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Full text of "Memories of Mendip Hospital"

Memories of Mendip Hospital 




-£Q p\ D <*er*. t 



lid'" 1 



Josie Bosley 



First published 2000 

by Gerald D. Burton 

Wells, Somerset, Great Britain 



The right of Josie Bosley to be identified as the Author of this Work has 
been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, 
Patents Act 1988. 



Republished on the Internet Archive (www, archive, org) under a 
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 UnportedUcence 

Copyright ©Josie Bosley 2000 
Internet Edition ©Jane Weightman 201 2 

First Edition ISBN 9538509 

Typeset by Reesprint, 
Radley, Oxon, 0X14 3AJ 

Printed and bound in Great Britain by 

Oxford University Computing Services 

Oxford, 0X2 6NN 



ON-SCREEN VIEWING OF PHOTOGRAPHS 

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sideways for maximum print si%e. Recent versions of Adobe 

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Contents 



Fore: 


word to the Second Edition 


5 


Fore, 


word to the First Edition 


6 


Preface 


8 


1 


First Recollections of Mendip 


9 


2 


Moving In 


17 


3 


living In 


19 


4 


Jack 


24 


5 


Christmas 1939 - Easter 1940 


26 


6 


The War Years 


29 


7 


After the War 


35 


8 


My Involvement with Music at Mendip 


40 


9 


The Pantomime Years 


44 


10 


The Dancing Years 


48 


11 


The Last Waltz 


53 


I 


endices 
Historical Perspective 


55 


II 


Author's Family History 


57 


III 


Author's Education 


59 


IV 


Photographs 


62 



In memory of 
my husband, Harold 



Foreword to the Second Edition 



What today is the village of South Horrington, near Wells, was for 143 
years the Mendip Hospital, or Somerset & Wells Lunatic Asylum, as it 
was originally known. For almost half that time, my mother was closely 
associated in various ways with the hospital. 

By the 1980s, the closure of Mendip was on the horizon, and her 
unique insight into it seemed too valuable a piece of history to be lost. I 
well remember her starting, with pen and several notepads, to write this 
book. With the help and encouragement of the late Gerald Burton and 
Dr Robin Rees, it was launched in July 2000. My mother passed away in 
February 2009. 

Interest in her book has continued to the extent that it is no longer in 
print. Dr Rees and I have therefore turned to a new publishing medium, 
the Internet, and I am grateful to the Internet Archive for facilitating 
this. 

Jane Weightman 
February 2012 



Foreword to the First Edition 



I remember Josie Bosley and her trio playing for ward parties in the 
years leading up to the closure of Mendip Hospital. I knew her old 
home — the Chief Male Attendant's house — only after it had become the 
hospital pharmacy. I saw only one pantomime, and that years after Josie 
had ceased to be its musical director. I never knew the recreation hall 
without badminton markings on the floor; I do remember the old grand 
piano on the stage, regularly strummed for hours on end by a patient 
who believed himself to be a second Beethoven. Clearly I missed much 
that would have been good to see and hear. Dr Bridger was still Physi- 
cian Superintendent - the last to occupy that position - and I remember 
his retirement, which closed an era. Many of the names Josie mentions 
bring back memories. 

I went to work at the hospital in January 1967 as Medical Registrar 
and stayed for the rest of my working life. As great institutions do, 
Mendip Hospital developed a strong personality of its own. Its history 
spans and reflects a period of unprecedented social, medical and tech- 
nological change. Its mid-life was disrupted and distorted twice by 
world wars. It knew the best of times and the worst of times. It won the 
family loyalty of a great company of staff and was home for many years 
to hundreds of patients. At times its tendency to take over one's whole 
life had to be resisted. Its dying years were painful to those who had 



Foreword to the First Edition 

known it at its best and it was sincerely mourned. Though it had adapted 
itself to changing circumstances with remarkable flexibility throughout 
its long life, and could have continued to do so, it had come to represent 
an outlook that was unfashionable and politically incorrect. It could not 
be allowed to survive: yet some of its traditions continue in the new 
framework. 

All this is reflected by Mrs Bosley in her reminiscences and it is good 
that she has written them down. That she has undertaken the labour of 
doing so illustrates the important place the hospital held in the lives of 
so many who played a part in its life; the generosity and loyalty it 
inspired; and the goodwill in which its work was done. 

Morag Hervey 



Preface 



My mother's father and later my father held the post of Chief Male 
Nurse at the Mendip Hospital in Wells. I was therefore born into a fam- 
ily that had very close ties with the hospital. My own association with 
the hospital also grew, as by playing the piano I was able to contribute to 
the patients' social well-being and entertainment over several decades. 

In my seventies and with time to recollect, I began to write this 
account of my memories. With the imminent closure of the hospital, I 
felt that I possessed a piece of local history that was about to come to an 
end. The result is a personal insight into how the Mendip Hospital col- 
oured my life, and a revealing look at the psychiatric hospital and how it 
served the people of Wells and district. 

This book would not have seen the light of day without the help 
given by my daughter Jane, Gerald Burton and Dr Robin Rees. I am also 
grateful to my daughter Mary for her photographic contributions. 



First Recollections of Mendip 



Few octogenarians find themselves living in the very house in which 
they were born. I was born at 1 Georgeville Terrace, Wells. I now live at 
17 Bath Road. However, they are the same house! My mother's mother and 
Aunt Gertie, mother's sister, lived next door at no. 2, now 19 Bath Road. 

Some years earlier my father Joseph William Hall had been appointed 
as a nurse 1 at the Somerset & Wells Lunatic Asylum, as Mendip Hospital 
or Mendip was then called. It was strange how he became a nurse, as he 
was living at home near Camberley, Surrey, and answered an 
advertisement in the newspaper for a Leader of the Orchestra at Bath 
and Wells County Asylum. Father was a violinist, so he applied for the 
post and came down for the interview. He was then shocked to learn 
from the Medical Superintendent that he would also be expected to do 
nursing, which was the last thing he had ever thought of doing. But hav- 
ing been offered the job he decided to take it, and so moved from Surrey 
to Somerset. 

In those days the single nurses had to live in the hospital, whilst the 
married ones lived out. There were a fixed number of single men on the 
staff, and a fixed number of married ones. If single nurses wanted to get 

1 The words attendant and nurse were used at different times to describe the 
male nursing staff. The female staff, however, were always called nurses. 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

married, they had to wait for a vacancy. Sometimes, I understand, this 
meant a long wait. If they got a girl in trouble, as the expression was, it 
meant instant dismissal. How things have changed! 

At the time my Dad joined the staff, the Head Attendant lived in a 
large house in the Hack Lane at the hospital, opposite the church. He was 
a member of the orchestra, and I think the double bass was his instru- 
ment. He used to invite members of the orchestra to musical evenings 
at his house, and eventually Dad joined in those. He duly met the family, 
including the Head Attendant's daughter, who became my mother. So 
sometime later when there was a vacancy for a married nurse, Florence 
May Andrews married Joseph William Hall. At first they lived in a hos- 
pital house in Frome Road, Mum working in the Needleroom at the 
hospital. A lot of sewing was done there, the female nurses' uniforms all 
being made on the premises. I remember the green flannel-type dresses, 
white caps and aprons. Quite a few needlewomen were employed, 
together with several female patients. I remember how as a child I was 
given quite a large toy elephant made from scraps of the green material. 
After a couple of years my father bought 1 Georgeville Terrace, and I 
was born there on 12th January 1918. 

I did not see much of Dad, as one week he would start work at 6.30 
a.m. and finish at 5.30 p.m., whilst the next he would start at 9 a.m. and 
finish at 8.30 p.m. He had one day off a week and two ten-day leave peri- 
ods a year. Then there were the booked-in days, as they were called. These 
occurred when some form of entertainment was held in the Recreation 
Hall (now the Ballroom) for the patients. Whoever was booked-in did 
not finish until 10.00 or 1 0.30 p.m. What a long day! As Dad was musical 
(he also joined the church choir), he was involved with entertainment 
for over 40 years. 

I do not know what I thought the hospital actually was when I was a 
little girl. For some inexplicable reason it seemed special. I was a little 
afraid of the huge building, with the high walls around the airing courts, 
now car parks. But I loved going for walks, sometimes up the drive and 

10 



First Recollections ofMendip 

along the front. There were always lovely shrubs and flowers in the 
beds, and cows in the fields at the side of the main drive. 

Dad's uniform was heavy navy serge material with brass buttons and 
a hard hat. He always had a whistle on a chain in his top pocket, and I 
have it still. He worked hard, passing his nursing exams, and was later a 
charge nurse. When I was a baby, his father-in-law Frederick Andrews 
bought no. 2, next door to us. I only just remember Grandfather 
Andrews, as I was about two years old when he died. 

The hospital was referred to by a lot of people as simply the House. A 
conversation between Aunt Gertie (my mother's sister) or Gran (my 
mother's mother Martha) with someone would go something like this: 
'Where does Billy work now?' Back would come the reply, 'Oh, up at the 
House'. I could not understand this. 

As a little girl I remember the walkingparties, when patients would be 
taken for a walk with several nurses. I used to watch them coming down 
the road, perhaps walking in twos. If they were female patients and any- 
one was coming in the opposite direction on the pavement, a nurse 
would call out, 'Walk to the side, please, ladies!' Of course, the male and 
female patients were taken out separately. 

After I started school and it came to Christmastime, Dad was given 
permission for Mum and myself to go to thcsmokmg concert held in the 
Hall on Christmas Eve. This was a highlight for me. A great deal of 
work went into this variety show performed by the members of staff, 
amongst whom there was a great deal of talent. Mum and I had to walk 
up to the hospital (there were no buses or street lights). I became so 
excited when we came to the drive and saw all the lights shining out of 
the windows of the huge building. Then we arrived at the centre door. 
The door, of course, was locked, but once we had been admitted by the 
hall porter, we waited for Dad, who took us to the Hall. I remember the 
corridors with their brown and green paint, all cold, dark and draughty, 
and with all the doors locked. Then we came to the Hall. Dad unlocked 
the door, and in we went. The Hall was beautifully decorated, with 

11 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

paper shawl-type decorations made from brightly coloured tissue paper. 
Festoons of evergreen hung from the ceiling with paper flowers, roses 
mostly, all stuck in the greenery. All these were made by staff and 
patients. The paint was dark, and around the walls were large pictures in 
heavy frames. Accommodated on a small gallery halfway along the side 
of the hall was a mechanical organ which played from perforated paper 
rolls; I believe it was called an Orchestron. The organ was used for 
dances, and the rolls included overtures and Gilbert & Sullivan selec- 
tions. I particularly remember the overture to Poet and Peasant by Suppe 
and that to Zampa by Herold. In later years, when silent films were 
shown in the Hall on a screen at the opposite end to the stage, this 
instrument was used to accompany them. Still later, when the annual 
Christmas Staff Dinner and Dance was held, bands were engaged to 
play. 

For the smoking concerts the seating was divided down the centre, 
with female patients on the right, male on the left. The doctors, resident 
staff and guests all sat in the front rows of seats, and the first row was 
always reserved — with cushions on the seats, mark you — for the doctors 
and hospital committee; the rest of us sat on the hard seats. There was 
also a table with boxes of chocolates for the front row guests. The stage 
was very large and had beautiful red velvet curtains. I could hardly con- 
tain my excitement. At the interval the nurses would go round offering 
sweets to the ladies and cigarettes to the men. The concert was always 
good. 

Whilst I was still quite young Dad taught me to read music. I used to 
accompany him with some easy tunes on the piano: Mary of Argyll, The 
Ash Grove and so on - they became harder as I grew older. I also used to 
do songs and dances, which the patients enjoyed: they always liked 
children. 

When the evening was over and Dad had finished taking the patients 
back to the wards, he would walk us home, returning immediately on his 
bike to the hospital, as the choir and some of the concert party then 

12 



First Recollections ofMendip 

prepared to sing Christmas carols. They sang not only in most of the 
wards but for the doctors too, which meant quite a trek around Westfteld 
and up to Birdipood on the Bath Road just before Horrington School. 
They sang at all the houses and farms in the hospital grounds, so that 
Dad would not arrive home until it was nearly time to get up again. He 
nearly always worked on Christmas Day, so Mum and I saw little of him. 

The next excitement for everyone at the hospital was the New Year's 
Eve patients' Fancy Dress Ball. Everyone wore a costume; at midnight 
they held the Grand Parade around the Hall, and prizes were awarded 
for the best costumes. I was not allowed to go to any of these when I 
was young but did so several times when older. The aim, especially for 
the staff, was to be so disguised that it was difficult to guess who your 
partner was when dancing. This was an occasion when the patients 
mixed, and of course the staff danced with them too. Dad had everyone 
guessing one year, and only one person was let into the secret. He bor- 
rowed a ballet tutu from the dancing school where I was a pupil, and of 
course with various wigs he had to choose from, and tights. There was 
only one snag: Dad had a big black moustache. There was only one 
thing for it: he shaved it off. He only whispered when spoken to, and no 
one knew who he was. None of the men he danced with had a clue. 
Poor Mum: when he came home she didn't recognise him either! 

There were refreshments, and the baker made large square fruit- 
cakes. Dad used to bring a piece of this ball cake home, and very good it 
was too. 

The hospital had a messenger boy who, at the time Dad started there, 
rode a bike. Then he had a small horse and cart, almost a large trap. As a 
child I used to listen out to hear the pony and trap coming up or down 
the road. Later - probably in the early thirties - the pony and trap were 
superseded by a van. 

When I was nine or ten years old or perhaps even a little younger, a 
different form of entertainment was introduced, something I really 
looked forward to: silent films were shown in the Hall on Monday 

13 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

evenings. These were accompanied on the Orchestron, which Dad 
always pumped. Films were shown throughout the winter months, until 
about Easter time, so when it began to stay light until 6.30 p.m., which 
was the time the films started, Dad was given permission for me to go. I 
used to walk to my Auntie Eva's house in Frome Road and go up to the 
Hall with my cousins. All the resident staff could go if they wished. 
Afterwards at Auntie Eva's house we would all have cocoa and some 
bread and cheese, and perhaps a pickled onion. Dad had to help put 
patients to bed, ready for the night nurses, before he came off duty. He 
then called for me and took me home. 

After I started work in millinery and gowns at Madame Kate's (by 2012 
this had become an estate agent's office) in Wells High Street when I was 
fourteen, I was allowed to accompany Mum and Dad to the Annual 
Staff Ball held in January. This was a really good dance. Each member 
of staff was allowed to invite one visitor, their names being written on 
the tickets, which were not transferable. Some members of staff did not 
use their invitations, and in that way Dad was able to obtain a ticket for 
me. The strict regulations on the use of the Hall are hard to credit nowa- 
days. No drinks were allowed in the ballroom and there were no bars, 
and if, as sometimes happened, someone was caught smuggling drink 
in, the Medical Superintendent would ask them to leave. Nor was it per- 
mitted to wear outdoor shoes; only dancing shoes could be worn. The 
floor was beautifully polished, the patients having spent hours wielding 
the la%y backs, as they called the heavy mops on handles. The refresh- 
ments were excellent. The tickets came in different colours and your 
supper time was printed on the ticket to avoid congestion in the refresh- 
ment rooms. 

In earlier days, when my mother's father Frederick Andrews lived at 
the hospital, the Ball was held in a similar way, except that they had a sit- 
down meal: roast turkey or beef with all the trimmings and vegetables 
and puddings. This was always laid out in the church approach, leading 
from the side of the stage in the Hall, across Back Lane to the church. 

14 



First Recollections oj Mendip 

This was a long, bridge-like room, affording ample space, with windows 
on one side which looked down onto Back Lane. My grandparents used 
to enjoy this evening very much. The ballroom was still decorated from 
Christmas Eve, as the trimmings were not taken down until after the 
Ball. The wards were always trimmed for Christmas. I myself never 
went through a ward, but did manage to see a little through the windows 
when the lights were on. 

As the years passed, a lot of changes took place at Mendip, and at 
some stage the official name was changed from The Asylum to The Mental 
Hospital. 

In time Dad became Deputy Head Nurse, formerly entitled Head 
Attendant. Some of the patients were now allowed out on parole. On 
Saturdays (and Wednesdays too, I think) they used to go down into 
Wells and look around the town. Many of the men went to the football 
matches; of course, they had to be back in the hospital by a certain time 
and, if they were not, a search party was sent out to look for them. 
Occasionally a patient would run away but would eventually be found. 
Patients were also allowed to see the November torchlight carnival in 
Wells. There were always good cricket and football teams, and in the 
hospital there was a first-class billiard room; so the staff and patients 
had plenty of sport. 

A highlight of life at Mendip was the patients' sports afternoon, held 
once a year on the cricket pitch. Patients were seated all around the field, 
and as many as were able took part in the events. There were, however, 
many elderly and even some people in wheel-chairs who just watched, 
but everyone enjoyed the tea party. The event took a lot of organising, 
as staff had to be careful which patients to take outside. I do not think 
my father approved of patients being obliged to go out if they did not 
want to, or were old and infirm, especially if the weather was unsettled. 
But he did not make the rules, and it was a good day on the whole. 

Next to the cricket pitch, the new female nurses' home was being 
built. I think it was started sometime in the late 1930s, but not 



15 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

completed until after the war. 

The hospital had its own resident fire brigade, of which my father 
was a member in his early years there. Many of the nurses had to be on 
call for fire duty. 

The years went by, and more changes came to Mendip, especially in 
1939 with the threat of war. Following the introduction of parole for 
the patients, a dance and a whist drive were held in the Hall on alternate 
Wednesdays. These events were much enjoyed by patients and staff 
alike — but still all the doors were kept locked. 



16 



Moving In 



I first met my future husband as we were both leaving the Regal Cinema 
in Wells one day in 1936. We were close friends for some time and 
became engaged in 1939. 

In the spring of that year my dear Mum passed away. She had never 
enjoyed robust health and was only 50 years of age. Dad and I were 
heartbroken, as was Harold to whom I was engaged. I was glad Mum 
had known him and that I was going to marry him. The threat of war 
was now upon us, and the hospital was in turmoil. By the time Harold 
and I were married in August, many of the staff — both nursing staff 
and men from the building yard and other trades — had been called up. 
Dad had now been promoted to Head Nurse. To prepare the hospital 
for war time — the black-out, rationing and so on — was an enormous 
task. The patients regarded my father as a friend, not as one of the 
remote, authoritarian figures of former times. He encouraged the 
patients to call him by his Christian name, Joe. 

In early September 1939 Dad told us that we would have to move to 
the Head Nurse's house in Back Lane, as he had to be on call at all times. 
He did not put any pressure on Harold and me to move with him but 
thought that if Harold was called up, which was highly likely, it would be 
the sensible thing. At this time I was very worried about what course to 
take. On the one hand I did not like to think of Dad in that big house on 

17 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

his own: when you are an only child the responsibility falls on you. On 
the other hand, though it is hard to believe in this day and age, there was 
a stigma attached to Mendip. Our friends seemed to feel it was unthink- 
able for us to move there. However, as I thought I would be going to 
have a baby in the summer, I consulted my doctor, who was a most 
understanding man. He said that it was a good idea to move with Dad 
and that I would be far better off living at Mendip for the duration of 
the war. 

On 21st October 1939 we moved to Mendip. It was a lovely warm 
sunny day. I was sad to leave my house at Bath Road where I had lived all 
my life. Despite this, in a strange way I was also looking forward to my 
new surroundings. 



18 



3 
Living In 



Mendip was like a little self-contained town. I was now seeing the hospi- 
tal differendy from how I had seen it through a child's eyes. Apart from 
the main building which housed the patients (the male patients were at 
the Wells end of the hospital and the female at the Horrington end), 
there were extensive kitchens, the stores, administrative offices, the ball- 
room, games rooms and various other rooms and accommodation for 
nurses, and of course the church adjoined the main building through 
the church approach on Back Lane. 

Dr Spence, one of the resident doctors, had a suite of rooms in the 
main building, and there too were the offices, the pharmacy and the 
needlerooms. 

Dr McGarvey, the Medical Superintendent, lived in Westfield. This 
house was situated at the top of the drive, surrounded by beautiful gar- 
dens and trees. The next house, a little further towards North Lodge (that 
is, along the drive towards the Bath Road), was the male night nurses' 
house. We then came to North Lodge itself, standing just inside the drive 
and giving immediately onto the Bath Road. By the entrance to some of 
the building-yard workshops was the weighbridge. The clerk of the 
works (who at that time lived in the village of West Horrington) was in 
charge of bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, painters and decorators, 
the stokers in the boiler house — in fact, all the workmen connected with 



19 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

the building in any way. Doubling back past the night nurses' house and 
turning left into Back Lane, one passed the undertaker's shop on the 
left, whilst on the right was the back of the hospital. There was a fire 
escape on the junction. 

Passing an airing court on the right you then came to our house. 
Although it adjoined the main building of the hospital, it was on the 
corner of the entrance to a very large square, the house being on the 
lane side, on the right-hand side of the yard. There were also some pad- 
ded rooms (cells, they used to be called) which had very small, narrow 
windows, and shutters instead of curtains. In the corner between our 
house and these rooms was another huge iron fire escape. Further 
round the square (or yard, as many people called it) was an entrance 
door to the hospital, and curtained windows; these were mess rooms. 
Continuing round, on the left-hand side were shops: the butcher's, the 
baker's and the shoemaker's. Looming up behind these was the roof of 
the ballroom with its huge dome in the centre. And so we found our- 
selves back at the entrance to the square. Immediately opposite us on 
the other corner of the square was another house, which in 1939 was 
the firemen's store house, where their equipment was kept. 

Going on along Back Lane to the house, one passed double doors at 
the back of the stage; these provided access for any scenery or large 
props needed for entertainment; bands also took their instruments in by 
that route. Then we came to the boiler house with its tall chimney, the 
dairy, another square, airing courts (female), and wards with side rooms. 
We then came to the junction where you could turn left to continue to 
the Bath Road, passing Hillside on the left, a really large house where 
female patients lived (I think these were on parole). The gates to the 
drive were always locked. On the right-hand side were a couple of small 
houses in which staff bricklayers' families lived at that time. There was 
also a larger house, but I cannot remember whether patients or staff 
lived there. Then we came to a little wood, Nettlecombe. Harold and I 
used to have lovely walks up there, and in the spring of 1940 we picked 

20 



'Living In 

white and blue violets and primroses. There were lots of birds, espe- 
cially rooks, and they made such a noise. 

Turning right at the junction from the hospital, the lane went down to 
Frome Road. Home Farm was at the bottom of the lane. There were sev- 
eral houses in Frome Road. They were occupied by the two Head Gar- 
deners (one for kitchen and one for flowers) together with building- yard 
and farm workers. The Farm Bailiff lived at Knapp Hill Farm, on the 
Bath Road going towards Wells. 

Mendip was surrounded by beautiful scenery: fields, woods, golf 
links and all the hospital's own shrubs and flowers. The view from the 
centre front was lovely, looking across to Glastonbury Tor. 

Our house was spacious. Its back entrance gave onto the lane and its 
front door, with a small glazed porch, onto the square. There were laurel 
bushes in front, and also under the rooms on the right of the square. It 
was good to have a bit of green against all the grey walls around you. 
The entrance hall was large; it had windows and a big cupboard under 
the wide stairs. Two sitting rooms led off to the right, one off the other. 
The one with the bay windows overlooked the lane, whilst the bigger 
one with very large windows overlooked the square. On the left of the 
hall was the lavatory, very large, with a big window, then the linen room. 
This had an old-fashioned black range and a small window facing the 
lane. On one side was the larder, which was very useful. It was a small 
room with windows on one side. Especially useful so far as I was con- 
cerned was that it had a marble top, a long slab, ideal for leaving meat 
and fats to cool, and also for making pastry. Leading off the other side 
of the living room was the hallway inside the back door. The kitchen 
was on the left, the coal house straight in front. The kitchen was a long 
narrow room with a small window by the sink. There was a very old gas 
stove, but also two big tables with plenty of shelves all around. 

There was quite a large landing upstairs, again with windows over- 
looking the square. Like the downstairs, one room led off the other. 
There were two large bedrooms. Dad had the one to the right of the 

21 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

landing; the bathroom adjoined this room. On the left was a large room 
leading to quite a small room; Harold and I chose the small room 
because the window looked onto the kitchen garden and the distant 
hills. 

My father's wages were quite low, but the emoluments went a long 
way to make up for this. He was provided with the house, with a con- 
stant supply of hot water, electricity, gas, coal and firewood. Moreover, 
every day a basket of vegetables and fruit (whatever was available at the 
time) was delivered; I can still see in my mind's eye the basket that 
awaited us when we moved in. We enjoyed runner beans (in October), 
carrots, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, pears and a few 
late raspberries, potatoes and the odd marrow. Once a week flowers 
were delivered, and there were always pot plants if we wanted them. Pot 
plants were everywhere, it seemed, in the hospital. Milk and cream we 
collected from the dairy. Bread we bought. We also bought our meat, a 
lot of which was home-killed; it was always good. Occasionally we man- 
aged to get some cake. We could not use war rations for groceries at the 
hospital, but instead stayed with our grocer in Wells for all the tea, sugar, 
butter and so on. 

The vegetables, flowers, coal, firewood, etc. applied also to the doc- 
tors, the store-keeper, who lived at North Lodge, and the Head Clerk, 
who was at the Bottom Lodge (Knapp Hill). The emoluments applied also 
to the rest of the staff who lived in the other hospital houses. I am not 
sure whether or not they paid any rent for their houses, but they cer- 
tainly all received plenty of everything, one way and another. 

We also had asparagus, plums and greengages when in season, and 
even wall peaches were grown. Had we been a large family (as my grand- 
father's was, with no fewer than eleven children), Dad would have 
received more, but we were only a small family, so our needs were less. 

At the top of the kitchen garden was the San, where infectious ill- 
nesses were treated. In latter years, before Mendip closed, these build- 
ings were turned into the occupational therapy department. 

22 



'Living In 

In the laundry a large staff was employed, and male and female 
patients also did their share of the work. Walking up Back Lane past the 
laundry, you could always smell washing boiling, and the steam used to 
come pouring out. I was fascinated by the large laundry baskets on 
wheels that were used. I do not think they had tyres, because from the 
house I could hear them being rolled down the lane and across the 
square into the hospital. Usually they were pushed, piled high with 
sheets, shirts, etc., by male patients. They also did the doctors' laundry, 
and I used to see dear old Beattie (one of the patients) walking past our 
house with Dr McGarvey's baskets. I remember noticing beautifully 
starched and ironed pillow cases and tablecloths on top. 

The gardening gangs of patients, with staff, used the square to enter 
and leave the hospital, and the main gate to the garden was opposite to 
us. 

Soon after we moved to Mendip, with already approximately 950 
patients of its own, Park Prewit Hospital, Basingstoke, was converted 
into a military hospital, so all the patients (but without the staff) were 
evacuated to Wells. There were now 1,300 patients. With staff already in 
short supply, it was a difficult and very hard-working time. I do not 
know how they got them all bedded, but of course they did. Not sur- 
prisingly, I did not see much of Dad. 



23 



4 
Jack 



Jack Curtis was born, unwanted, in a Union in Devon. He was moved 
from one institution to another until as a young man he was sent to the 
Asylum in Wells. This had been his home for a good many years. Before 
we moved to Mendip, Dad told me about Jack and thought it would be a 
good idea for him to help me with the work. Jack had helped Mrs 
Henderson, the Head Nurse's wife, who had previously occupied the 
house. I was somewhat nervous about this idea. It was one thing to have 
an occasional chat with some of the patients, but another to have one 
around the house. So I told Dad that I could manage quite well on my 
own. He did not press the subject, but I know he thought I was silly and, 
as usual, he was right. 

There were a few patients who helped residential staff; that is, the 
doctors, Mrs Coates at bottom "Lodge, and Dad. I thought Dad would 
explain to Jack, but I did not then realise what a determined person Jack 
was. On our first day he called and asked me if he could start, and 
explained that he always 'did' for Mrs Henderson. I told him that when I 
got straight after the move I would let him know if I needed him to do 
anything. So began life in Back Lane. 

Jack was quite a character. He always wore a cap, usually a bit to one 
side on his head, and did not miss much of what was going on. Every 
day Jack called, and I always gave him the same answer - and a piece of 

24 



Jack 

cake. Then after about a week, I opened the door to see him holding 
tightly clasped in his hand a bunch of pansies and other small flowers, 
which he thrust up into my face, saying, 'Now can I start?' What could I 
say? So Jack 'started'. 

He really was very useful. He would fetch the milk in a milk can from 
the dairy, pick up the coal, chop firewood, and clean the range. He 
would also scrub and polish the floors and clean the windows. He would 
do any little job I wanted doing. Sometimes it needed a bit of going over 
after he had gone, but I really appreciated his help. He loved his pieces 
of cake and bread and cheese, and if I made suet pudding or anything 
like that, he would be very pleased to have some. Often he would come 
into the kitchen and say, 'Are you making duff (suet pudding)? Because I 
like that!' 

He always kept his cap on. Sometimes when the weather was wet he 
was soaked, but would never take off the wet clothes. Maybe if he was 
picking up a bucket of coal, he would suddenly push the cap to one side 
and smear coal dust all down his face. But that was Jack. 

Harold was very fond of Jack, as we all were. When later we moved 
back to Bath Road, Jack was a regular visitor on his way from Mendip to 
Wells. I think Harold and I, Dad and the girls, were regarded by Jack as 
his adoptive family. 



25 



Christmas 1939 - Easter 1940 



As the winter approached, the evenings became darker, and the days 
dull, I sometimes felt very lonely. We did not have many visitors, as my 
friends were doing war-time jobs, and even Aunt Gertie was at 
Scophony Baird's factory (later EMI, now Racal Thorn Defence Sys- 
tems), making parachutes. Also some people did not like the idea of 
walking down the drive when it got dark. Owing to the strict black-out 
there were no lights anywhere. The hospital had its own ARP (Air Raid 
Precautions) wardens. 

The noises from the patients in the side-rooms used to worry me a lit- 
tle, and sometimes I felt really upset. 

But then it was Christmas. My first Christmas at Mendip was one of 
the happiest I remember. The gardener brought in lots of holly. We dec- 
orated the big sitting room with paper shawls which Dad had made. We 
also had paper chains kept from over the years, and the little artificial 
Christmas tree bought at Woolworth's for 6d several years beforehand - 
I still have it. We had a large chicken from the butcher, and plenty of 
vegetables. I did not make a pudding that year, but the chef of the hos- 
pital sent one across. The chefs and kitchen staff did a wonderful job. 
So did the bakers, managing to make puddings, mince pies and Christ- 
mas cakes. Meat was not too much of a problem for Mendip, which had 
its own slaughter-house, but dried fruit and sugar were another matter. 

26 



Christmas 1939 - Easter 1940 

Both the baker and the chef used prunes and dates as substitutes for rai- 
sins and currants, and treacle and syrup to make the sugar go further. 
We were not too short of things that first Christmas, but problems there 
certainly were during the rest of the wartime Christmases. Yet the hos- 
pital always managed to produce good Christmas fare for all the wards. 

The entertainments were reduced now. The church services were 
held on Sundays as usual. I am not sure about the films, but I think they 
were still shown for a while. But the balls were cancelled. The orchestra 
must have disbanded when I was a child, as I never heard it play. My 
mother had told me how good it was. In the New Year of 1940 we had 
some severe weather and quite a freeze-up. All the trees in the drive 
looked beautiful, all silver with icicles. The roads were very slippery, 
though gangs of patients and staff went out and spread ashes on the 
drives and pathways. 

I became accustomed to the long walk to Wells, whilst Harold, who 
was managing clerk in a solicitor's office in the Market Place, by Penni- 
less Porch, used to borrow Dad's push-bike to ride to work. It was hard 
work uphill, coming home. 

Then came spring. The war news was bad, and many things were in 
very short supply. I kept busy with the big house and was now knitting 
and sewing for our baby. I was very worried about the baby coming. 
There was no one I could confide in, for my mother and Harold's 
mother were dead and Harold had no sisters. But we obtained all we 
needed in readiness for the new arrival. As the evenings became lighter, 
Harold and I went for little walks around the gardens and Nettlecombe, to 
pick flowers. 

At Easter the bakers were very busy, and Henry Batstone, who made 
the cakes, made hot cross buns. They worked all night on the Thursday 
and everyone had a bun for Good Friday morning; I cannot recall ever 
having tasted such good buns. 

I did have one especially good friend, Auntie' Martin. She had been a 
friend of Mum; in fact she and her husband (who was a nurse at the 

27 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

hospital) stayed with us in Bath Road until they could get their own 
house. A married maris vacancy turned up, so, because of the rule I 
mentioned earlier, they got married. She was as good as a relative to us 
and, after the baby was born, used to come to see us and do lots of 
things to help us with the newcomer. 



28 



The War Years 



Our baby Mary was born on 10th May 1940, a little early, but absolutely 
beautiful. On that day, Hitler invaded the Low Countries. 

Harold had volunteered for the Pay Corps in order to be able to carry 
on with the job he knew; he received his papers to join up while I was in 
the nursing home. As I was not very well at all, the doctor got him a 
week's compassionate leave, and so he was able to take us home. We 
went home on the Saturday, had Sunday together, and he left on the 
Monday. 

Dad was delighted with his little granddaughter, and I must not forget 
Jack, who could not resist taking a look in the pram every time he came 
in. 

I was devastated on the Monday when Harold went off to Bourne- 
mouth to start his Army career. I kept telling myself that there were 
hundreds of people left on their own like me. I think it was the loneli- 
ness that hit me the hardest. I was so lucky; I had a dear little baby to 
care for and Dad was always kind. He was good to be with when there 
was trouble, because he was always so calm. I suppose it was because of 
the job he was doing. The working patients that I knew were all inter- 
ested in Mary. There was Sandy, a tall, thin man who used to deliver the 
coal with the coalman Bill Pyke. They would bring the coal in a cart with 
heavy wheels: it must have been hard work to push it along when it was 

29 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

full. Sandy was a very quiet person. Then there was Bill, who brought 
the vegetables in from the garden. He was a big chap and a bit gruff. 
Another was Bill Lower, who helped Mrs Coates at Bottom Lodge. He 
seemed quite a jolly person. One morning he came along to see the baby 
and brought a beautiful bunch of tulips for me, and a shoe box for 
Mary. It contained a primrose and an egg. These were 'good-luck 
charms', he said, to bring good fortune to the baby. Jack was at the 
house when Bill called, and jealousy reared its ugly head. I arranged the 
flowers and put them in a vase in the hall. Later in the day when I went 
through the hall they were gone, and in their place were white pompons; 
I think they were from a shrub. I asked Jack if he knew anything about 
this, and the reply was that the flowers were rubbish, he had thrown 
them away, and his were much nicer. After he had gone for the night, I 
looked in the little building in the centre of the square which served as a 
small tip, and sure enough there were the flowers. I retrieved them and 
rearranged them in another room. 

In late June Mary was christened at St Thomas's Church, where we 
were married. Harold managed to get home on the Saturday, the chris- 
tening took place on the Sunday morning, and Harold went back in the 
evening. It was wonderful to see him. 

Auntie Martin was always a welcome visitor. She used to help me 
clean the bedrooms, since Jack did not help upstairs. We would have a 
cup of tea and a natter. She loved the baby as did her son John, who was 
aged about eleven. 

In July my sister-in-law Alice invited Mary and myself to join her in 
staying with friends for a fortnight in Bournemouth, our respective hus- 
bands being stationed there with the Pay Corps. I was uncertain since I 
was not very well, but Dad and my doctor thought it would do me good. 
Of course I wanted to see Harold so much, and Dad assured me that he 
would be all right in my absence. It worried me a little when we arrived 
at the coast, that everyone who could was moving away! Harold and his 
brother Ivor (Alice's husband) were delighted to see us. I did not take 

30 



The War Years 

too much for Mary as we only had a fortnight's emergency ration cards; 
the lovely rocking cot had been left behind and she slept in her pram. 
Alice's friends Rose and Bob Hallet were shocked when they saw the lit- 
tle baby. They had thought Mary was much older and were worried in 
case there were any air raids. We saw a good deal of Harold and Ivor, 
though on some nights they had to do beach guard duty. 

Just before we were due to return, a ban was put on Bournemouth: 
nobody could enter or leave. In the event, therefore, our anticipated 
fortnight's stay lasted for several months. 

For the next six years I spent months at a time with Harold in 
Bournemouth and the other months with Dad at Mendip. In due course 
Harold got billeted out to stay at Capstan Road (between Bournemouth 
and Boscombe), where Auntie Rosie always made us feel welcome. Ivor 
went abroad, so Alice went back to Street. 

Harold had also been due to go abroad, but at the eleventh hour 
failed the medical on account of a bad tooth. When he enquired if the 
dental inspector would remove the tooth, the reply was, 'Certainly not. 
That's not my job; it's my job to report it.' Thus Harold stayed in 
Bournemouth, and who knows in what way that tooth may have 
affected our future? 

I will not elaborate on my time at Bournemouth because this story is 
really about Mendip. I used to plan the stay with Dad for when Harold 
had some leave due and could travel home to Wells with us. The jour- 
neys were quite smooth on the train — steam, and on lines long since 
closed. Usually the trains were packed with servicemen, and sometimes 
one had a job to find a seat. Between Shepton Mallet and Wells we had 
to travel by taxi. The only taxi driver in Wells was Frank Cardwell, and 
Dad would arrange for him to meet the train. 

I was always pleased to get home, especially when Harold was there as 
well. Dad would always have baked jacket potatoes in the gas oven, and 
you could smell them as soon as you walked through the door. On one 
occasion Dad was still at the hospital, but it was not long before he came 

31 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

over to welcome us home. He loved Mary, and used to sit on the stairs 
so that she could have what he called a little confidential 'with Do-Do, as he 
referred to himself. Jack was always around, and had the range roaring 
away. It was good to see all the vegetables and fruit in the larder, as in 
Bournemouth they were none too plentiful. I often had to queue, even 
for rhubarb. Dad used to send us a box of vegetables by rail from time 
to time, and this was much appreciated; Auntie Rosie enjoyed them as 
well. 

The air raids had started, and German planes flew over Wells to 
bomb Coventry, Birmingham and Bristol. I used to get up and take 
Mary downstairs, whilst Dad always went over to the hospital if there 
was an alert. Sometimes when I was really frightened, Mary and I would 
take refuge in the cupboard under the stairs. Dad used to go back and 
forth to make sure we were all right. I could not let Mary see that I was 
frightened, so I used to tell her stories; she never realised what was 
going on. 

One night at the height of the bombing raids, while Mary and I were 
in Bournemouth, a stick of fire bombs was dropped on Mendip. They 
must have thought the huge boiler house chimney was a factory. Dad's 
shoe, sock and the bottom of his trouser leg were burned. Fortunately 
the brigade and staff put out all the fires before the heavy bombers 
arrived. What would have happened if the hospital had been bombed 
does not bear thinking about. There were sandbags in the roof all over 
the hospital. Dad kept the container of the fire bomb that hit him; it 
looked like a large egg-cup. 

In spite of all the worries during the war years, we looked forward to 
many things, and enjoyed and appreciated any little treats that came 
along. More and more things were disappearing from the shops. Things 
were much easier home at Mendip than in Bournemouth. Although 
pointswcYe. issued with the ration books, to be used for tinned foods, the 
only meat I remember was spam. Jam was scarce, as was golden syrup; 
even if you had enough points you could not always find any. I 

32 



The War Years 

remember during one stay at Mendip going into Wells to do my shop- 
ping, and seeing golden syrup in the World Stores window, for I had 
been unable to get any in Bournemouth for a long time. The gardener 
was still sending the fruit- plums, blackcurrants, raspberries and apples. 
Some of the luxury fruits and vegetables in the garden were taken out to 
grow more potatoes and cabbage. Dad used to make very good jam; this 
was a special treat. He did not make a lot, but there was raspberry, black- 
currant, gooseberry and plum. He used brown sugar if it was available, 
and syrup. It did not taste quite the same as when made with white 
sugar, but was still delicious. I used to bottle some fruit but did not 
sweeten it with anything until we used it for stewing. We could seldom 
make pies as the fat ration was so small. Custard powder was scarce, as 
was everything of that kind. Porridge oats were also hard to find. But we 
had much to be very thankful for. Eggs became very scarce. The hens 
had to be killed off as there was hardly any food for poultry, for that was 
rationed as well. Then came the dried egg from America. This was use- 
ful but in small supply. 

One night, very late, a porter came from the hospital to the house to 
see Dad, accompanied by an American army officer (a few Americans 
were stationed in Wells at this time). Apparently they had asked to use 
the recreation hall for a meeting, and had requested tea and light 
refreshments. Someone had slipped up and forgotten to tell the kitchen 
staff. The officers had finished their meeting and were awaiting a cup of 
tea. Dad went across to see what he could do, but the kitchens were all 
locked and he did not have the kitchen keys. So back they came, and 
Dad suggested that we make as much tea as we could with what tea and 
sugar we had. They could return it to us the next day. The officers were 
well pleased with this. I cannot remember whether or not we let them 
have any bread and cheese; certainly not biscuits, because they were 
hard to come by. 

Sure enough, the following day a large box was delivered and I could 
not believe my eyes. Not only had they returned tea and sugar, but also 

33 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

tins of fruit and biscuits, these items being real luxuries, together with a 
note expressing their grateful thanks. Mary was thrilled to get a biscuit. 

Whenever we were in Bournemouth, Dad continued to send us boxes 
of vegetables, and sometimes, nesding in the middle of a cabbage or 
whatever, would be a cake from Henry the baker. When Dad could not 
find any string (that too was hard to get), he cut down the aerial wire that 
ran around the sitting room for our old radio, and tied the box up with 
that. Where there's a will there's a way was his motto. 

I had not played the piano at all since we lost Mum. Somehow I did 
not want to. Dad still played the violin when he could. There were three 
clerks in the office at Mendip at that time, and the youngest was eventu- 
ally called up. He was also organist at the church and had played the 
piano for all the smoking concerts. 

Winnie Neville from Wells came along on Sundays to play for the ser- 
vices (I cannot remember whether she was a widow or her husband had 
left her). Her son Trevor was a pupil at the Blue School. She also played 
piano for country dancing classes at the town hall. Sometimes when 
Dad could get off duty, he played too. They did several litde gigs, for 
example dances after whist drives at Horrington School. She sometimes 
came across to the house for a cup of tea on Sundays. I did not mind; I 
was glad that Dad had a friend for a bit of company, especially when I 
was in Bournemouth. 

So things at Mendip stayed much the same until the wonderful day 
when at last the war was over. I was staying with Harold at Bourne- 
mouth on VE day, and remained until he was demobbed, just before 
Christmas. It was sad saying goodbye to Auntie Rose and Uncle Bob: 
they had been so very kind to us over the years. We kept in touch and 
later visited them. They were very fond of Mary and missed her a lot. 

So once more we were all together in Back Lane. 



34 



After the War 



After the war, in general things were much the same at Mendip, but 
there were a few changes. Even before the war, conditions for nursing 
staff had gradually changed. The rule of having to wait for a married 
man's vacancy had been abolished, making life easier for the nurses. The 
new Clerk of Works lived at North Lodge. The fireman's house, opposite 
us, was let out to two London evacuees: Miss Skinner who was 
employed in the kitchen, and Miss David, who worked in the 
needleroom. Miss Skinner's niece Sylvia was a couple of years older 
than Mary. So now we had neighbours. The same doctors were still in 
residence and, as far as I remember, so were all the rest of the former 
resident staff. Jack was still his usual busybody self. Harold returned to 
his old job, and Mary started school at Horrington County Junior. I used 
to take her to the entrance by North Lodge, where she would meet a 
teacher, Mss Wise, who used to push her bike up the hill towards the 
school. I always fetched Mary after school, Miss Wise riding home 
downhill. Dad was as busy as ever, but for a long time I had noticed that 
his left arm and hand were very shaky. Several times I asked him about 
this, but he always said it was caused by playing vibrato on the fiddle. It 
was not that at all, but the onset of the wretched Parkinson's disease. 

Our new baby was due in May, so I was busy sorting out the best of 
Mary's baby clothes and making some new ones. The blue valances and 

35 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

other items for the cot were washed and starched. 

So winter passed into spring. We went for all the familiar walks. Har- 
old's brother Ivor had returned from abroad and sometimes he and his 
wife paid us a visit, now with their little girl, Jennifer. 

I was finding the walk uphill to the school difficult sometimes. Jack 
was overjoyed when he was asked to meet Mary from school. This made 
him feel very important. But he was good with her and I knew he would 
bring her home safely. The head mistress told me how he used to walk 
around the classrooms, look at everything and, no doubt, ask a lot of 
questions: he never missed a thing if he could help it. 

Jane was born, a month early, in the Wells Cottage Hospital. She too 
was a beautiful baby, heavier than Mary had been. During this time Mary 
stayed with Auntie Martin in Allen's Lane. She was very fond of Auntie 
and Uncle Martin and John. Like Mary, Jane was christened at St 
Thomas's; Gertie, my mother's sister, was her godmother. 

Harold had returned to Mr Wilson's in his old job, but was not too 
happy, as he had ambitions to move on. So, when Jane was about five 
months old, he obtained a job at County Hall, Taunton. He tried to find 
somewhere for us to live but, so soon after the war, housing was in short 
supply. 

We also had Dad to think of, for when he retired he would have to 
stay with us. His shakiness was much worse now. So Harold went into 
'digs' and came home at weekends, sometimes on Friday night until 
Monday morning, but often he had to work on Saturday mornings, not 
getting home until tea-time. I was not very happy at our being parted 
again, but at least I had the children to keep me company. 

Some of the staff returned to their old jobs at the hospital, and 
everyone was trying to pick up the pieces again. Rationing was still in 
force, and everything that had been difficult to obtain during the last 
six years was still in short supply. The patients who had been evacu- 
ated from Basingstoke stayed for quite a long time too. Dad was really 
due to retire, but the committee asked him to stay on until staffing 

36 



After the War 

problems eased. 

An informal concert was given by the staff for the patients in the 
Hall. It was not a rehearsed concert as in the old days, with chorus num- 
bers, but was successful nevertheless. 

As the months went by, things at Mendip gradually improved, and 
many more changes began taking place. 

Mary was showing great interest in the piano. I could have started her 
off myself as I had had a few pupils before Mum died. But it is not a 
good idea to teach one's own children, so I sent her to have lessons with 
Mrs Jones at 10 Vicars' Close. Sylvia Skinner used to have violin lessons 
with Mr Jones on Saturday mornings, so it was arranged that Mary 
would walk down with her for her lesson. It worked very well, and Mary 
proved to be a promising pupil. 

When Jane was seventeen months old, another problem arose. Dad 
had let out our own house for the duration of the war to an accountant 
from Bath. He now decided to return to Bath, so Georgeville Terrace 
was left empty. However, at that time the local council was requisition- 
ing all empty properties for homeless families, as no new houses had 
been built for years. The Town Clerk, Harold Dodd (who was a friend 
of the family), told Dad that although he himself did not want to do 
this, the council were pushing him about it: unless someone was living 
there in a week's time, they would move a family in. We did not know 
quite what to do. We knew that when Dad retired - which would be as 
soon as possible, for the Parkinson's had taken quite a hold — the hospi- 
tal would claim Back Lane House for the next Head Nurse. 

It so happened that we were the last family to live there. Mr Ware, 
who eventually took over from Dad, stayed on in his own house in Bath 
Road, and later the house became the pharmacy. 

So began another change for us. It was decided that Harold and I 
should move down to Bath Road, and that Dad would stay on until he 
retired. The move was not without its fair share of domestic tensions. 

Each day I would see Mary off at the nearby bus stop for her 

37 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

two-mile journey to school - the fare each way was only three ha'pence! 
Next I would do any necessary tidying-up and washing, then take Jane in 
her pram to Back Lane in time to get dinner for us with Dad. There was 
always something do around the house as well. Sometimes I pushed the 
baby up to school to meet Mary, but quite often Jack still met her. We 
would have tea, and Mary would do her practice (as Dad still had the 
piano), then we would walk home. 

In due course Harold decided to come home from Taunton every 
day. I was very pleased about this, but worried a lot too, as it was a long 
bus journey especially in the winter months. He used to leave home at 
7.30 a.m. and return at 7.00 p.m. I used to put aside a dinner for him in 
the middle of the day and push it to 17 Bath Road on the pram to heat 
for his evening meal. 

I must return to the story of Mendip. Dad eventually retired, in very 
poor health and unable to play his beloved violin. 

So we were now all back at the old house. In the following year Har- 
old was transferred from County Hall to Mendip and joined the now 
ten-strong office staff compared with the three when we first lived 
there. By the time the hospital closed, certain members of the office 
staff had their own secretaries, and countless other new positions had 
been introduced. I smile when I think back over earlier years at how well 
the hospital had been run — with so many more patients to look after. 

Parkinson's disease now had a hold on Dad, but he had wonderful 
will-power and was determined not to give in. Mary and Jane were both 
doing well with music. Mary had started the violin now that she was at 
the Blue School. Jane, who was at Horrington School, was very good 
indeed on the piano: later, like Mary, she too played the violin. They 
really gave their grand-dad a lot of pleasure. He must have been very 
unhappy at not being able to play any more; he used to say that next to 
Mum his fiddle was his sweetheart! 

Time went on, and although we had a lot of anxious times, we also 
had many very happy ones. Jane was a pupil at the local ballet school and 

38 



After the War 

had started taking part in dancing displays just before Dad passed away. 
The following year Mendip staff decided to put on a pantomime. 



39 



My Involvement with Music at Mendip 



I had not played the piano for many years. When Jane's ballet teacher, 
Pamela Court, asked me if I would play for the children's dancing scenes 
in the 'panto', I was horrified. I explained that I did not think I could 
manage it: my fingers would be stiff, and I would be nervous of letting 
everyone down. But Pamela had such a persuasive way that in the end I 
gave in. I worried enormously about it. 

In the event, all went well. The pantomime was held in the Hall 
throughout the week bordering January and February. Three nights 
were for patients from Mendip, Tone Vale (near Taunton), Fishponds 
and other hospitals including the Priory Hospital in Wells, and for the 
Darby & Joan clubs. Coaches came from quite a distance. The remain- 
ing nights were for staff and friends. Children's night was Friday, whilst 
Saturday was VIP night: doctors, the committee, and dignitaries of 
Wells. For every performance the Hall was packed with 400-500 people. 

For a couple of years I played just for the children to dance, the musi- 
cal director accompanying the rest of the show with a small orchestra. 
Then a radiographer arrived at the hospital. This was Graham (a very 
attractive young man) who owned a Hammond electric organ and, 
moreover, played it extremely well. He was asked by the entertainments 
committee to be the musical director for the next pantomime. 

The following year he in turn asked me to play the piano for the 

40 



My Involvement with Music at Mendip 

whole show. The organ was placed alongside the piano and we shared 
the rehearsal work. Graham worked hard with the chorus and soloists 
alike, and brought them up to a high standard. I was the accompanist. 
There were among the staff many Irish, Welsh, Spanish and even one or 
two Greek nurses, male and female, so some of the rehearsals were hec- 
tic to say the least, with all the different accents. 

The same little girls, now growing up, did the ballet scenes and, as 
they got older, performed modern musical and tap numbers which were 
always excellent. Jane took part until she was in her teens. Pam Court did 
the choreography for all the cast (the routines were always good) and 
costumes too. The pantomime costumes were excellent, and made by 
the hospital staff and patients headed by the matron, Miss Finney. We 
mums supplied our own costumes for the girls. Graham and I worked 
well together and he gave me a lot of confidence. He then thought it 
would be a good idea if we got together with Brian, the drummer who 
joined us for panto week, and formed a trio. 

In my teenage years I had played piano for Dad and his little group 
who worked under the name of the Premier Dance Orchestra. In those 
days a lot of whist drives, followed by a dance, were held, not only in 
Wells but also in the villages around. I must add that although we were 
booked from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. it was nothing to carry on perhaps 
until 2 o'clock. One dear old family friend at Henton would persuade us 
to stay: 'just another ten minutes, Joe', knowing that Dad would always 
give in. Often he had to be on duty again at 6.30 a.m., and all for the 
large fee of 2s 6d. They were the 'good old days' - or bad, as bands of 
today would say! 

The trio with Graham worked out well. Not only did we play for the 
patients' dances in the Hall alternate Wednesdays from 6 to 8.30 p.m., 
but other gigs as well, including some of the staff dances held in either 
the Hall or the Social Club on the Frome Road. We also played a lot at 
Cedar House, the EMI club in Chamberlain Street, and at various dinner 
dances at the local hotels. Graham was married and lived at Wookey, a 

41 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

little village outside Wells. He had a big car and a trailer, so was able to 
take me and the organ around as well. 

Then after two or three years Graham moved to Bournemouth. I was 
really sorry when he left, as it had been such a pleasure working with 
him. Pam, who was now married to farmer Bernard Hale, gave birth to 
twins. She sold the dancing schools at Wells, Glastonbury and Frome to 
Gill from Bristol, who asked me to play for her. Winnie Neville, who 
had been pianist for Pam, was not too well and did not want to start 
again with a new teacher. I really did not want to take this on. However, 
as my daughters were now studying piano and violin - Mary at the Royal 
Academy of Music in London, and Jane in her turn at Trinity College, 
London — I needed a bit of extra money to help them. After being out 
of the music world for so long I was now truly back in it. 

More changes were taking place at the hospital at this time. On 
Wednesdays there was a dance one week and a whist drive the next. This 
was usually the pattern from September until around Easter when the 
nights were lighter. In the summer the patients were out and about, and 
there was more freedom for parole now. After the war the building work 
at the female nurses' home was finished. It really was a super place. New 
houses were built on the Frome Road side of the main drive, including 
one for the Medical Superintendent (who was now Dr Bridger). Westfield 
was now used for those male patients whose health was not too bad, and 
they almost went in and out as they pleased. There was now also a train- 
ing school for the nurses. 

The patients were allowed to shop at the canteen next to the cricket 
pavilion adjoining the staff social club. In later years another social club 
room and canteen for tea and coffee for the patients was opened along- 
side the nurses' home and tennis courts. This canteen was built by the 
WVS. They served tea, coffee, snacks and hot drinks, and later had a 
stock of such items as soap, toothpaste, sweets, biscuits, tights for the 
ladies and socks for the men. They eventually paid off the cost of the 
building, and any money over was given to the hospital. 

42 



My Involvement with Music at Mendip 

In later years on 5th November there was a large bonfire, with a fire- 
works display on the cricket pitch for patients, the staff and their 
families. 

At Christmas there was a party in the hall for the children of the staff, 
with presents from Father Christmas, and the very tall fir tree in the cen- 
tre front of Mendip was adorned with dozens of lights. It was the stee- 
plejack's job to decorate this one! The tree could be seen plainly from 
the Bristol Road, and made a wonderful sight. It could also be seen from 
Knapp Hill and Frome Road. Unfortunately, however, on the Bath 
Road the church steeple got in the way. 

There were still some closed and locked wards, but many were now 
open, and the patients had a lot more freedom. Some of them worked, 
doing jobs such as making pens, and some in the OT (occupational ther- 
apy) department made trays and stools and all sorts of other things: 
lovely wool rugs and tablecloths. These were sold to members of staff. 

Dr Bridger's wife organised a group of people from Mendip and 
Wells forming the Friends of Mendip. Dances, whist drives and jumble 
sales were held to raise money. Later, the Friends combined a fete with 
the Patients' Sports Day, and arranged stalls around the cricket pitch. 
The OT always had a stand and sold all the items I have mentioned ear- 
lier, including soft toys. Some of these were lovely. I always fall for teddy 
bears anyway! 

I turn now to my involvement in the pantomimes and dances. 



43 



The Pantomime Years 



Graham's departure for Bournemouth meant that a new musical direc- 
tor was needed for the coming pantomime, and I was asked to fill the 
bill. I had always been nervous, and this was to be a big step for me. I 
had never directed a show before, but knew just what a lot of work 
would have to be put in. I agreed to do it, and was determined to do my 
best to help them. 

Tom Calvert (Chief Male Nurse now, whom everyone addressed as 
'Sir') was the producer. He and I together went through the script, 
which I took home and read carefully. After the auditions for the princi- 
pals, I sorted out the music. The Mendip had hardly any music, but we 
had a large selection at home. I bought any other songs needed, and 
Mendip would pay for them. 

There was always quite a lot of talent among the staff, and we put on 
a good show with an excellent chorus. The ballet school still provided 
the speciality numbers and front-cloth solos or duets. 

We usually started rehearsals at the end of September for a show at 
the end of January. During the Christmas period it was always difficult 
to rehearse as there were always functions in the Hall and ward parties, 
etc. We therefore tried to get as much as we could done before Christ- 
mas. It was the old story: everyone was eager to be in it, but missed half 
the rehearsals, so that what you did with half of them one week had to 

44 



The Pantomime Years 

be done again the next week for the other half. Tom used to say in his 
North Country accent: 'This is never going to go on!' But it did. I used 
to get into trouble at home for spending so much time at the rehearsals. 

It was a job I did for love: there was no payment attached to it. But the 
cast always gave me a present on the last night, sometimes flowers; 
indeed the music case I still use was a gift from them. My payment was 
the pleasure the pantomime gave to so many people, some of whom did 
not have much to look forward to in life. We were so lucky at Mendip to 
put on an entertainment as large as the pantomime. We had the huge 
stage in the Hall, with all the drop (three lots) of curtains; electricians 
and carpenters etc. who were the stage staff; and large dressing rooms 
with wash-basins and so forth (the principals had their own rooms as 
did the male and the female chorus members whilst the children used 
the church approach to change in). Most of the scenery and props were 
made at the hospital, though some things we had to hire, such as the 
giant's head, and fluorescent and strobe lighting; everything else we had. 
The wardrobe mistress did a good job with so many costumes to organ- 
ise and make. 

I often think of some of the beautiful scenes we achieved, for exam- 
ple the pixie and fairy scenes in the woodland. The children's ballet 
shoes, gloves and pixie ears were treated with the special chemical fluid, 
and the toadstools, large enough for the children to hide under, were 
painted in bright colours with white spots. The special fluorescent lamp 
was placed in the centre front of the stage. It was very powerful and we 
had to make sure that the children did not look directly at it. 

The introductory music for the dance started as the curtains went 
back to show a darkened stage. All you could see were the toadstools, 
the children's fingers and toes, and the pixies' ears: it was a beautiful 
sight. This lasted for just a few minutes, and then the coloured lights, 
operated from the organ loft, gradually lit up the whole stage as the 
dance came to its end and the lights went down again, leaving you to see 
the scene as it had started. It always received great applause. We did a 

45 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

chorus number, Hernando's Hideaway — a tango rhythm — using these 
lights. The chorus also came onto a darkened stage, and all you could see 
were the girls' shoes and the flowers in their hair and on their dresses. 
The men's white shirts and shoes and their hands were all treated. The 
number was sung through like this, then the lights went up to show the 
dance routine. For an amateur production it was first class. We also had 
a gauze curtain which gave a lovely underwater picture, and the frozen 
carbon dioxide for the mist effects. 

Unfortunately, at a Saturday night performance one year they overdid 
the dry ice, and it rolled down the stage like a huge wave right out over 
the orchestra pit. We could not see the music and it nearly choked us, 
but we played on and laughed about it afterwards. 

Another very colourful scene was the ballet in Aladdin's Cave. The 
children wore white tutus with foil overskirts and a design on the bodice 
to represent whichever jewel they were. I got a small orchestra together. 
If Mary and Jane were home, they would play violins for us. 

We played in a sunken pit with rails in front of the stage and curtains 
to box us in. We had quite a good upright piano but the Friends of 
Mendip decided to provide a grand, for Hall use only. This made a dif- 
ference and was a joy to play. At first it was kept locked, with a heavy 
cover over it. But in later years it was not given the care it merited, and 
this used to annoy me very much. 

There was now a resident chaplain living at the Bottom Lodge, and he 
decided to have the piano moved to the church, leaving us once again 
with an old upright (not the original one). In later years the saxophonists 
had great difficulty tuning to it, as it was so far below concert pitch. 
When I told Mrs Bridger one day, she was most annoyed, and I am sure 
it was through her that the grand was soon returned to the Hall. 

We used to hold a party after the last night of the panto, sometimes in 
the Hall and on other occasions in the Social Club. Everyone enjoyed 
themselves, with plenty of refreshments provided, some of an alcoholic 
nature. The cast had a whale of a time singing each other's 'numbers'. So 

46 



The Pantomime Years 

I was very sad when we could not get enough staff interested enough to 
produce another show and the plans had to be called off. 

I was then asked to play for Wells Operatic Society, which I decided to 
do, and worked with a wonderful Musical Director, John Davies, who 
also gave me great encouragement and is now a very good friend of the 
family. Two or three years later a few of the Mendip staff revived the 
pantomime, though on a smaller scale. I could not help them as the 
dates clashed with the 'Operatic'. I did arrange for the children to dance, 
and managed to rehearse and play for them. Unfortunately it only ran 
for a couple of years. I suppose the fact was that most people were now 
able to get around more to see shows, and also television had taken over. 

But thinking back to the pantomime years and looking at all my pho- 
tos still evokes happy memories. 



47 



10 
The Dancing Years 



When Graham went to Bournemouth, I formed a group to continue 
playing for the dances. We usually worked as a trio, or a quartet: tenor 
and alto sax, drums and me. However, if a bigger band was required, I 
had a bass player and occasionally a violin. We built up a good reputa- 
tion, calling ourselves the Mendip Melody Makers. Not only did we play 
for the patients' dances, but we were also engaged to play for dinner 
dances and Christmas parties in the hotels in Wells and district. For sev- 
eral years we played for the New Year dinner dance at The Star. 

We were also the interval band for the big bands engaged for the 
many balls held at Mendip, including the Hunt, Farmers' and NFU. 
These were real highlights for me. Stuart Eddy and his Orchestra from 
Torquay were my favourites. They used to be the ship's orchestra on the 
Queen Elizabeth. They played for many wonderful dances at Mendip. 

We also played for various staff functions. The Police Ball was also 
held there, as the Mendip ballroom was always considered the best in 
the West of England. Well-known names such as Joe Loss, Andy Ross, 
Sid Lawrence, Acker Bilk and Victor Sylvester appeared with their 
bands. There were also military band orchestras, together with several 
local bands including the Skymasters from Street, the Winter Gardens 
Weston resident band, and the well-known Radstock band led by Ber- 
nard Emm. Victor Sylvester and I had a long conversation, and he was 

48 



The Dancing Years 

pleased when I told him I always tried to get my group to play in his style 
of 'strict tempo': slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Everyone could dance to his 
music. 

During the pantomime years and for a while afterwards, patients' 
dances in the Hall were well supported by the nursing staff. Most of the 
panto cast attended and they did their utmost to make the evening 
enjoyable for the patients. Especially around Christmas time, spot prizes 
and refreshments were provided, and this always went down well. Many 
of the patients who had been unwilling to get up and dance (preferring 
to sit and watch) now joined in. 

Our Jack, who was still busybodying around, would turn up only if 
there was anything 'to be had', as he would say. Another character was 
Johnny Tooze - Toozer, as he was called. He was a short man who had 
been a patient at the hospital for years. He was always a keen follower of 
football, and Saturdays would see him hurrying down the Bath Road to 
watch Wells play. 

Many patients, both men and women, kept on their caps and hats 
during the dance. On the other hand, many others wore evening dress 
for the occasion. I look back on those evenings with great affection. 

As the years went on, yet another new job was added to Mendip's list: 
that of Entertainments Manager. He arranged dances, whist drives, and 
also bingo, concerts, socials and so on. He also supervised the Christ- 
mas decorations for the Hall and ordered trimmings for the rest of the 
hospital. Gone were the days of the handmade paper decorations and 
the festoons of greenery. There were now very elaborate foil decora- 
tions — fire regulations were now much stricter. 

I would like to mention in my story how one year during Christian 
Aid week in the spring a charity variety concert was held in the Hall, 
organised by the Wells Christian Aid Committee. Jane brought along 
her Suzuki Baby Violin Class, children as young as three and four years, 
as well as her advanced violin pupils. I had some piano pupils, so 
between us we put on a selection of string and piano duets and solos. 

49 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

Jane's two daughters Jo and Emily, and son Daniel all played piano and 
violin. Thinking back now, my father would be so pleased to think that I, 
both my daughters and three of my grandchildren have all kept up the 
music that brought him to Mendip in the first place. 

At this point I should say a few words about Commander Le Fluefer 
(although goodness knows whether I have spelt his name correcdy). He 
had not been a patient at Mendip for very long before he helped to start 
a patients' social club, and this was quite a success. He edited a newslet- 
ter, well written and well laid out, in which he wrote about the films, 
dances and other activities that concerned the club. He always brought 
me a copy of the newsletter during the dance. 

In the latter years when Mendip was winding down, we played for 
parties in some of the wards. In Boyd Ward I remember that we had a 
Hallowe'en Night. The patients and staff had taken great care in deco- 
rating the ward. There were many large pumpkins (the one on the piano 
I brought home: it was as much as I could do to lift it). Witches, broom- 
sticks, black cats and spiders' webs featured too - it was a highly spooky 
ensemble. Refreshments were plentiful, so you can imagine that every- 
one had a good night, with male and female patients from other wards 
joining in. 

At Eastertime the theme of the decorations would be lambs and 
ducks, together with chickens and Easter eggs. Many of the animals and 
other decorations were painted and cut out to hang on the walls in the 
Occupational Therapy department. At Christmas I often played for car- 
ols in some of the wards that were still locked. 

As the years rolled on, many rumours were abroad to the effect that 
Mendip was to close. Then, believe it or not, the ballroom was refur- 
bished at a cost of thousands of pounds. The original roof had been 
rafters or beams with the dome in the centre; between the beams it was 
all glass, and for that reason the Hall was not used during the war. The 
glass was painted. The Orchestron was sent off to a museum and the 
loft removed. No longer did pictures hang on the walls. The ceiling was 

50 



The Dancing Years 

lowered and expensive modern lighting installed. The decor was very 
good too. The floor, however, was no longer so well maintained as it 
had been in the past, and suffered the ultimate insult of being marked 
out for badminton. 

Many of the patients were discharged to houses found for them in 
Wells, Frome and Weston-super-Mare, and many also moved to Meare 
Manor. This was a large house near Glastonbury which had been taken 
over by the National Health Service. A few of the nursing staff from 
Mendip transferred there too. The houses in Wells district did not have 
resident nursing staff but were, I understand, regularly supervised. Near 
to us were two adjoining houses, one for women, the other for men. 
The patients looked after themselves. 

So much money had been spent on the Hall that there was specula- 
tion among some of the staff that Mendip might be taken over as an 
open prison, but nothing like this ever happened. 

During those years the kitchen gardens were wound down, and the 
farms also suffered. I just could not understand the logic of buying 
when they could grow all they wanted. It used to make me feel very sad 
to drive up the Bath Road and see from over the wall the gardens with 
nothing planted or growing in them. 

In the last couple of years before the closure of Mendip, we no lon- 
ger had any patients' dances. The reason given was that the staff could 
not be allowed to be at the dances as they were needed elsewhere. 

I used to meet some of the patients when I went shopping in the 
town and they would tell me how they missed and wanted their dances, 
but although I tried I was unable to get them started again. All the same, 
I realised that the patients who were still there had a lot more going for 
them than in the old days: television, outings to pantomimes, and the 
seaside in summer. But many of them still missed those dances. 

The last time I played for the patients was at Christmas 1990 when I, 
on my own, was asked to play for a party in Westlake Ward. The ward 
was beautifully decorated and visitors were invited to join in. They had 

51 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

plenty of food, sherry and beer, and of course tea and coffee. I played a 
selection of music including all the Christmas tunes, and Jingle Bells for 
the arrival of Father Christmas, ending up with Christmas carols. 

As I drove home I found it hard to believe that this was the last time I 
would be looking back at the lighted windows of the 'big house', as I 
had thought of it so many years previously. 



52 



11 

The Last Waltz 



In March 1991 the committee at Mendip decided to put on twin events 
that everyone would enjoy and remember: a tea dance and a ball. 

The tea dance was held in the staff social club in the afternoon, my 
trio providing the music: Sidney Hodges on sax, Roly Brooks on per- 
cussion, and myself on piano. We played many of the old pantomime 
songs, which sparked off an enthusiastic sing-song. Dr Bridger, the 
Medical Superintendent, gave an excellent speech which earned great 
applause. 

The ball was held in the Hall on the evening of the same day. 
Although my trio had acquitted itself well, the main band now, assisted 
by a supporting band, was the incomparable Acker Bilk and his Para- 
mount Jazz Band. As I have already mentioned, Acker Bilk had played 
for many dances at the hospital over the years. 

Tickets were limited, and I was lucky enough to take my daughter 
Jane with her friend Gerald, granddaughter Emily and her boyfriend. 
Harold was unfortunately unable to attend, as he was not in the best of 
health. 

Inside the main entrance to the hospital was a display of photographs 
covering events over the years, including the concert parties in which 
my father had taken a major part, and the pantomimes for which I had 
provided the music. Several of the photographs featured Jane in the 

53 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

dancing scenes as a little girl. Hospital cricket matches and patients' 
sports days were also recalled. 

As I drove home along the front of the hospital late that evening, I 
reflected that I had indeed heard the last waltz. 



54 



Appendix I 
Historical Perspective 

From the Order of Service 

of a Service of Thanksgivingfor 

143 years of the Mendip Hospital, 

held in Wells Cathedral, 17th April 1991 



The Mendip Hospital opened its doors to its first patients, Sarah Symes 
and William Wilkins, in March 1 848 and, in that year of European revo- 
lutions, began a revolution of its own in the humane and enlightened 
treatment of the mentally ill. 

In time the Hospital became practically self-sufficient, with its own 
laundry, gardens, farm and brewery, in addition to all the departments 
needed in any busy hospital. 

From that day in 1 848, numbers of patients grew steadily until, by the 
mid-1950s, almost 1,000 were resident. 

After that, advances in treatment, with improved medication and a 
wider range of therapy, reduced considerably the numbers of those 
who needed residential care in the Hospital. By the early 1980s there 
were 450 of them and this reduction has continued at such a rate that 
the Hospital has at last been closed. 

The fact that, in recent years, the treatment of mental illness, with its 

55 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

emphasis on care in the community, has changed so much in no way 
diminished the outstanding achievement of the Mendip Hospital. 
Moreover, throughout its time, those once resident there and subse- 
quently living successfully in the community have continued greatly to 
rely on its staff and its facilities. 

Wells has been intensely proud of Mendip, holding the Hospital in 
something close to affection. Much devoted voluntary work has been 
done there by local people and, in its heyday, the Hospital provided a 
good deal of employment in an area where work is often hard to find. 

It is fitting that we should gather together to give thanks to God for 
all that the Mendip Hospital has been to this district during its 143 years, 
praying that the work it faithfully did for so long may grow and develop 
in the changed circumstances of these days. 



56 



Appendix II 
Author's Family History 

Miriam Josephine ('Josie') Bosley nee Hall 



Caleb Hall (sr) = Mary Ann - 
b. Frimley 1825/6 b. Hawley, Hants., 

1826/7 



Janett Ann Gilbert F. Robert A. 

b. Frimley 1853/4 b. Frimley 1859/60 b. Frimley 1869/70 

unm. in 1881 unm. in 1881 scholar in 1881 



Caleb Hall — Bertha Mary Hillman ? Frederick Andrews — Martha Hannah 

b. 1859 | Barnett Barnett 

J b. 1858 

I 

j— Bessie b. 1879/80 

_^ |— Alice b. 1881 

j — Beatrice 
Albert* Ernest Joseph William = Florence May — j 

b. 1890 j— Frederick 

j — Bill 
Harold Bosley = Josie | — Charlie 

^J |— Gertie 1 892-*. 1968 

I I I- Reg 

Mary Jane — Joe b. 1895 

i i L_; 



Mabel b. 1898 



*In fact, Caleb Albert (1881 Census) 



57 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

Caleb Hall (jr) had a smallholding and an inn, The Miners' Arms, at 
Mytchett, Surrey. 

Caleb's son Joseph was Head Nurse at the Mendip Hospital from 
1938 to 1949. In his earlier years he had been a member of the resident 
fire brigade. 

The 1881 Census shows Frederick Andrews , his wife Martha, and 
daughter Bessie living at 'Bath Road, Wells St Cuthbert Out'. Even then, 
at the age of 21, he would have been working and living at the Mendip 
Hospital (then the County Lunatic Asylum). He retired and died in 
around 1920, when the author was two. He had been living at 2 
Georgeville Terrace, now 19 Bath Road, having bought this house on 
his retirement. 



58 



Appendix III 
Author's Education 



Miss Mogford's School 

Georgie Mogford opened a small school for young children at 61 St 
Thomas Street, Wells. The house was double-fronted, old fashioned, 
and with flagstone floors. 

Most of the children were around five or six years old when they 
started. I was six, and three of my friends started at the same time in 
1924, namely Leonora Shepherd, and Henry and Ina Norton. Other 
friends included Joan Mullins, Joan and Margaret McDonald, and 
George Jacobs, who subsequendy became Manager at the Diploma 
Cheese Factory (now Nutricia) on the Glastonbury Road. 

The school day began at 9.00 a.m. and finished at 3.00 p.m., with an 
hour and a half for dinner, I always remember the trays of sand and 
wooden skewers which we used to practise our writing. It was a great 
day when we were eventually given slates, and slate pencils! 

I recall too the geography lessons and our saying together, 'The world 
is as round as an orange, flat at the top and flat at the bottom.' Miss 
Mogford was the church organist, so it is not surprising that we did lots 
of singing. At lunchtime we would have a cup of cocoa, for which we 
paid a penny. 

In the summer we had a picnic on Tor Hill. Mrs Mogford made 

59 



Memories ofMendip Hospital 

sandwiches, and lemonade made from yellow and pink sherbet. We had 
a lovely time playing games on the hill. 

At Christmas we had a party with a big tree. Mrs Mogford dressed lit- 
tle dolls for the girls, and the boys were given clockwork cars. I remained 
at Miss Mogford's until I was eight. 

igh School 



From Mss Mogford's, I transferred to Oakleigh School, in the building 
now occupied by the Wells Museum, on the Cathedral Green. Its head- 
master was Mr Frederick Brooke, while the other teachers were his wife 
Isabel, his mother-in-law Mrs Knight (who used to wheel herself about 
in a wheelchair), Miss Jones and Mss Porch. 

My best friend Leonora Shepherd moved with me to Oakleigh. Other 
friends included Jack Danes, Joyce and Arthur Kenny (who lived at 5 
Vicars' Close), Sheila and Peter Parrot (whose parents ran the 
Gatehouse Tearooms), Karl Pickering and Alan Southwood. 

Like Miss Mogford's, Oakleigh was a private school. I cannot remem- 
ber precisely how much the fees were. On the other hand, I do recall 
that everything had to be paid for: books for writing and drawing, in 
addition to the text books. There were also extras, such as tennis and 
ballet classes, although a cup of cocoa still cost only a penny! 

The girls' uniform comprised a smart green gym slip, a blazer, a hat 
and a white blouse, and for the summer a green dress and a panama hat 
bearing the school badge. The boys wore short grey trousers, a green 
blazer and a cap with the school badge. 

We attended the Cathedral for special services on St Andrew's Day 
and St George's Day. 

When I was fourteen, the school moved to a new building in Priory 
Road, where I spent my final two terms. 



60 



Author's Education 

Apprenticeship 

At fourteen I began a three-year apprenticeship at Madame Kate's Milli- 
nery and Gowns. My working hours were long, for the shop stayed open 
until 7 p.m. on weekdays, and 8 on Saturdays. During Christmas week 
the hours were even longer, with closing times of 10.30 or even 1 1 p.m. 
But it was fun. 

On the third floor was a hairdressing and beauty parlour. This was so 
popular that advance booking was always necessary. 

I was paid five shillings per week in my first year, seven shillings and 
sixpence in my second, and ten shillings in my third. 



61 



Appendix IV 
Photographs 



Opposite: Plan of the ground floor of the Hospital. (1874) 

62 




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Author's parents, Joseph William Hall and Florence May Andrews, 
before they married. 




Joseph William Hall in his fireman's uniform. 




4 



Author, aged 4 months. 




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Madame Kate's (in 2012 an estate agent's office), High Street, Wells. The window 

dressed for the Coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. The 

author standing L, seated Leonora Shepherd. The figure on R is a dummy! 




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The author at 17 Bath Road. (1999) 



In this little book Josie Bosley recalls the period 
when, as daughter of the Chief Male Nurse, she 
lived at the Mendip Hospital, Wells, Somerset, in 
the 1930s and 1940s. The butchers, the bakers, the 
dairy, the grounds, the hall, the parties and the 
entertainments come to life again. 

There are earlier recollections too: of smoking 
concerts, the hospital orchestra and the fire 
brigade. 

This is a well-observed memoir of the life of the 
staff and patients at Mendip Hospital during the 
last century until its closure.