Hospital BadgeWinwick Hospital Remembered...


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From time to time up to the sixties a patient would abscond and have to be brought back from some place in England. I remember taking part in one such return from Moorhaven Hospital at Plymouth. One persistent offender was rumoured to get directions from the staff to suggested destinations, though I think the story apocryphal.

Such episodes were rare, and rarer still were the occasions on which a patient was returned to a foreign country. Charge Nurse 'Barney' Maguire once returned a patient to Jamaica, and I had the following noteworthy experience whilst a deputy charge nurse on Male 3 Up.

In the early seventies a Portuguese seaman was admitted from Weston Point Docks at Widnes. He had experienced a schizophrenic breakdown on board ship, and was in a florid psychotic state.

With treatment he gradually settled over the next month or so, and discussions began about repatriating him to Portugal. Originally because of his illness it was proposed to send him home by sea, but eventually it was agreed he could fly, accompanied by a registered nurse, which turned out to be myself.

In preparation for his return I was asked to attend the Portuguese Embassy in Liverpool. The Consul explained that the patient - let's call him 'Julio' - (who was coloured) would be returned to the South Atlantic island where he lived and, as he had been repatriated before, would not be allowed to leave again. I was to take him to Lisbon, and we would be accompanied by the Vice-Consul, who was returning to Portugal. Little did I know that this was to prove more of a liability than an asset.

When the day came to take Julio to Portugal we met the Vice-Consul at Lime Street Station to travel to London. From the start things became awkward. Once aboard the train he demanded Julio's passport. Julio had already pleaded with me not to let his passport be taken as he was convinced he would be incarcerated in Lisbon and never see his home; so I refused the Vice-Consul his request. Then the VC said, "We will now go for a meal", and motioned for us to leave Julio. When I demurred, he said, "Do they serve coloureds on this train?"! I said that we either went for a meal together or not at all, and finally we ate together. The VC punctuated the meal with loud criticism of English cuisine, and I did my best to look Portuguese.

Once at Heathrow and boarding the plane I whispered to the VC to take the window seat, with Julio in the middle and myself on the outside, so I would have to get up if Julio left his seat. Immediately the VC said anxiously, "I have the claustrophobia and need to sit near a door"! He then opened a small bottle of spirits and proceeded to drink.

Once airborne Julio became quite tense and began visiting the toilet. Each time he did so I had to accompany him to the rear of the plane, which began to attract the interest of passengers. On Julio's first visit to the toilet he attempted to pull a large red handle on the door at the rear of the aircraft. When I stopped him and asked what he was doing, he said, "Going to the toilet". I said, "At 30,000 feet, if you open that door we're all going to the toilet", and directed him to the adjacent door.

We landed in Lisbon late at night, and I spotted the psychiatric nurse waiting for us. Something about the 'laid-back' manner. Julio was whisked away, but not before hurriedly pleading with me to visit him tomorrow and explain to the authorities that he was recovered. I promised to see him, little knowing how difficult that was to be.

I spent the night in a hotel (where I discovered I'd brought the ward drug keys with me). Next morning I breakfasted then took a taxi to the Portuguese consulate. The taxi made four quick right turns and deposited me next door to the hotel. I'd paid before I recognised the street.

I went in to see the Portuguese official, and asked him where I could find Julio. The official said, "You forget about him - he is back in Portugal now. You go to Estoril and enjoy our country." I had a British moment, and said, "I have given him my word, and I must see him", but he would not relent.

So, there I was in my best suit, carrying a suitcase, in Lisbon in the height of summer, looking for a needle in a haystack. I went into a telephone box and thumbed through the directory looking for something appropriate. I found a few references to 'psiquiátrica' and started following them up. The first involved a climb up a mountain of stairs, but this was merely what looked like a psychologist's office, so I reconsidered.

Going in to a local restaurant I excited much interest when I enquired, "Can you direct me to the local mental hospital?" Fortunately a young lady could understand me, and gave me directions on which bus to take. Off I travelled, and eventually arrived at what was obviously a massive hospital. I strolled in, only to be pulled up short by armed guards, who directed me to Reception. I enquired if a patient had been admitted from England the previous night, but the answer was 'No'.

Nonplussed I returned to the bus stop. I was due at the airport in a couple of hours, so it looked like I would have to give up. I caught a bus for the airport, but suddenly, en route, I saw a large white building at the side of the road, and presumably a sign indicating it was a psychiatric establishment, for I alighted from the bus and went up the drive.

I knocked on a large, studded door, which eventually was opened by a petite female nurse. In pidgin French I explained that I was looking for a patient from England who had been admitted the previous night. She eventually seemed to understand and went away, to be replaced by a large Englishman in a dressing gown, who said, "Have you come to take me back to England?". I explained my actual quest, and he went away, returning to say that no-one appeared to have been admitted from England.

Once again I turned away, defeated. Then, lo and behold, up the drive walked Julio. He was delighted to see me, and hustled me round to the rear of the building where an out-patient clinic was in progress. I was treated to a tour of the hospital unit, where patients lay in bed rather than be up and dressed as in England. Then I met a young female doctor and gave her a letter summarising Julio's treatment. As he requested I emphasised his recovery, then he and I went for a beer at a pavement cafe.

I was just in time to catch my plane back to England, after an extraordinary turn of events. And a few weeks later I was rewarded by receiving a postcard from the South Atlantic island to say that Julio was home again.

David McKendrick

George McKie: 1970 - 72

I started in 1970 as a nursing assistant waiting for the student school to start and then went as a student. On my interview day with Mr Wright, he said "You never know - you might meet your future wife here". I did: Julia Burke. We have been married 36 years this year but never had a family of our own.

I remember Mr Wright saying, "Would you like a look around?" "Yes", I replied. "Let's see who can show you round. I know, Staniforth, he'll be doing nothing!". So Joe showed me around and all the geriatric wards in particular. I started on 8 Down and you were deputy along with Colin Leigh, and Mike Regan as Charge Nurse. I remember a little blond N/A, Annie, another N/A, an SEN called Josie, and an N/A called Lydia Greenall. I remember a lot of the patients too.

I went into school PTS, but had a few tiffs with various staff so was despatched to 4 UP as an N/A by my own choice. A great mad experience that leaves so many tales to tell. I left in '72 to work at Thames Board Mills to get money for a mortgage. Got married in '73 and bought our own house. In '83 the factory closed and I trained in photography at Southport College of Art. Had my own business for a few hard years before training as a nurse again - this time as an RGN. I qualified in '91 and have just come off the register in July to fully retire at 57. I was in critical care and have worked in hospitals all over the North West as an agency nurse, after getting a vast experience at Warrington General. My mum was night sister in the 60's on the female side. I found your website purely by accident.

George McKie

Alan Skelt: 1962 - 1963

The attraction of starting at Winwick was having somewhere to live as well as work (ie. a teenager getting away from home). My girlfriend's brother Dave had got into a spot of bother with a married woman, and had to leave the area quickly. He found the job at Winwick and asked if I wanted to go with him.

The interview was an ad hoc affair with Mr Moss, the Chief Male Nurse. He wore his RAF blazer and sported his wizard prang moustache, and was much more interested in what sports I could play and whether I could play a musical instrument in the hospital band. I could do neither, but I still got a job.

We started in the Autumn of 1962, getting our standard asylum uniform complete with lanyard and a big bunch of keys. We were shown all the facilities listed by others above (farm, furniture shop, tailor's. cobblers', etc. etc), and then allocated a room in the male nurses' home, which was handily situated above the dining room. Dave McKendrick and Gary Say were already living there, together with a Polish man who kept his door slightly ajar and took notes on everybody's comings and goings.

When the weather started to get bad, we were joined in the nurses' home by two very large Irish lads. They were working on building the Thelwall viaduct on the M6, and had been laid off for the winter, so became nursing assistants until the better Spring weather.


My first ward allocation was on 6's, a massive 3 floor ant hill. If I remember rightly there were about 160 patients there, and the beds were so close together on two floors that we had to pull them out to make them with 2 sheets, one badly shrunken woollen blanket and a counterpane. On Christmas day 1962 I eventually got to look inside the ward store-rooms as the charge nurse and hospital union shop steward Albert Kennelly was off duty. These rooms were stuffed with new blankets and unworn pyjamas, two pairs for every patient. I asked why they were not given out, and was told in no uncertain manner that it would be too wasteful for them all to get covered in piss and shit, so they were staying where they were.

Another recollection of here was being given six "7 o'clock" razor blades to shave all 160 patients each day. A valuable lesson learned was always to stand behind the people that were being shaved so that their knee did not connect in a very painful place. This was particularly true of the last people in the queue when the blades were somewhat worn. Another problem was the lack of hot water - one tap only. This was all featured in a Daily Mail article some time after I left. I think this led to some changes being made.

The day areas were extensively refurbished in early 1963. The rooms were about 20 ft high, with obviously very big windows to match. New curtains were fitted, and new furniture delivered. On arrival at work the next morning, half of the furniture was missing, and the curtains had been cut off about ten feet from ground level. The culprits were never found.


My next allocation was on 3Up, a locked 'Refractory' ward. On this ward one patient would spend his time behind the entrance door, and would often swing a dining chair about over his head. At the first meal time here, I was asked to serve the food to the patients, starting with a particular one. I placed his dinner in front of him, and was immediately grabbed and threatened with his table knife. My thoughtful colleagues neglected to tell me that he only had one eye, and would not countenance being served on his blind side. A good start, but there was more to come.

On my first morning shift, I was requested to go and tidy and clean one of the padded rooms. As soon as I went in with the bedding, the door was slammed shut behind me, and stayed that way. After an hour or so I decided that the best thing to do would be to lie on the mattress (no beds in here). In the middle of a nice restful doze, the door opened and the contents of chamber pot were slung at me. Then the door was locked again. I was let out at the end of the shift, 2pm. That staff nurse had a real sense of humour. Another of his tricks was to wait until you were on the staff toilet, and then arm himself with a syringe full of ether, then squirt the ether through his cigarette lighter flame and through the (very large) keyhole straight at whoever was sitting on the toilet - including me on one occasion.

The charge nurse used to travel by bike, and at the end of each shift his saddle bag was considerably heavier than when he arrived. The staff nurse with the sense of humour tied a few sheets together on one occasion, lowered the rope to the bike, hauled it up to the second floor window, untied all the sheets but one, and tied the bike to the radiator, but hanging out of the window. The charge nurse thought this was hilarious.

The wards always had patients who were 'trusties' who could come and go pretty much as they wanted, and were expected to help out running the wards in return. One morning I was in a concealed position, but could see the front of the ward where the staff table was. The trusty did as he always did, and brought the tea and toast he had prepared and laid it out on the staff table. Then he surreptitiously looked all around him, and seeing nobody, took out his glass eye and washed it in the teapot before re-inserting out and going away smiling. I was glad I only drank coffee that day.

Moving on.

A great deal of out entertainment was away from the male nurses' home and in the much better appointed female accommodation. We were caught in there a couple of times, and it got back to the Chief Male Nurse. I was called in on a Wednesday and asked to find myself other accommodation by Friday. In the event it was the Friday after that that I found somewhere, lodging with another nurse and his wife. Not longer after this, I was told I was persona non grata. I found a job at Whitecross Homes in Warrington, and life moved on from there.

I could carry on with anecdotes for many more pages.

Alan Skelt

Brian Stapleton: 1944 - 1966 Memories

Winwick Hospital Services

  1. Water.
    I believe that Winwick had its own bore hole and pumped the water up to the very large tanks in the top of the water tower to provide enough pressure throughout the hospital.

  2. Sewerage
    The hospital had its own sewerage works situated beyond the farm and the effluent was reused as an agricultural fertiliser. The works also had a large incinerator where many kind of things were burnt. I remember things like bandages and dressings from the wards of the wounded soldiers plus old packing cases and the like. (Mr Derbyshire was the person in charge)

  3. Heating
    The heating was supplied from a large coal-fired boiler house with I think three automatically-fed boilers. Steam generated here was fed round all the hospital radiators to supply heat and through calorifiers for the supply of hot water. The wards also had open coal fires with a lockable safety cage around them. The supply of coal to the wards I don't know how it happened, but the supply to the boiler house was initially brought in by train then superseded by lorries.

  4. Electricity
    The hospital was self-sufficient for electrical power during the day and had its own generators attached to steam turbines (fed from the boiler house): these made Direct Current (DC) electricity. During the night they stopped the turbines and switched over to the main grid supply, which of course had to be rectified from AC to DC using Large Mercury Arc Rectifiers. I was lucky in that I was shown these rectifiers working and was very impressed with the purple arc seemingly to move about on the pool of mercury in these large glass retorts.

  5. Fire Station
    The station was manned and could call on the extra services of home-trained men for any incident that cropped up. The chief fire officer was a Mr Mather.

  6. Workshops
    The following are a list of workshops that I can remember but apologise if I have missed some:
    • Joiners
    • Decorators
    • Plumbers
    • Fitters
    • Electricians
    • Cobblers
    • Glaziers
    • Butchers shop (the butcher killed and prepared pigs and cows down in the farm's slaughter house once a week)
    • (Tailors shop)
    • (Sewing Room)

  7. Chief Engineer
    The Chief Engineer in the 1950s was a Mr Copeland who lived in the first house on Hollins Drive.

  8. Churches
    The hospital had two churches both situated on Hollins Drive: one for Protestants and one for Catholics. The Hospital Chaplain for the C of E Church during the 1960's was a Rev. Peter Nunn who lived in the house next to the church. I believe that local priests came in when required for the Catholic worshippers.

  9. Catering
    The feeding of the patients and staff must have been a monumental task, and the hospital had a very large kitchen with an army of workers. Fresh food was delivered regularly from both the farm and the gardens, together with a continuous supply from outside. The Catering Officer in the early 1950s was a Miss PL Norton who was succeeded by Miss D Scott. The waste from the catering was collected in a swill cart from the farm to feed the pigs. On one visit to the kitchen as a young person I was intrigued with a machine that sliced and buttered the very long loaves, but of course with that many slices required it had to be automatic.

  10. Clothing
    All the patients were kept as clean and warm as could be possible. This meant a large store for clothing and a person in charge of supplies. All soiled and dirty clothes were cleaned in the large laundry supervised by Maggie Wright and repaired if necessary in the sewing room where Miss Pierce was in charge.

  11. Entertainment
    The hospital had a very large hall with a maple wood floor and a stage at one end. Every week a full length film with a newsreel would be shown to the patients, and children of the hospital staff could occupy the last few rows for an evening's entertainment. Once a year the staff ball was held in January and tickets were like gold dust. It was wonderful to be able to dance to very large orchestras such as Victor Sylvester's and others. I also remember that Newton-le-Willows Grammar School would bring their current performance of Gilbert and Sullivan Opera for the patients entertainment. I was lucky to be both sides of the footlights on occasions.

  12. Sports Facilities
    • Billiards/snooker tables in the male wards: the administration at times would arrange for professional players to come along to give an evening's entertainment. I was at one such evening when they had the renowned billiard player Sydney Smith to give a show, I can remember him sending a ball into a long necked basket and a different coloured ball would come out as it spun round. Since then I have seen it repeated by the snooker players on the TV. I asked him what he thought of Joe Davies, the World Champion snooker player. H said that when Joe ever lost the crown he would take it very badly. This didn't happen as Joe was a very gracious loser.
    • Football pitches: situated alongside the A49.
    • Cricket field: along the side of the male wards exercise areas. This was one of the best pitches to play on, carefully kept by a Mr Greenhaulgh with an outfield that would have put many a clubs wicket to shame. This was achieved by cutting the outfield with a large Dennis mowing machine with a second roller holding the seat for the operator. The cut grass was unloaded at various places with it being tipped into small high sided four wheeled trucks that were then emptied with a small gang of patients. Sadly it deteriorated with the introduction of the cost cutting gang mower that didn't collect the grass cuttings and the outfield became spongy.
    • Bowling greens: there were four crown greens of immaculate manicure.
    • The female patients would play netball and those that were able would be taken along to the gym to do exercises and gymnastics. For those less able then occupational therapy was provided which included embroidery, basket making, rug making and other types of needlework They also had small domestic tasks like helping in the laundry and the sewing room. There were five tennis courts in the grounds, and these were again free for the staff and families in the evenings and weekends.
    • The Staff played Badminton in the dance hall and competed in the Warrington League.

  13. Administration
    The administration offices were situated along the corridor of the main entrance. The Clerk and Steward in the 1950s was a Mr CR Hoyle who was succeeded by Mr EJ Fox. The Medical Superintendent in the 1950s was a Dr Nicole who was succeeded by Dr Harrison. They both occupied the large residence which opened out onto the A49 quite close to the Swan Hotel. Mr Hoyle and Mr Fox occupied a house in Hollins Drive, at different times of course.

  14. Gardens
    The gardeners were responsible for supplying the kitchens with as many fresh vegetables as could be grown. This included many tons of tomatoes over the years together with apples, pears etc. They also ensured that the wards had plenty of cut flowers and maintained all the lawns and shrubberies around the hospital grounds. The head gardeners from the 1950s were Mr Paton, Mr W Stewart and Mr G Hodgson respectively.

  15. The Farm
    The Farm Bailiff up to 1944 was a Mr Parks who was succeeded by my father Mr WH Stapleton, known as Harry, who was in charge until he died in service in 1966. The farm was then bailiffed by Mr D Allison. Later the farm was sold. The deputy bailiffs were Mr J Hardman followed by Mr W Britch. There were three farms initially: The Delph Farm, Winwick Hall Farm and Alder Root Farm. Only the Delph Farm remains as the original unit, as Winwick Hall Farm was absorbed into the new hospital and Alder Root Farm was sold off as a going concern.

    The Delph Farm as I remember had eighty milking cows tended by Mr J Wright and would send up to the kitchens upwards of 500 gallons of milk per day. The farm dairy even had its own pasteurising plant and this was run by Mr J Straw. Quality milk in those days was judged on the butter fat content and the herd was added to each year by buying in Ayrshire cows from the Castle Douglas market on the Solway Firth to add their rich milk to that produced by the Friesian cows. The pig production peaked when the hospital had the wounded soldiers in the wards, due to the increase in waste food, and it was very common for there to be two full swill carts per day. The peak production was around 800 pigs, not only serving the hospital via the farms own slaughter house but also being sent off to the bacon factory. Mr J Blackman was in charge of the pigs.

    The farm had also a large amount of arable land and this was used to grow food for the livestock and also to supply the hospital with potatoes. At the end of the war the farm had two teams of shire horses which did most of the ploughing and a cob used to deliver the milk to the hospital. Mr F Collier was the horseman together with my brother Mr R Stapleton, but as things started to become more mechanised he became a tractor driver with Mr P Derbyshire and Mr A Howard. Mr E Slater also worked on the farm and I can remember him cutting the hedges and keeping the ditches clean.

    The farm also had a patient labour force and in fact the very large granary was run solely by one patient, Dick Banner, who used to mix all the ingredients for the cows feed. Part of the feed consisted of hop grains from the old Walkers Brewery in Warrington which were collected by horse and cart once a week. A funny incident occurred once when a patient, thinking he was doing a good turn, fed neat hop grains to some cows which became intoxicated, causing blown up stomachs and bellowing. I wonder did they have a hangover or did their milk taste of beer. I remember Dick Banner had been a fervent supporter of Joe Louis and would relate to me Joe's best moments in the boxing ring. During the late autumn, two gangs of patients were employed to help harvest the potato crop which was then stored in huge hogs covered with straw and weisals to keep out the frost. During the harvesting the kitchen would send out a couple of patients carrying tea urns together with some tin cups for the gang's elevenses. This was a time when the smokers amongst them would roll a cigarette with a tobacco issued to the patients called "shag", with a very strong smell.

  16. Patient Memories
    At the latter end of the war my mother made our spare bedroom in the farmhouse available for the use of the parents of the severely wounded soldiers. One such occupant was a Mrs Thomas, a most gracious lady who had experienced a divorce from an alcoholic husband. Her son Captain Len Thomas was injured when a piece of shrapnel lodged at the base of his spine and he had lost the use of the lower part of his body and the final straw was when her daughter Joan fell to her death from a bomb damaged balcony at Guy's hospital in London. How she found the strength to carry on was a miracle. I would go up to the ward with Mrs Thomas and Len and I would talk about stamp collecting and he would give me five shillings to go and buy cellophane packets of loose stamps for him to add to his large collection of albums. He left me six of his albums when he was well enough to be moved back down to London (minus all the expensive stamps). While visiting Len a soldier in the next but one bed had a bullet removed from behind his eye and the consultant Mr Kerr was dripping into his eye something called penicillin. It was a great success and they saved the soldier's eyesight.

    My next few memories are concerned with the mental side of the hospital. If I was lucky I might have got a game of cricket and in the team was a patient called Herbert Holland. Now Herbert used to be a professional with Leicester County Cricket Club and was a very good batsman. If our side had to bat second then Ted Fox would say to Herbert, "Five bob for fifty". Herbert would go out and thrash the ball all over the ground, but on achieving fifty would allow the ball to hit the stumps so that he could get his five bob from Ted Fox.

    Another story concerning Ted Fox was that my grandfather (on my mother's side) would bring over a cricket team made up of lads from the Yorkshire League and I was lucky once, as they turned up with a man short so I got to play with the Yorkshire lads. Glad to say we won easily and we were given a meal after the match followed by an oration by Ted Fox who said Winwick had been beaten by the cream of the Yorkshire league. The best reply I had ever heard was from the Yorkshire captain when he turned to Ted Fox and said, "Mr Fox, the dictionary definition for cream is, a kind of scum".

    As mentioned earlier gangs of patients were employed and one such duty would be to rake up the leaves in the wood next to the cemetery and pile them up to decay down and be used later as compost by the gardens. In this wood near to the sewerage works was a three sided brick built shelter which had been whitewashed every year for at least fifty years. One day the gang were having their drinks and a patient called Clive, who was an artist picked up a piece of old slate. He started to scratch away through the layers of whitewash and produced what I could only say was the most beautiful angel in flowing wispy robes and large wings. I thought at the time that the whole wall should have been preserved and consider myself lucky to have seen it in all its glory.

    My next patient memory is of Hugh Craven who did a few jobs round the farmhouse, one of which was feeding the hens. One day I was looking at my map of the world which was set up on the dining room wall when Hugh came in and asked what I was doing. I told him I had to write an essay for Geography on Manaus in the Amazon Jungle. He then said quietly, "I've been there". His story then unfolded: he told me he was a sailor and they would press gang all the way down the East coast of the USA and with a full crew complement would head for Manaus. He said they knew they had entered the River Amazon, even though the mouth is 150 miles across because you would have a very rapid colour change from sea green to muddy brown. He said that after travelling a few days up the river the captain would order that steam hoses be run out on deck; Hugh said they were used to repel native boarders. When they got to Manaus they loaded up with the hard woods, teak and mahogany and had to rerun the gauntlet.

    Hugh was never mentally ill; he was on the receiving end of a detention sentence because the drunken brawl in Liverpool ended with his opponent falling and dying from a skull fracture. Hugh died an old man in Winwick.

    Another patient who worked round the farmhouse was Billy Langridge. Like Hugh above Billy was caught out overnight when the workhouses came under the Mental Health Act and he became institutionalised. My brother-in-law Bernard Maguire had a little to do with Billy spending his last few years outside with his family in Liverpool.

    My last person would have been known to lots of men as he was of small build, very bandy, wore a hair net and put lipstick and rouge on his face. I am of course writing about "Mary" the men's hairdresser who would give a very good cut for sixpence. Those were the days.

  17. Voluntary Patients
    The after-effects of the Second World War manifested itself later in that soldiers became mentally disturbed. Winwick Hospital opened Male 1 Down to allow for the treatment of these men. At this time I had passed my driving test and would take my father's car along to Ellison's garage on Manchester Road to have it serviced and get the rear springs oiled. It was fortuitous that my sister Rita was the garage secretary so I used to get spoilt something rotten with the mechanics. One of these mechanics was a Mr Price and he volunteered for treatment into Winwick. While he was in the hospital the American Burtonwood Airbase was still in full flow and nearly every day one would get a very fast low flying Sabre jet screaming past the hospital. While Mr Price was in Winwick he wrote an "ode" and asked my sister if she would type it up for him. It is a very moving poem and he brings in all the things that are happening around him and even brings in his garage work:


    There's a beautiful building out of town
    A kind of Butlins for those that's run down.
    Some call it a mad house some call it a lodge
    Some go there quite often when work they must dodge.
    For treatment they came from out of the town
    To a gentleman's club known as One Down.
    When breakfast is over the polishing starts.
    They came for a rest and its breaking their hearts.
    The jumbo's they slide without pay or fee
    But they soon get browned off and brew up the tea,
    And into the easy's their bodies they ease
    To dream of their dinner, black taters and peas.
    There's dear Bert Galloway, head nurse in charge
    Whose job is to see that none get at large.
    Of neurotics in session we could write a book
    Some of them present and some's took their hook.
    The doctors are gentle and so very kind
    Their jobs wrought with trouble whilst healing the mind.
    There's sweet Dr Thorpe a picture indeed
    Their minds like a garden she's trying to weed.
    They rant and they rail on the grub that is served
    And new patients there soon get unnerved.
    The pills they all swallow with lightning speed
    Often take six when one's all they need.
    There's everything there from billiards to bowls
    To fill up the time for the poor outcast souls.
    Enter all ye and for ever remain
    We might cure the body but doubtful the brain.
    Some get shock treatment and some get injection
    Part of a grand plan worked to perfection.
    But from one big op you should refrain
    It's called 'Leucot', they drill holes in your brain,
    And stir the grey matter if any there be
    Then wheel you back down and just wait and see.
    To give you a life that's free from remorse
    Or if it's a failure you'll perhaps be a horse
    And start eating grass on the lawns that abound
    And run round the building faster than sound.
    Some it makes fat others it makes thin
    Depends on the state your craniums in.
    But if all your life your wife you would love
    Refrain from that dread operation above
    Because it's so chancy and so complex
    There's always a chance it might change your sex.
    Stick to the shocks whatever you do
    And we'll make you a promise you'll never be blue
    Perhaps a bit light headed and perhaps a bit funny
    And just a faint chance you'll cry for a dummy.
    Your battery's charged up you'll run on for years
    Without recurring those terrible fears.
    The pains the subconscious gave to your tummy
    Have gone with the wind, your now in the money.
    The black outlook, the trembling hand
    Have vanished as if by fairy wand.
    And when to civvy street your way you make
    Don't start again that belly ache.
    Be a man and face the issue
    Let them see you've got the tissue.
    Resolute and free from fear
    You've passed the fog, you're in the clear.

  18. How can one follow that?

    Brian Stapleton

    Paul Matthews: 1968 - 1974

    I worked and trained at Winwick from 1968 to 1974 first time around. I stumbled across the Winwick website with the intention of spending only a few minutes browsing. However, two and half hours later I am still recalling the many happy memories of all the gang (male and female) who lived as skint students and surviving on disgusting food ( I think it was food) given to us all after grafting for hours on Eight Down.

    Tales which make me laugh even to this day came flooding back; all the trouble we got into. I remember Mr. Moss calling me to his office after I had flooded his office after leaving and forgetting about the bath running. I stood in front of his desk (as we all did from time to time) - he looked me in the eyes and uttered those words I will never ever forget: "My f****ing carpet has shrunk six f****ing inches, and look what you've done to my suit (which was hanging on the wall rail). It's f****ing ruined".

    I remember thinking at the time, "This is it. I'm down the drive". As Mr Moss was ranting and raving at me I looked to one side and observed Bill Templeton and Arthur Critchley trying to control their laughter. Happy days.

    Having worked at Winwick on two occasions, I worked at a top security hospital in Maghull, Liverpool and then moved to Billinge Hospital for a number of years, where I meet up again with Terry. Following that I then moved to Making Space Skelmersdale Day Centre, where I am employed as Manager and have been in this position for the past 25 years, waiting for retirement.

    I found the website most interesting and very informative, and obviously a lot of hard word has gone into it. Congratulations to all involved.

    PS The suit belonging to Mr Moss in available on E-bay.

    Paul Matthews

    Hospital Cemetery

    From time to time the website receives enquiries about patients who died at Winwick, and whether they might have been buried in the hospital cemetery.

    Thanks to Frances Holcroft and Geoff Moon, I now have photographs of the memorial garden to mark the passing of patients from 1901 to 1971. However, we are still trying to discover where the burial records are kept. Please email us if you can shed any light on the subject.

    David McKendrick

    Tony McNally: 1967 - 1973

    What a great website which set me thinking about my time at Winwick.

    I came to Winwick, from Anglesey, in December 1967 and started work as a Nursing Assistant. My decision to come to Winwick was the result of a recommendation by the Minister, Rev. Idris Jones, in my home village of Llanbedrgoch. Mr Jones had been a Chaplain at Winwick either during World War 2 or shortly afterwards.

    I think it was Ted Wright I first met in the office and John Molloy who showed me to the room that would be home for the next few years. I seem to remember acquiring some extras to make it more homely thus incurring the disapproval of Sid Nobbs and Edie Smith. They weren't happy about the beer mats on the ceiling either and I think Bill Templeton was involved in their eventual removal. My abiding memory of Sid Nobbs is his warnings about staying in the bath too long: "People have drowned in there you know".

    The first ward I worked on was Male 9 down. Sam Street was the Charge Nurse and Arthur Straw one of the deputies. I think Bob Sutton was working there too, as well as Joan Banks and Jean Buckley. I also recall a couple of patients who were brothers and suffered from Huntington's disease as well as a dear old chap who was always anxious about the whereabouts of his "little doggie".

    My time on 9 down was a good grounding for what was to come. Arthur, Bob and Joan stick in mind as being particularly supportive to a 17 year old lad far from home. I didn't even think badly of Arthur when he tricked me into getting thoroughly soaked in the sluice!

    I started PTS in January 1968 along with Betty Whitaker, Annie Sutton, Pat Bromham, Louise McKenzie, Joe Massey, Trevor Dunn, Sean Henderson, Sam Bennett and a Dutch gentleman named Henry. There may have been others in that group but unfortunately I can't remember their names.

    At some point, probably in my second year, I worked on Male 8 down with your good self. After qualifying I worked on Male 8 down, then Male 4 up as Deputy opposite Ken Mather and Carl Breslin who was Charge Nurse. I was seconded to Warrington General from 1971 to 1973 to do SRN training. On my return I think I went to 8 down or Male ICU but not 100% certain of that.

    It was great to see the photos on the site. I am in the March 1972 photo, fourth from the right on the back row between John Cummings and Joe Massey.

    I haven't changed much but this is only based on my Grandson's ability to identify me when I showed him the photo! I had lost my copy of the photo but came across Lynda Kennedy (formerly Piers) about 14 months ago whilst doing some agency work in Warrington and she let me have her spare copy.

    Lynda is fourth from the right in the third row (apologies if you already remember this). We could name most of the people in the photo but sadly some names escaped us. When I came across Lynda she was running a care agency; unfortunately I've lost her phone number.

    Like Eddie Newall I remember the Reliant and I still have mixed feelings regarding Noddy. I also recollect that a Reliant could hold a lot of people and still be driven! However I'm no longer sure if that particular memory involves your Reliant or the one belonging to a chap I worked with at Tameside.

    I also have a recollection of several of us aboard a trolley or truck careering downhill several times. This activity came to an abrupt halt when said truck collided with a lamp post. By this time Arthur Jones had been alerted and came out to investigate along with Jimmy Dagnall and others but I can't remember who. I think Ian Bond was a fellow passenger on that truck but the names of the others escape me.

    It was at Winwick that I first tasted one of my favourite breakfasts - bacon and marmalade butty, introduced to me either by Albert Malee or Charlie Kettley.

    Talking of food I seem to recall chips being fried in a steriliser in someone's room; it may have been Ian Bond but I can't be 100% on that.

    The memories are not only of the hospital but also the club, the Swan and other hostelries. When I think of the people from those days each name evokes yet another recollection and there are so many that it would take quite a few pages to set them all down. It was great to read some of the recollections on the site. I'm sure I helped to drink the party can that Duncan mentions. Alcohol seemed to feature prominently, both bought and brewed!

    I left Winwick in 1973 to work as a Charge Nurse on the Psychiatric unit at Tameside Hospital. I had applied for a Charge Nurse post at Winwick but my interview was a very short one. I was asked if I thought I was too young to be applying for the post. I replied, "If I thought that I wouldn't be here wasting your time and mine". The reply came back very swiftly, "Well we won't waste any more time then, good morning."!! I left the room red faced with a lesson learnt.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about the training we received at Winwick and the acquisition of skills and particularly the many people who have had an influence which remains today. It's a shame I hadn't absorbed some of those skills before my interview! One particular comment that has always stood me in good stead was that when faced with difficult decisions I should think of "how it would look in a court of law", but sadly I can't recall who gave me that advice: maybe you can shed some light on its author.

    Since leaving Winwick I've worked at various places: Tameside, The Wirral, Blackpool, Chester, Cumbria, North Wales, etc. and come across, or spoken on the phone to, quite a few people from those days and heard news of others: Norman Bennett, Neil Bates, Sean Henderson, Terry Keegan, Arthur Charnock (via his Dad), Lynda Piers, Dr. Ali Sayed, Tom O'Brien, Mike Collins, Phil Kinney, Richard Turner and Joan Banks. I've retired once and am probably on the verge of doing so again.

    While doing agency work I came across a former patient from Winwick (who still believed he was a member of the royal family). I worked at the Care Home he was at for quite a while, off and on, and our reminiscences of Winwick helped to keep me awake on many a night shift. He died in 2005 and I later came across his niece working in a Home in Warrington so of course more reminiscing took place.

    I am now living in Frodsham. During the past few months I've had a couple of stays at Warrington General. I came across people I knew and tales of others. Waiting to be anaesthetised last December I was chatting with an ODA, Dennis, and one of his comments was, "Of course you'll know Dave McKendrick"!

    Much more to say so - no doubt will get back in touch at some point.

    Tony McNally

    "In God we trust - all others pay cash"

    In the early seventies, in the company of other nurses of occasional intemperate habits, I used to visit Burtonwood Air Base. In the process of being run down, the base still had the families of servicemen living on site, and a social club, where we used to drink whisky and Seven-Up, change for which was always given in dollars and cents. If I recall correctly, at least one or two Winwick nurses struck up relationships with American servicemen, continuing a tradition begun in the Second World War, and may well have departed these shores for the USA.

    Sad to see almost all traces of this piece of history gone, although a couple of the old hangars can still be seen when driving along the M62.

    Old diseases revisited

    Listening to the news of impending influenza pandemics and the resurgence of sexually transmitted diseases revives memories of the sequelae of previous episodes.

    Amongst the patients nursed at Winwick in the 60s was a survivor of the 1918 influenza pandemic, suffering from post-encephalitis lethargica. This unfortunate man had survived the decades following the influenza which had killed millions, but was left with dementia and Parkinsonism.

    Also present on the wards at this time were a number of patients with tertiary syphilis, marked by delusions of grandeur and dementia.

    By the 1970's these patients had died, and with them the evidence of how illnesses not fully comprehended by the general public could have such disastrous effects.

    Duncan Smith: 1966 - 1969

    I arrived at Winwick at the end of 1966 to commence Pupil Nurse training 1967-69.

    My initial reaction was the dismal corridors which were painted brown and cream and seemed to go on forever. I was given a room in the Male staff residence which over looked my first ward after PTS. This was 8 Down [C/N Dixon]- my room was quite spartan, having a single bed, three drawer chest and a wardrobe, plus washbasin in the corner.

    My only possessions at the time were a papier-mache tray-which still survives and an electric kettle! We were allowed 1/4 tea and 1lb sugar per month- meals were free - this was prior to 1970's "pay as you eat" !! I was the only Pupil Nurse on the corridor - but this did not stop me from acquiring new friends who were student nurses - those friends remain today almost 40 years later - Terry Flaherty, John Molloy plus many others. We had some great times and I remember vividly one evening being asked to share a large party can of beer with the other lads on the block to celebrate Neil Bates 21st birthday. During the drinking session, one lad; I think it was Paul Matthews decided to go for a bath, but returned shortly afterwards having left the bath tap running.

    One of the Assistant Chief Male Nurses, I think it was Mr Critchley came upstairs and asked "what the hell did we think we were doing" as Mr Moss' carpet was floating in his office directly underneath!!!

    Seems like yesterday that quite a few of us were in his office the following day!!!

    Much has changed- Winwick now closed still figures significantly, I still have photographs- my Yellow/Silver hospital badge and many fond memories of the staff I came in contact with during my time there.

    I left in Dec 1969 and continued my nursing career first to General Hosp/ Infirmary to do 2 1/2 years for S.R.N then various posts both in hospital and community before leaving the Health Service in 1995 - I am now semi-retired , doing 3/7 a week in Derby.

    Duncan Smith

    The Aviary

    Around 1970 the hospital, like many such, was in the throes of change. Scandals in several large institutions had led to the creation of the Hospital Advisory Service to facilitate change in psychiatric hospitals and a move from institutional to more personalised care.

    One initiative at Winwick was the creation of an aviary, supervised by Geoff Moon, in what was previously a bandstand in Male 4 Down airing court. When set against the myriad problems facing the hospital in instituting change this drew a rather cynical response from two of the staff, as set out in the following lyrics (to the tune of the 'Eton Boating Song').

    Now Winwick Zoological Gardens
    Will shortly be open to view
    Sans lions, sans tigers, sans elephants
    Sans even a monkey or two.
    And the rumour is going round strongly
    That if birds don't arrive tout de suite,
    There'll be nurses decked out in fine feathers
    Sat on a perch going, "Tweet".

    It seems our nurse training's outmoded;
    A syllabus new we shall see
    With resocialisation of starlings
    And the treatment of lovebird's VD.
    We'll have community nursing in birdland
    With nurses all climbing the trees
    To psychoanalyse sparrows
    And learning to put owls at ease.

    Catheterising recalcitrant eagles
    Will probably prove quite a chore;
    Whilst agoraphobic seagulls
    Tax the skills of the nurse even more -
    Treating manic-depression in herons
    And pseudocyesis in storks;
    Writing with pride to our Journal
    Of our cures for incontinent hawks.

    Treating hens for pre-menstrual tension,
    Comforting finches in fits,
    Observing the brainwaves of buntings,
    Studying depressions in tits:
    Yes, we'll all pull together,
    And our future at Winwick's assured -
    We can all start work in the birdhouse
    When we've finished our work on the ward.

    Thanks, Roger Bruton - we enjoyed writing it, even if it was refused publication in The Standard. He who laughs last, laughs best :) DMcK.

    Eddie Newall - Post-registration student nurse and staff nurse, 1969 - 1971.

    This Warrington lad completed three years SRN training at Warrington General Hospital and Warrington Infirmary in 1969. It was during this time that I first met David McKendrick and other Winwick nurses who were doing 18 months general training after doing their RMN at Winwick. I decided that as soon as I had finished general training I would apply to Winwick to do 18 months psychiatric nurse training. Working with the Winwick students at Warrington General gave me a good idea of what to expect.

    Soon after arrival at Winwick I was greeted by Andrew Moss, the Chief Male Nurse. One of his deputies issued me with a set of keys - a large key for the doors and a small key for the window shutters; many of the wards were locked, intermittently or permanently. At some stage I was issued with my male nurse's uniform - a grey suit which I think included a waist coat, plus a white jacket for wearing on the wards. My sister, Brenda Newall, whose married name later became Holt, also started her 18 months post-registration training with me at the same time. We worked a three-shift system; days were 7 till 2 and 2 till 9, and nights were 9 till 7.

    The hospital had a male side and female side; male nurses staffed the male wards and female nurses staffed the female wards, although this was beginning to change. Some wards were very large with overcrowded dormitories, and lacked privacy and space for patients' own possessions. Most patients were long stay and wore communal hospital clothes - shirts, ties, trousers, underwear, socks, shoes, hats, ties, overcoats and nightshirts. Crates of bottled Guinness were delivered to the wards, which some patients could drink before meals. Most patients seemed to smoke and would repeatedly ask for a cigarette, or a light, in-between searching the corridors for discarded fag ends which they could turn into a roll-up with a Rizla paper.

    Toilet and bathing facilities were primitive; the Victorian-style buildings were probably designed by the same architects who designed the prisons. On the very large wards patients seemed to get a bath once a week, when their turn came around. Patients who could be trusted would work on the farm and some worked in the Industrial Therapy Unit (ITU). I spent a couple of weeks in the ITU and remember sitting with patients and helping to paint plastic figures of Noddy. Patients were often sans teeth or dentures, hence the need for a 'soft food' table on many wards.

    Many patients appeared to have recovered from their original illness, only to become incapacitated due to institutionalisation; some of the nurses seemed also to have developed this affliction. Some patients were ex-servicemen whose war-time experience had precipitated a nervous breakdown. Some were prone to putting their fist through a window, or would throw a snooker ball through; many wards had full size snooker tables. Electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) was in common use; the main medication I remember was Modecate, Kemadrine, Largactil, Melleril, Haloperidol, Amytriptylline, Lithium and various anti-convulsants. We sometimes gave paraldehyde which had to be injected using a glass syringe, as the recently introduced disposable plastic syringes would start to dissolve on contact; I seem to remember that paraldehyde is excreted via the skin and lungs, but once smelled is never forgotten. Epilepsy was common so major convulsions were frequent.

    Some patients had the tell-tale indentations on either side of their forehead - signs of pre-frontal leucotomy in bygone years. Many patients were from areas in Manchester and Liverpool, miles from home, and had lost all contact with their family and friends. Visitors seemed few and far between. It was their home and most staff were kind. Most patients had little contact with the outside world, apart from watching television. Most were voluntary; those who were compulsorily detained were under the 1959 Mental Health Act. Our role was mainly custodial, with few opportunities to practice any therapeutic interventions, although we learned about modern techniques. Wilf Morris was the principal tutor in charge of the school of nursing, but Andrew Moss was its actual head.

    Some wards still had padded single rooms in which the floor and walls were covered in an upholstered canvas material. Very disturbed patients could be secluded for their own protection. My impression was that they were not often used for their original purpose; the major tranquillisers had the effect of being a 'chemical straightjacket'. I never saw any canvas straightjackets - I presumed that these were abandoned long before my time. In fact, I didn't see much violent behaviour, in comparison with what I had seen in a general hospital. I think the very disturbed long-stay patients were housed in 3 up during my time. When a patient became very violent an emergency bell would sound and nurses would rush from their wards to help; I think they were known as the 'heavy gang'. I don't remember there being any formal training for this role; it was much later that breakaway training, and control and restraint training, was introduced.

    The acute male admission ward was, I seem to remember, 1 down. Patients were often very ill on admission - hallucinations, delusions, manic behaviour or profound depression. I remember a Portuguese merchant seaman who was brought in from his boat on the Manchester Ship Canal, I think by the police, in a very agitated and disturbed state, with florid hallucinations. We had to restrain him in order to inject his medication. When he became well enough, David McKendrick had the job of escorting him back to Portugal. The Charge Nurse was Norman Hughes, a portly avuncular character who impressed me with his psychiatric nursing skills and his natural ability to teach. He would say "come with me lad"; I would then watch in awe as he dealt with a patient, and sometimes the family. Oh boy was he good!

    I was resident on the 'block' and remember Sid Nobbs who cleaned the rooms. Frank Clarke was in a room next room to me; he was head cook and one of the old Winwick characters, as was Benny Paget. I somehow managed to make homemade wine in my wardrobe; my first effort was banana and it tasted like Harvey's Bristol Cream to me.

    I soon made friends, by which I mean I soon found some other students who had a similar interest in wine, women and song. However, we had most success with the wine and song. We did an awful lot of what we thought was singing, or maybe we just did a lot of awful singing. Perhaps it was a side-effect of Burtonwood bitter; Frank Sinatra had nothing to fear. So, Brian Nugent, John Wilson and John Chadwick, where are you now? Still in 'fine' voice?

    Frank Callaghan was the steward at the staff social club; he was years ahead of his time with extended opening hours. The nearest pub was The Swan, on the other side of Winwick Road from the hospital. I worked with Brian Footitt and his brother Ivan, and of course David McKendrick, amongst many others. David had a Reliant Robin 3-wheeler van, just like the one David Jason drives in Only Fools and Horses. There were no seats in the back, but I don't recollect that being a problem. That van seemed to know its own way back to White City, which was just as well in the circumstances. Does anyone remember seeing Ken Dodd perform one evening on the stage in the large recreation hall? It was probably during 1970. Please tell me I didn't dream it!

    I qualified as an RMN in late 1970 and worked for a few months as a staff nurse on night duty on the unit across the road from the main hospital, called the Delph. I left Winwick in early 1971 to work as a deputy charge nurse on the psychiatric unit at Whiston Hospital. My sights were set on becoming a nurse tutor; ward management experience at charge nurse level was essential for achieving this. I later returned to general nursing, and then managed to get into teaching. I desperately wanted to be able to say: "Here is the kidney". I often think of my time at Winwick; it was relatively short but it made a big impact. Happy days (and nights)!

    I moved South nearly 30 years ago and have lived near Canterbury for about 25 years. In recent years I have been a lecturer in adult nursing at Canterbury Christ Church University, and also involved with staff training and development in our local trusts. I will be semi-retiring in early October 2005.

    I enjoyed looking at the old photos on your website - they brought back many happy memories.

    Best wishes, Eddie Newall. September 22nd, 2005.

    David McKendrick: 1960 - 1982

    I arrived at Winwick on December 19th 1960 at the age of 18, having a very limited idea where in the North West it was actually situated. Even before I entered the wards, it was a world apart. At night the corridors were deserted, giving an eerie impression of the building, as if one had been marooned.

    Living on the Male Residents’ Block, my first evenings were spent mostly in solitary isolation in the snooker room below. That was because, as I was soon to find, most of the staff residents were in the social club across Winwick Road.

    After a short induction on Male 2 Down with student nurse Gary Say, and a ‘Merry Xmas’ helped by Phil Kinney, Mike O'Rourke and friends, I commenced work on Male 2 Up, a long-stay ward of elderly patients (actually, virtually all the wards were 'long-stay'). The uniform consisted of a charcoal black three-piece suit, the buttons on which were embossed with "Lancashire County Asylums Board". Various embroidered insignia designated different ranks of nurses - student nurses wore one, two or three vertical red stripes on the upper sleeve to show the year of training. The hospital tailor Georgie Woods would stitch the seams of the trousers for ten Woodbines to retain a crease (soap was another trick).

    Pay at first was £6 10s a week, with £3 10s deducted for board and lodging. The remaining £3 was usually blown on the Friday payday at the Social Club. Shifts were two afternoons 2-9, one 'long day' 7 - 5.30, and two mornings 7-2, followed by one day off. The six day pattern meant that the rota lasted six weeks, and your assignment to a particular rota could change when you moved ward, which meant that it was possible to work 11 days without a day off, which led to great rejoicing. Holidays were allocated centrally and posted on the hospital notice board.

    In that era many of the senior ward staff had joined the service after the Second World War. Nursing training was comparatively new - the previous qualification was the RMPA (the examination of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association). The Charge Nurse of Male 2 Up was Bert Galloway, an avuncular figure who cared for his charges along lines of regimented routines. There seemed to be a great reliance upon regularity of bowels, and I’ll draw a veil over the routines that this entailed.

    At that time new staff were employed as nursing assistants, and those engaging in nurse training went on to become student nurses. I did so in February 1961, commencing the PTS, or ‘Preliminary Training School’. Some of my twenty or so classmates I worked with over the years were Keith Wills, John Bryant, Bert Everest, Ethel Latham and Jean Puzzar. The Sister Tutor was Monique Nation. Her husband Jack Nation was one of the first Winwick nurses to undertake post-graduate general training - previously Winwick nurses were not accepted at Warrington General Hospital.

    Then followed a gradual progression through the male wards of the hospital. After one year students sat the Hospital Intermediate Examination and had to pass this to continue training. There was a grant of £40 made to successful students. Similarly, there was a Hospital Final Examination at the end of three years combined with a State Examination, and I qualified as a Registered Mental Nurse in 1964.

    I then worked as staff nurse on night duty, Male 5 Up and Male 3 Up before undertaking my general nurse training at Warrington General in 1968-69. On my return I spent a period on Male 8 Down before moving to Delph Hospital as a deputy charge nurse. Career progression was slow on the Male side of the hospital - much quicker on the Female side. (As John Middlehurst, then a long-serving staff nurse, once put it, "You don't want to stay at Winwick waiting for 'dead man's shoes'. Move to another hospital where there's a vacancy. And why is there a vacancy? Somebody's died.".) Promotion to Charge Nurse followed in 1971, when I became one of the staff pioneering staff integration in the hospital with a move to Female 1 Down. After this ward was transferred to Ward 38 (the wards had been renamed by then), I moved on to take charge of an acute admission ward - Ward 30 (previously Female 3 Down).

    In 1975 I joined the new community psychiatric nursing service, travelling round Warrington, Haydock and Ashton-in-Makerfield visiting existing and newly-referred patients.

    I left Winwick in 1982 to take up the post of Community Psychiatric Nurse with Salford Psychiatric Services, based in Walkden. It was a wrench to leave the place of my formative nursing years, with the many valued relationships I had made. I still think that the training I received was exemplary for its time, and provided me with a sound grounding in psychiatric skills, and appreciation of many unsung people who were part of the fabric of Winwick Hospital.