The Foxearth and District Local History Society

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Meetings, announcements and notices for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, and associated organisations.

The History of WalnutTree Hospital 9th Feb 2016

The District Society had the pleasure, on 9th February, of hearing local author and historian, Phyllis Felton, talk about Walnutree hospital. Mrs Felton dealt in general with the origins of the hospital and more particularly with nurse training there. Her very interesting talk displayed deep research of the former aspect and authoritative knowledge of the latter as she had been a member of the nurse training school in the 1960s with a subsequent long career at the hospital.

Traces of Iron Age and Saxon habitation indicate that the site goes back about 4,000 years but modern history dates from 1702 when the first workhouse was established. This was demolished in 1837 and a purpose-built workhouse was erected. In the 1930s it became a hospital and Poor Law institution with overnight accommodation for vagrants. In 1955 it was formally designated as a geriatric hospital. In 1960 it had 140 beds, a dispensary run by the sisters and other supporting services such as pathology, laundry, catering, portering, maintenance and two gardeners to cope with the extensive grounds. A full-time medical officer and a physiotherapist each served the hospital for 30 years giving the facility an admired reputation for consistent service to the community.

Nurse training at Walnutree began in 1942. Classroom work was combined with "hands-on" experience at the bedside. Supervision of trainees was given by the Matron who would stress the qualities required and expected of a nurse. First and foremost was the vocation - you had to want to be a nurse. Along with this went compassion, tolerance, observational skills etc. Training had to given in manual lifting techniques as there were no hoists available and before the coming of sterile packs, sterilization methods had to be learned. Nurse training at the hospital ended in 1970. Mrs Felton had an enormous selection of photographs on show. Inevitably for an amenity which had been a vital part of community welfare for so long there were recollections of some of the associated characters which sounded a chord with a few of the 15 members present! Nostalgia reigned!

Secretary Clare Mathieson thanked Mrs Felton warmly for her fascinating contribution to the evening.

Next meeting: Tuesday 8th March 7.30pm in Foxearth VIllage Hall for the Annual General Meeting with cheese and wine.

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