Posts Tagged ‘News’

Whitchurch Hospital League of Friends

October 14th, 2013

Fundraising Events 2013, at St Mary’s Church Hall, Church Road, Whitchurch village


Friday and Saturday 1st and 2nd of November, 10am – 4pm

Christmas Fayre

Saturday 30th of November 1:30pm

Fundraising events 2013

Fundraising events 2013

Interesting TV programme coming up on Channel 5

September 24th, 2013

On Monday the 30th of September there is the first of two programmes titled Inside Broadmoor due to be shown on Channel 5:

Inside Broadmoor


“This remarkable two-part documentary special marks the 150th anniversary of Broadmoor, home to Britain’s most notorious killers. With exclusive and unprecedented access to Broadmoor’s archives, this film unfolds the extraordinary history of the world’s most famous and feared hospital. Why was it originally created, and what has it become?”


A Student visit

June 7th, 2013

On the 21st of May we had another group of students visit Whitchurch Hospital for some historical talks and a tour around some of the grounds and hospital.

The visit was part of a history of psychiatry week for the Cardiff University year 3 special study module on the History of Medicine organised by Dr Simon Braybrook

The course is an eight week module devoting a week each to the method of general historical enquiry, the history of sexual and reproductive health, the history of psychiatry, the history of epidemiology, the history of medical education and the history of surgery. The format will be a mix of lectures, field visits and personal reading and study.

Outside the front entrance

Outside the front entrance


Dr George Kirov started the day with a very interesting presentation on the history and development of ECT and psycho-surgery. Tim Goosey did a presentation with Dr Ian Beech on the history of Whitchurch.  Lynne from the historical society attended and contributed interesting and helpful accounts to the morning. The visit was finished with a trip to the hall and a walk round the outside pointing out the ha ha fence and the water tower in relation to Enoch Powell’s water tower speech, featured here and mentioned by Dr Braybook as a turning point in mental health history.

This is from Cane Hill’s website which is very impressive. – website now added to our Links page

In the afternoon Dr Brayboook showed the students The Madness of King George, in part to illustrate that mental illness does not take account of class.

Thank you to all who contributed to the visit

Sorry to take so long to write this post.

The secret asylum knitting club

May 11th, 2013

I found this post on the BBC news website

The Knitting Circle is a new play written by Julie McNamara which paints a picture of the lives of women who lived in the old asylums of Britain’s mental health system.

Set at a fictional institution in the 1980s called Harper Park, the patients face the prospect of being reintegrated into the community.

The idea came when McNamara unearthed a recording she had made 30 years ago, when she was a nursing assistant in a long-stay hospital in the home counties.

Long forgotten, the cassette contained voices of female patients she had worked with, all telling their personal stories.

“There were thousands of women in this country put away into institutions for the most spurious reasons,” says McNamara. “They were written off as morally deficient, feeble-minded or imbecile.”

She was there at a time when the government was closing long-stay facilities like hers, which looked after 2,000 people. The patients were institutionalised and she wanted to encourage relationships between them to help prepare for a new less-sheltered life outside.

A scene from The Knitting Circle

It bothered her that the women didn’t talk to each other. She says: “The only way to maintain any level of privacy when living on a 32-bed ward, was not to speak to the woman in the bed on your left or your right.”

The voices on the tape were members of a group McNamara had set up to encourage patients to remember and share details of their lives before their hospital days – often a very long time ago.

A ward sister warned that a project of this nature would be considered too political and so McNamara secretly established her group in the guise of a knitting circle, but the conversations that took place within it went way beyond “knit one, purl one”.

As is the way in a therapeutic environment, they had to demonstrate a positive purpose for the group. So it was decided that the results of their work would be sold by the hospital shop.

“We had to look like we were knitting for England,” McNamara remembers. “There was just one problem though – I couldn’t knit.

“We made nothing fit to wear, but there were some marvellous toilet roll covers, tea cosies and random contributions to the shop.”

The irony was that the only people who shopped there were the patients themselves. In order to keep the circle going, they had to also prove people wanted to buy their knitted goods and so had to make it disappear off the shelves. “Those with a few pence to spare were constantly buying back their own stuff,” says McNamara.

She learned a lot about the members of the circle during its eight-month lifespan, including why they had been admitted in the first place.

One woman had arrived as a baby; an unwanted child of a wealthy family who, it was thought, were trying to hide the fruits of sexual impropriety. Another knitter was admitted aged 18, having had a child outside wedlock.

“I heard stories from these women of sexual abuse and of being sent away because they were unmarried mothers,” she says, “and I knew the women had things in common which, if shared, could help them make informed choices about which friends they wanted to live with when they were moved to smaller group homes.”

She felt the women were anything but “feeble-minded” and were trying to live the best life they could in the circumstances.

A scene from The Knitting Circle

She recalls that the women did find ways of having fun while there. One former patient, Mary, told her she stole cigarette butts from the ashtrays, rolled them up and sold them back to the staff.

Another, Ann, only recently revealed how she would get one over on the nurses each December.

She said: “I hate brazil nuts. But every Christmas, one of the nurses used to give me chocolate brazils… so I used to suck the chocolate off and give the nuts back to the other nurses. It took them four years to realize.”

As the patients told McNamara: “It was the mischief that kept us going.”

The Knitting Circle has a cast of eight which includes two British Sign Language speakers. They perform a script based on the recollections of 40 surviving female long-stay patients in the mental health system at the time.

McNamara wanted to build on what she had rediscovered from the tapes and, with the help of Mind mental health charity and the National Survivor User Network, gathered more stories while writing the play in 2011.

A favourite story McNamara collected came from a former patient called Hillary, who had lived in an institution in the Berkshire area. Hilary said: “I used to love it when the Broadmoor boys came by. They weren’t bad boys.

“I had a boyfriend, Lenny, he was a lovely man. He used to be a road digger. And they found some bones near his patch. They were human remains … but they weren’t his.”

Many of the women during McNamara’s period at the hospital muddled through when discharged. For those who’d been there a long time, however, it was very difficult.

“I lived and worked alongside one woman who was put away aged nine for stealing a bicycle,” says McNamara. “Forty-eight years later, they wanted to release her into the community. She was so institutionalised that it was not possible.”

In preparation for The Knitting Circle, cast and crew were teamed up with surviving patients and staff. Five patients from McNamara’s old hospital sat in the front row on opening night, “laughing like drains” at seeing their mischief portrayed on stage. Two staff members from the time were also there but McNamara says they remained at the back, sobbing.

McNamara believes this to be a Magdalene Laundry for the UK that isn’t even in the public consciousness. The playwright, who herself has been a patient in the mental health system, hopes that her work can honour the women featured.

The Knitting Circle is currently touring English theatres, closing in Bristol’s Tobacco Factory on 20 May.

More information on

BBC programmes – Peace of Mind

March 1st, 2013

Back in December there was a series of three excellent programs on the BBC focusing on Whitchurch Hospital and the good work that goes on.Unfortunately the full programs are  unavailable on BBC iPlayer now but there are seven clips, see links below:

There are also some photos available on the BBC website:

Does anyone know where the photo of the pathology lab came from?




Wales on line – look back at Whitchurch photos

January 16th, 2013

Came across these photos this week of Whitchurch and there are a couple of the hospital:




Whitchurch Hospital Fireworks Display

November 5th, 2012

Does anyone have fond memories of past fireworks displays at the hospital?

On Twitter tonight the displays at the hospital were remembered as great events.

Please get in touch with any memories and/or photos

Whitchurch Hospital Nurses Reunion

September 13th, 2012

If you are interested please get in touch with us through the website

Eve and Jean’s visit to Whitchurch

May 25th, 2012

Eve Evans first made contact with me through this website in November of last year, she was a student nurse at Whitchurch from 1948-1951 when she left Cardiff. Until today Eve had not been back to Whitchurch. Jean Williams was also a student nurse at Whitchurch from 1949-1952, she went on to work as a qualified nurse and retired in 1975.

Jean and Eve

I had been to visit Eve at her home in Llandeilo earlier this year and we had said then we would try and arrange a visit to Whitchurch when her daughter, Jane, could bring her.

We started the visit by walking down from the front of the hospital to the canteen to share some memories of old times, then moving up to W1A (F1A) to have a look at the displays and some of the old record books from when Eve and Jean were students.

We then made out way to the boardroom for lunch with some members

Eve, Jean Mike and Lynne

of the historical society. Tim, Mike and Lynne were able to join us and we had a lovely time discussing Eve and Jean’s time at Whitchurch.

After lunch we went to visit the ECT department where Kara and Karen explained how the treatment is given today. Eve and Jean shared with us how ECT used to be given and the procedure has changed significantly.

The weather today could not of been better and we walked around the outside of W5 (F5) as Eve wanted to find the window she mentions in her Whitchurch memories:

“At one stage I was allocated a room on the gallery of F5. This ward was
alongside the main drive on to which the windows, including that of my room,
opened. But someone had slipped up and omitted to notice that the window to my
room fully opened up. Throughout the hospital as far as we knew, the sash windows
of all wards and corridors accessed by the patients were blocked so that they would
open not more than a couple of inches. This was obviously to prevent any patients
absconding by that means. My window was therefore not subject to the ‘curfew’, and
once the word got around there was traffic through that window throughout the night.
I would hear a whispered “Eve!” and rouse myself sufficiently to open the window,
which was about five feet from the outside ground, and help the latecomer in. My job
would then be to ostensibly go to the lavatory outside the ward, but in fact, to see if
the coast was clear for my visitor to return to her own bedroom. Sometimes they
would have to wait for what seemed like ages before they could leave me to return to
my sleep, and some nights were spent with two or three of us in my bed.”

Eve and Jean outside F5 (West 5)

Eve and Jean outside F5 (West 5)


To finish off the visit we went up to the Divisional offices as this is where Eve and Jean used to have their lecturers as student nurses, a wonderful venue with a lovely view over the bowling green.


Thank you to all we helped with this visit and made it a lovely day.

The Royal Hamadryad Hospital – Cardiff nurse seeks help with literary voyage

May 7th, 2012

H.M.S. Hamadryad

A Cardiff health worker is setting sail on a journey to uncover the history of one of the city’s famous ships and is asking for help.

Steve Maddern, a Community Mental Health Nurse with Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s Community Mental Health Team, is based in the Hamadryad Centre in Butetown. The building is named after a 19th Century hospital ship, H.M.S. Hamadryad, which was berthed close to where it stands today.

The ship treated the many sailors who came through the city’s port during the industrial revolution. When it was decommissioned a hospital was built which today serves as the Hamadryad Centre.

Steve, from Maesteg, is researching a book he intends to write on HMS Hamadryad and the Royal Hamadryad Hospital.

He said: “Cardiff in the middle 1800’s was a very interesting place. It was the centre of the coal industry that fired the Industrial Revolution, and its port served ships that traversed the whole world.

“With this came the problems of poverty, crime, and of course, disease. With hospital care being a valuable resource, there was concern expressed about the welfare of the sailors that came in and out of the port of Cardiff.”

Steve said that the HMS Hamadryad was drafted in to provide care before being abandoned and a hospital built nearby.

He said: “The hospital eventually became used for the general population, and only closed in the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century. Stories abound of the hospital, and staff who have worked there all recount the stories of the ‘ghosts’ that inhabited one of the wards.

“The building continues to serve the people of Cardiff, and now houses the Mental Health services serving the southern parts of Cardiff.

“I am currently researching for a book that I am writing and I would love to speak to any former members of staff at the hospital, or anyone with any memories or information about the hospital.”

Contact Steve on 07970 973929 or at

Thank you to Dr Ian Beech for this post.