Archive for the ‘Ely Hospital’ category

Ely Hospital Memory Event

September 26th, 2015

This event is hosted by Hidden Now Heard / Clywed y Cyn-Cuddiedig on the 23rd of October at 11:00 until 14:00 at the Cardiff Story Museum (The Old Library, The Hayes)

Have a look at their facebook page:

The Hidden Now Heard project invites former staff and residents from Ely or Hensol Castle Hospitals to Cardiff Story Museum to bring objects, pictures and stories from their time at Ely Hospital.

As well as hearing from you the team will explain the Hidden Now Heard project and explain the oral history interview process as we would like to conduct oral histories with former residents or their relatives and former staff from the hospital.

The oral histories, objects and images may appear at an exhibition about Ely and Hensol Hospitals on the Hayes in March 2016.

We will have some images from Ely on display along with researches who have been looking for documents and material from Glamorgan Archives and the National Archives in London.

Thanks to Paul Hunt for this post

Hidden Now Heard / Clywed y Cyn-Cuddiedig Community

July 14th, 2014
I heard about this project through twitter and thought it would be good to write a post about it.
Hidden Now Heard is a Heritage Lottery Funded project run by Mencap Cymru. Collecting oral histories from long-stay hospitals.
Over the next three years the project will collect the oral histories of people who lived in six long stay hospital sites across Wales. We will also interview former staff and family members of those who lived there.

Do you know anyone who used to work in:

Ely Hospital in Cardiff
Llanfrechfa Grange
St David’s in Carmarthen
Denbigh Hospital

A new project aimed at collecting the stories of 80 individuals who lived in these long stay hospitals will begin shortly. The majority of these stories will be from people with a learning disability but we also want to interview former staff and family members of patients.

These stories will be archived in St Fagan’s Museum and six regional exhibitions will be held based on interpretations of the stories over the next two and bit years.

Also if anyone wants to volunteer for us as a researcher, photographer, exhibition assistant or anything else please contact us.

These histories will be interpreted into six, temporary regional exhibitions held at Cardiff Story Museum, Swansea Museum, Carmarthen Museum, Newport Museum, Gwynedd Museum and Wrexham Museum.

Please get in touch directly with Hidden Now Heard.

At the end of the project all the stories will be deposited in the archive at St Fagan’s, the Museum of Welsh Life.


Highs and lows at Ely Hospital

February 4th, 2012


Cian O'Donoghue, training coordinator for Cardiff People First

In the final installment of our Ely Hospital series, CLARE HUTCHINSON looks at the remarkable story of how former patients came together to share their experiences of the institution with the outside world.

WHEN Ely Hospital finally closed its doors in 1997, it heralded a new era for people with learning disabilities in Cardiff.

Instead of living in a hospital, 30 to a ward, the institution’s former patients were out in the community, living in their own supported accommodation – some in small groups, others on their own.

“Many of the people who lived at Ely Hospital never had the chance to do many things on their own and that’s what made resettlement so difficult,” said Karen Jeffreys, who helped facilitate the Ely Hospital project.

“Even now, many people who were at the hospital find it difficult to make choices and still have a healthy respect for support workers.”

The group Karen works for, Cardiff People First, started as an advocacy group set up by residents living in Ely Hospital. Many of those former residents still work with the group and it was their idea to come forward and tell the wider public about their time at the institution.

“The idea came out of a meeting with members of Cardiff People First and our young people’s group, Cardiff Young People First,” said Karen.

“The older people brought along a video called Ely Voices, which they had done when the hospital was being closed, and it quickly became clear that the young people had no idea what Ely Hospital was.

“They were asking ‘why were you living in a hospital?’ and ‘were you allowed out?’

“You could see that they really didn’t know about what used to happen to some people with a learning difficulty.”

After pitching their idea to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the group was given £25,000 from the organisation to make it a reality.

“After setting up a steering group made up of members from Cardiff and Newport People First, we sent out a letter via the social work team, who talked to former residents about telling their story,” said Karen.

“Lots of people contacted us wanting to get involved – staff as well as former patients.

“Meanwhile, members of Young People First received training in camera and interviewing skills so they could interview former workers and the women’s group went out to Glamorgan Archives to research the hospital’s history.”

The exhibition itself includes a replica of the dayroom at Ely Hospital – complete with board games and Christmas decorations – as well as a bed like those on the wards, a shadow puppet theatre created by the young people’s group and a snakes and ladders game which shows the highs and lows of life at Ely Hospital.

As well as the exhibits, the exhibition includes video interviews with former patients and staff and written stories about life at the hospital.

Karen added: “People do have good memories – because you can’t live your life somewhere without having good memories – but there were also many sad and, at times, shocking stories that came out.

“The members of Cardiff People First who lived in Ely Hospital have always talked about what it was like, but this is the first time they have been heard.

“Since the exhibition opened last week, scores of people have come in or been in touch to tell us about their own experiences.

“Getting people to share their own stories was one of our main aims. No matter whether the story is good or bad – we want everybody with a memory of Ely Hospital to come forward.”


Looking back at Ely Hospital: 100 years behind those walls

February 2nd, 2012

Officials inspect a men's ward at Ely Hospital


In the fifth instalment of our Ely Hospital series, Clare Hutchinson looks at some of the shocking stories of abuse against patients – and hears from former staff members about their experiences at the institution for people with learning disabilities.

Its imposing walls stood for more than 100 years.

Yet few knew what was happening behind those walls which enclosed Ely Hospital. The hospital, off what is now Cowbridge Road West, was a familiar sight.

But in 1967 that all changed when a national newspaper printed allegations, made by a whistleblower, of endemic maltreatment of patients – including cruelty, verbal abuse, beatings, stealing of food, clothes and other items, indifference to complaints, lack of medical care and medication used to sedate patients.

“We must never forget,” said one former resident who lived in the hospital for most of her life.

“It was a terrible place.”

Labour AM for Cardiff West and Cardiff University professor Mark Drakeford, an expert on the Ely Inquiry, said the allegations only centred on a small minority of staff.

He said: “The staff at Ely were not bad people, but somewhere along the way they became part of a system that was.

“After the report, there was a lot of local hostility to the staff at the hospital and many of the staff themselves rejected what the report said, arguing that it had misconstrued what was happening.”

In a video interview recorded for the Ely Hospital project, one former patient – known only as John – recalled his own experience of abuse at the hands of a male staff member.

“My mam came to visit me at the ward and there was a nasty fella in there,” he said.

“He said to me, ‘You’re not to go home.’ I asked why and he wouldn’t tell me. He had me on the floor, beating me up and was kicking me about like a football.

“[The doctor] said, ‘I want you to stop kicking patients about,’ and he said, ‘I haven’t touched them.’

“I said, ‘Yes you did, you hit me.’ Then the doctor said to the man, ‘You’ve got the sack, go and get your week’s money and leave’ – and so he left. The way that man spoke to my dad and mam was terrible.”

Doreen Jones, a former cleaner at the hospital who contributed to the Ely Hospital project at the Cardiff Story Museum, started there shortly after the 1969 Ely Inquiry.

“What sticks in my memory are the padded cells and the Victorian feel to the hospital,” she said.

“So many things seemed to belong to the past – even the way the children were dressed, especially the boots they wore.

“The hospital is gone now and children from those backgrounds are much better off today. They are dressed like other kids and go on holidays and things, which is great.

“I felt that the hospital worked well when there were matrons there – they looked after us and I enjoyed the feeling of being part of a big family. When I left I was sad to go.

“There were some caring people working there and the children were great characters.”

One staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, said the hospital was a “community within a community”.

“The majority of staff were good – there are bad staff and good staff. There were also good times and bad times. You must understand there were up to 42 people on a ward – that’s a lot of people.”

Martin James, who worked for the Welsh Office and helped close Ely Hospital in 1997, said: “Surprisingly, a lot of parents at the time didn’t like what they saw as a move away from the ‘safety’ of the hospitals, and they resisted the idea.

“We were determined that none of the hospitals would be left standing so there was never the temptation to use them again.”

Ely Hospital remembered: Strained relationships

February 1st, 2012

Ely Hospital remembered

In the fourth instalment of our Ely Hospital series, Clare Hutchinson finds out about the often-strained relationships between the hospital’s institutionalised patients and their families back home

From the time it opened as a Poor Law institution for orphaned children in 1862, Ely Hospital was a destination for people who had no families to care for them.

In some cases, this was because members of their close family had died – but in others the reason was altogether darker.

In the late 1940s a 15-year-old girl was admitted to the hospital because she was pregnant and unmarried. After having her baby there, which went on to be adopted, the girl stayed on.

When the hospital closed more than half a century later in 1997, the girl – now a pensioner – was one of the first patients to be resettled in the surrounding community.

One former staff member who remembered the woman, who has not been named in order to protect her identity, said: “She didn’t have a learning disability when she went in, but she left the hospital diagnosed with having one.”

In some cases patients were sent to the institution, which became a long-stay NHS hospital in 1948, because their parents simply could not cope.

For some, this was due to the financial strain of having another child, while for others it was because they were suffering from their own mental health issues, such as depression.

One former resident, interviewed for the Ely Hospital project, said: “My mother put me there, but she’s dead. She was depressed and she took her life, so she didn’t come to see me. Nor my dad. I’ve just got a sister.”

A nurse who worked at the hospital’s children’s ward said many of the residents did not have families.

“There was one particular one, he was the son of the local baker,” she said.

“The baker had died and the mother couldn’t really cope and so he was in the home.

“I wrote to his mother when he died and I had this lovely letter back. She said what a happy life he’d had in the hospital and how kind particular staff had been to him.”

A former therapist who was recruited to the hospital as part of changes that came about as a result of the 1969 Ely Inquiry said many families effectively turned their backs on patients who had been admitted to the hospital.

Others, he said, visited regularly and got involved in activities on the wards.

He said: “Probably families needed support and help to make better relationships with their sons and their daughters.

“That’s something [at Ely] that wasn’t really looked at and which I think needed looking at.”

When families did visit, they were confronted with some shocking sights.

Labour AM for Cardiff West and Cardiff University professor Mark Drakeford is an expert on the Ely Inquiry.

“One of the most striking stories in the report was that of a mother who used to visit her son regularly and always took him a pear,” he said.

“She tells the inquiry about a time she turned up to see him to find all of his teeth had been removed, which was not an unusual thing at the time, so she had this pear and her son had no teeth to eat it with.

“She called the nurse over, who went into a room, came back with a bowl full of dentures and proceeded to try them out one by one – all the time with the mother getting more and more upset.

“When she got through the bowl and none of them had fit, she took the bowl away and as she walked past one of the patients, who was sleeping, she – in full view – whipped the teeth out of his mouth and came back with them.

“When the patient’s mother got upset she was reassured by the nurse, who said, ‘There’s no need to get upset – most of these teeth belonged to patients who are dead anyway.’”

Tomorrow: We look at some of the shocking stories of staff abuse – and talk to former workers about their experiences at the hospital.

Looking back at Ely Hospital: Activities and holidays

January 28th, 2012

Ely Hospital remembered in our series

In the third installment of our Ely Hospital series, Clare Hutchinson takes a look at activities and holidays at the institution, as told by those who were there

Activities formed a central part of daily life for patients with learning disabilities at Ely Hospital.

After the damning 1969 Ely Inquiry, in which the hospital was condemned for – among other things – not giving patients enough stimulation, more emphasis was put on activities like art, crafts, music and flower arranging.

But perhaps one of the more unusual activities was what was known as industrial therapy.

A therapist who worked at the hospital for 33 years shared his memories of his time there with Cardiff People First’s Ely Hospital project.

“Industrial therapy was awful,” he said.

“I think it came from the history of learning disabilities and workhouses as a way to try and give people proper jobs and get them out into the community.

“But that’s not what happened. It was actually just occupying people.

“You would get those little packs of screws and washers and things like that. They would fill those up, put 20 of them in a pack and seal them up and earn money from it.”

At other times, groups of up to 40 patients at a time would tie and re-tie ribbons, or even stamp prescriptions for the health authority.

The therapist added: “All day long you could hear it. When you’ve got 30 to 40 people doing that at a time its quite a loud sound in this big place.”

In the 1990s, before the hospital closed in 1997, patients could get paid up to £7 a day for their work.

One former nurse, who also contributed to the Ely Hospital project at the Cardiff Story museum, said patients could not earn more because it would affect their benefits.

“What we were trying to do was to make lots of different activities and put some routine into the residents’ lives there,” she said.

“First thing in the morning I would go into the wards and I would help people to dress or to feed themselves, and then across on the main department we would have all sorts of different activities going on for different groups that came over.

“We had some industrial therapy there and others would take part in drama, music and craft activities, cookery and then some days we would go out for trips.

“The ones that were more able had little jobs on the ward that they would get paid for, like tidying up or helping to look after somebody else, helping with mealtimes. But in our department we also had what was called an industrial therapy unit – packing screws and hooks and things.”

Looking back at Ely Hospital: How inquiry rocked the nation

January 25th, 2012

Officials inspect a men's ward at Ely Hospital

Former patients and staff have come together to tell the inside story of Ely Hospital for a new exhibition at the Cardiff Story museum. All this week, CLARE HUTCHINSON looks at the forgotten history and fascinating stories uncovered by learning disability group Cardiff People First, starting with a history of the institution

IN 1967, a long-stay hospital for people with learning disabilities hit the headlines in a way which had rarely happened before.

Ely Hospital, built in 1862 as a Poor Law institution and converted to a long-stay NHS hospital in 1948, was hit with allegations of endemic maltreatment of its patients, including cruelty, verbal abuse, beatings, stealing of food, clothes and other items, indifference to complaints, lack of medical care and medication used to sedate patients.

“We must never forget,” said one former resident who lived in the hospital for most of her life. “It was a terrible place”.

The subsequent Ely Inquiry in 1969 exposed a hospital cut off from the mainstream, with little or no staff training and overcrowded wards. A White Paper followed in 1971, which eventually led to a total transformation in the way people with learning disabilities are cared for.

Labour AM for Cardiff West and Cardiff University professor Mark Drakeford is an expert on the Ely Inquiry. “It was very shocking at the time,” he said.

“It was the first major hospital scandal of the post-war period and it really hit the headlines, both locally and nationally. Part of the scandal was that these were bad things going on in a hospital, which was supposed to be a place where people were cared for.”

It would be almost another three decades until Ely Hospital finally shut its doors and its patients were resettled in the surrounding community.

In total there were 18 reports between 1968 and 1980 in which allegations of maltreatment of patients were investigated in what were then known as ‘mental illness’ and ‘mental handicap’ hospitals.

Prof Drakeford said: “Politically, the biggest impact it had was that an advisory review was set up as a result of the report, which could go in and look at the quality of medical care that was being offered in long-stay hospitals.

“There is always a need for vigilance where institutions are concerned because they can become isolated.

“In any institution there is a tendency for it to become a bit inward looking and cut off from the standards that are expected elsewhere, which is why regular inspection and visits are so crucial. The big thing that it did was it started the movement for closure on a path that means that today there are almost no institutions like this anywhere in the UK.”

Tomorrow: What day-to-day life at Ely Hospital was like, as told by those who were there.

Apologies that the Ely articles do not appear in the same order as they were on Wales on line webiste

Ely Hospital – article in Wales Online today

January 24th, 2012

Looking back at Ely Hospital: Staff ruled every aspect of life

A busy social scene at Ely Hospital


Former patients and staff have come together to tell the inside story of Ely Hospital for a new exhibition at the Cardiff Story museum. Clare Hutchinson takes a look at day-to-day life at the institution, as told by those who were there

IN the late 1960s Ely Hospital, a long-stay hospital for people with learning difficulties, was an isolated world in which cigarettes were the only currency and patients slept 50 to a ward.

This all changed after the 1969 Ely Inquiry – with ward sizes going down to 30 patients or less – but many of the characteristics of life in the institution remained the same.

Karen Jeffreys of Cardiff People First said: “They didn’t get a choice. They got up when they were told to get up, they wore what they were told to wear, ate what they were told to eat and did activities that they were told to do.

“For many people, we are talking about 30 years of their lives – or more – without even being able to make a cup of tea for themselves, because the kettle was an industrial one and it was too dangerous.

“And it wasn’t just in Ely – this was happening in institutions like it across the country. It was just the way things were done.”

Because patients did not earn money, cigarettes became a form of currency in the hospital – something recounted by a former therapist.“You had a lot of members of staff who used to smoke on the wards,” he said.

“I guess as people became more enlightened they used to include the residents. So they would get the residents to do something, like, ‘if you go down the shop to get me my Chinese meal I’ll give you a cigarette’, and once the person becomes hooked it becomes more of an incentive to get more cigarettes.

“Some residents would smoke continuously, while others would pick them up off the floor and make up their own, or some used to eat them.

“But because some of them tended to smoke them very quickly, by the end of the week they wouldn’t have any, so what some of the staff would do was to share them out throughout the week to ensure the person would have cigarettes, because if they didn’t they would become very agitated, very angry, and then it would be almost triggering people to go and pinch them – and of course they would get into trouble and all sorts of things.

“So it made sense. With the staff it was a sense of control over people. You control the supply and the currency and you can have more influence over what people did.”

He added: “Behaviour modification is a good therapeutic tool but then it was used as, ‘if you’re a bad boy or a bad girl’ – and we’re talking about men and women the same age or older than me – their cigarettes were taken off them, or they couldn’t see their mum or their dad.”

One former patient recalled his own experience of going to the shop across the road to buy cigarettes.“I told the day nurse can I go over the shop and she told me ‘What are you going over the shop for?’” he said.

“I told her I wanted a packet of cigarettes and she went to the office to get the money out, gave it to me and then she told me, ‘After you’ve got your cigarettes go straight back to the hospital.’

“You couldn’t have a cigarette on the ward, you had to go outside. But you couldn’t go out through the gates, you had to stay on the premises.”




Stories from Ely Hospital at The Cardiff Story Museum

January 9th, 2012

Stories from Ely Hospital: 16th January – 28th February 2012