clockwork under the eye of Sister Taylor.”

The beds in the ward were typical hospital beds.

Each girl admitted had a day basket in which to put personal clothing and in-patients wore pyjamas and pretty smocked embroidered pink and blue bed jackets. As all the uniform, including nightwear, was provided, no doubt these too were standard issue.

One who was a probationer recalled that they were paid £2.00 a month, just as the pupil teachers also received an allowance. They had one day off a week. Their uniform – of course – was provided and, in addition, when they were ready to move onto nurse training beyond the School, they were equipped with any compulsory requirements listed by the teaching hospital, such as black shoes and a watch with a second hand. Like all school leavers, they also received leaving outfits and were taken to Arding & Hobbs in Clapham where additional clothing was bought.

The healthcare the pupils received, both before and after the NHS was born, was exemplary.

“… when we left the Masonic School, we were as medically fit as possible”

Not sure if the following counts as an item to ensure medical fitness but the Head Governess in the 1890s wrote in her report:

“Miss Davis will feel obliged if the Committee will again allow one dozen pint bottles of claret for the children during that week, as she has found that the best thing for their refreshment in the midst of their work.”

Yes, I’ll have that prescribed please!

A Winter’s Tale

Given the current white-out, courtesy of the so-called ‘Beast from the East’, it seemed appropriate to put together some winter elements connected to the School. The title is, of course, the name of the Shakespeare play. As Mamilius, son of Leontes & Hermione – no, not that one! –says, a ‘sad tale’s best for winter’. During the School’s history, before it achieved independent status, pupils attended under indigent circumstances. Mostly, but not exclusively, these were caused by the death of the father and breadwinner – a sad tale indeed. It was so often the case that the locals referred to the pupils as the orphans on the hill. Connecting this inherent sadness with Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, the father of one of those pupils, and whose death caused her to attend the School, was a drama critic, author and Shakespearian scholar.

Raymond Crompton Rhodes, known as RCR, died in October 1935, following bronchitis and pneumonia. His funeral was attended by the managers of all the Birmingham theatres. As the article above says, he had been a drama critic for a long time and was well respected as such. He had authored many books on the theatre and had renown as an expert on Shakespeare and Sheridan. Presumably because of this, the Assistant Manager of the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, Philip Rodway, indicated in his will that his play texts collection was to go to Mr Rhodes.

Mr Rodway died in 1932. His will, incidentally, also expressed a desire that every effort was made to ensure he was dead before they buried him. This was something that the Victorians were very concerned about. To them, Mr Rodway’s request that

would not be deemed strange. The notion of being buried alive furnished many a ghost story of the period, all very suitable for a dark winter’s night.

But back to the theatre.

Theatre Royal, Birmingham soon after it opened in 1904 – Courtesy William Neale; photo from http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/Birmingham/TheatreRoyalNewStreetBirmingham.htm

‘The Birmingham Theatre Royal collection comprises play texts and prompt books dating from the mid to the late nineteenth century. Many are printed, about 300 are manuscripts. The majority of the manuscripts are copies made for prompting and for stage management.

The collection was formed by successive managers… [and] was saved by the young assistant manager, Philip Rodway, when the Theatre Royal was demolished for rebuilding 1902 to 1904.’

https://theironroom.wordpress.com/2011/10/17/351/

Quite possibly within them somewhere is A Winter’s Tale!

After RCR’s sudden demise, the collection went to Birmingham library where it is still held today. In school records, the Rhodes family address was Shakespeare Drive. No doubt the spirit of RCR would have approved!

As the wind howls outside, one is reminded that warm clothing is essential in winter. The School from its inception in 1788 had been funded by Freemasons. This extended not only to the provision of buildings, books and teachers etc. but also to food and clothing. And the latter was not just during any pupil’s time at school but to equip them on the journey into the world beyond schooling. What these outfits were varied throughout the years. In 1788 it was specified that, on leaving the School, each pupil was to be provided with ‘Gowns, petticoats, aprons, shoes, shifts, caps and Tuscan hats.’ Tuscan hats were straw hats, the straw originally coming from Tuscany so that the style came to be called Tuscan even when it no longer had any Italian roots. Later in the School’s history, the Tuscan hats gave way to hats (unspecified) but the provision of a coat was always included. During the war, when clothing was on ration, the provision for school leavers of a coat, dress and shoes became a real godsend.

To begin with, the girls would make their own clothes but by the twentieth century the provision of certainly outer garments, and often all of the outfits, came from shops. Arding & Hobbs in Clapham was used for many years, even after the School had moved to Hertfordshire. Then it was replaced by Trewins of Watford which was much closer and made the already arduous task for harassed housemistresses of outfitting leavers perhaps very slightly less fraught! As anyone who has experienced it will affirm, taking one teenager to be outfitted for winter, top to toe, in the off season and all accomplished within one hour, was a Battle Royal. To take a dozen ….

Winter clothing aside, the other noticeable thing about this season is that there are a greater number of darker hours. One girl (pupil 1959-1965) remembers them especially as

‘I was a keen musician and used to rise at about 6.00 in the mornings to go and practise on the Steinway in the hall (special privilege!) In the winter it was dark and scary at that time of day, walking up the cloisters and along the long classroom corridor with no lights on!’

The cloisters, the Garth and the long, long corridor are noticeable parts of the School on its current site. Traversing any of them at a time of day when no-one else is can be intimidating. Today the corridor is punctuated by fire doors which close automatically in the event of a fire. They also close automatically every evening and there is something rather eerie about being in the corridor when, with a sudden loud click, all the doors start to close without anyone near them!

Moving away from winter (the season) to Winter, a surname, there are 2 pupils who have had the name. They were two of the four daughters of Joseph & Caroline Winter. Ellen Lockwood Winter was born in 1853 in Chirk, Denbighshire where her father was the stationmaster. From there, he moved on to be innkeeper at Barr’s Railway Station in Hereford and Annie Gorton Winter was born there in 1856.

Above left: the bridge carrying the rail line into Chirk (from Wikipedia) and right: Hereford station today (from Google Earth) but probably, apart from cars, not looking much different than it was in 1861.

Joseph Winter died ‘after a lingering illness’ on 3rd May 1864. His two younger daughters subsequently became pupils. Ellen won the Vocal music prize in 1868 but had left the School by the 1871 census. In fact, there is no trace of her in 1871 but in 1875 we catch up with her. On May 5 1875, she married at South Kensington St Luke, the groom being Julius Christoph Richter, a merchant born in Königsberg, Prussia. After this very brief appearance in public records – which also includes a reference to her sister who was a witness at the wedding – Ellen disappears off the radar again. Given that her husband was a merchant, perhaps they travelled a great deal and thus the British records do not see her. In 1941, in GRO Consular Death Indices, we find her death on 9th May in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Her sister, Annie, was accepted as a pupil on 13th April 1865. In 1871, she is found with her mother and another of her sisters back in Hereford. Annie would have been due to leave in April 1871 so she had perhaps only just returned home when the enumerator came knocking at the door. Like her sister Ellen, she won prizes: one for general proficiency and one for French recitation, both in 1868.

Her brother in law was from Königsberg and that is where we next find Annie. We do not know why she was there but perhaps she had travelled there with the newly married couple. The two sisters would appear to have been close so this does not seem an unreasonable supposition. On the other hand, she may have been, as so many pupils were, a governess to a family there, such a place found via her in-laws.

‘For centuries, Königsberg was the metropolis of eastern Germany. The city … became a meeting point of diverse historical and cultural traditions, as well as the home for people of various nationalities and religious beliefs.’ https://canitz.org/

‘Königsberg was a beautiful, vibrant and a very prosperous city … and a vital shipping port … Grand merchant houses, banking offices, palaces and opera houses were erected in the city center.’ https://canitz.org/

Today, the city does not exist. Kaliningrad which stands where Königsberg used to be is actually a new city as Königsberg was completely destroyed in WWII.

For whatever reason Annie was there in 1876, we know this because it was where she died. She was just nineteen years old.

But so that we don’t end entirely on a sombre note, let us finish with a reference to one of Königsberg’s famous sons, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, author and composer. It is his stories that form the basis of Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman opera. He also wrote the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which Tchaikovsky’s ballet is based. And that is a ballet traditionally put on in winter, around Christmas, with every little girl wishing she could dance the part of Clara.

Images of Nutcracker from http://www.twincitiesballet.org/twin-cities-ballet-mn-performances/nutcracker.htm

If we have to have a ‘beast from the east’, the Mouse King is better than snow and ice. And it makes a good winter’s tale. Or should that be tail?