Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Douglas Quarmby's memories of MHMOH 1939 to 1945

I have read with interest the various accounts of ex patients of MHMOH which became their home not by choice but a valued necessity for I too was a patient there with spinal TB in the years 1939 - 1945 - the war years. Thoughts and memories crowd my mind some sad and some glad in that period of my life which affects me to this day. A lump had started to appear on my spine when I was five in ‘39, thought to be the result of a fall from a tree in a coppice in a little village called Clifton a year earlier. The doctor, a Dr Heseltine, diagnosed TB of the spine and I became a patient of the Marguerite Hepton Memorial Orthopaedic Hospital. Although I was approximately six years there, I haven't many visual memories structure wise of the hospital as I was supine in a half plaster cast with a mirror above my head to view around. No doubt the cast would be changed as I grew. I do remember the avenue of trees so colourful in the autumn and the sunny days outside on the terrace. It’s strange but I cannot see any wet days in my memory or the pain I must have gone through, just an acceptance, a boy who knew of nothing else but that present time. Over the span of time I was in hospital my body was subjected to various ailments as the disease progressed. Boils on my back to be burst through the application of linen boiled in a cloth, the water wrung out then hot the linen applied to the ripe heads, near mastoids in the ear and a stay in Killingbeck hospital when I caught Scarlet Fever. There was no quick remedy for TB and no antibiotics at that time.

A year before I came home a decision was made to operate which required my parents blessing as its success rate was 50%. The surgeon who performed the operation was a Mr Payne, a wonderful consultant and very strict (my mother would tell me afterward). I think the operation was done in Leeds and can still remember the pad and chloroform being put on my face. When I think back, I have nothing but respect and admiration for Mr Payne. He cut away the diseased bone of my spine around the spinal cord and replaced it with fresh bone from my left shin to make a new vertebra. He certainly saved my life.

Various incidents do spring to mind whilst at MHMOH, as being the war years I remember the dog fights high in the sky in daylight, (the airfield at Church Fenton was not far away), planes circling beyond the trees trying to bomb the underground munitions bunkers across the road. Of boys from an approved school going round picking up the shrapnel after the all clear.

Not all raids, however, were done in daylight, for many a night we would be pushed in our beds to wooden huts away from the hospital in case the hospital was hit during a night raid. On one occasion a cone shaped fire extinguisher fell of its hook due to the explosions and landed on a bed, was activated and soaked the poor lad under it. Though it was dark I could see the sister or nurse, a cape over her shoulder, a silhouette in the doorway lit up by flashes, on guard, an assurance to our young minds all would be well.

On good days we enjoyed the sunlit air away from cover of the veranda, the sun lighting up the silver barrage balloons, one occasionally drifting off as it broke free of its moorings. From the mirror above my head I watched my father climb the steps to the entrance to disappear then to re-appear at my bedside. Dad was exempt from doing national service because of his job as a lorry driver at Walker Bros in Brighouse. Those times were special as it was midweek and he had managed to make time to visit me. Normal visiting was once a fortnight and on a weekend, travelling by bus from Clifton to Leeds then by train to Boston Spa in all weathers and maybe having only ten minutes of visiting time left.

Being a lorry driver, Dad had contacts and knew where to buy toys difficult to get hold of. A dye cast searchlight I would shine on the ceiling in the night. Black faced luminous watches would glow under the sheets; I had quite a few of them over the period I was there, for as, even with the searchlight, they seemed to ‘disappear’.

One particular and fond memory I have of my stay at the hospital concerned a little girl called Ruth Tutin who never seemed to receive any visitors. Like me she was fitted with a half plaster cast and a mirror above her head and most times she would remain unnoticed, alone in a corner under the veranda. This concerned Dad and Mum who upon enquiring why she was aside out of the way and not with the others outside, would be told ‘she has been naughty, soiled herself’. ‘Poor beggar, bring her outside with the others’ dad would say, and made sure she received a present on visiting days along with a bit of TLC. Ruth would often call father ‘Dad’ and many is the time I wondered what became of her when I came home in February 1945. Dad did make a few discreet enquiries later, and heard she had gone down south.

I am now in my 76th year. My spine bears the scars of a time when there was little technology as we know it today but the skill was there. My doctor said later, had penicillin been available then, the possibility of a cure in six months was not beyond the bounds of probability and I would have been taller. Losing 3ins in height has suppressed the capacity of the lungs making me short winded at times, but I count my blessing over and over that I have led an active life and still do God willing.

The breathing exercises I was advised to do long ago have come naturally with singing. Singing to His glory in church and concert platform and oratorio works.

Looking back I cannot thank the staff at MHMOH enough for their dedication and care. The love and devotion my parents gave to me is ever before me as I reach the eventide of life. Marriage to a loving wife and the added blessings of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren is living testimony to their dedication.

Think of me when you are happy, keep for me one tender spot. In the depth of your affection, plant me one for-get-me-not.

The seed was sown long ago.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Christmas Present

Around this time last year Jane added a post wishing everyone Seasonal greetings so I guess this time it is my turn. But first a confession, Jane added a photo of Father Christmas which I had offered to her for the blog but it was not a photo taken of the real Father Christmas. It was in fact my neighbour, a local artist, who was kind enough to add beard, red suit and a significant amount of padding to entertain the children at our village primary school. I took his photo en route (but not really passing the reindeer). This year he has very kindly made an appropriate contribution of his own to add to our blog in the form of the above seasonal painting.

Since adding a counter to the blog last February we have had over 13000 hits which gives us something of a warm feeling, knowing that so many of you are taking an interest. We haven't had much to add in the last couple of months but then we had a similar lull this time last year. So if you have anything to tell us about your MHH experiences we would love to hear from you, perhaps after you have got over the coming festivities.

But for now a very happy Christmas and very healthy and perhaps wealthy new year wishes too you all.

PS If you would like to see more of Eugene Conway's work visit his web site at My apologies for the shameless advertising!

Christmas Past

At this time of year I often have brief glimpses of Christmas in MHH, I had three Christmases there but time and my memory of almost 60 years ago have turned them all into one.

It is funny but the things I should remember which must have occurred such as Father Christmas and Carol singers stir the grey matter not one bit. The things I do remember include a Christmas tree (or trees?) being brought in to the ward and being dressed, paper chains being made and other decorations being hung around the walls and Disney characters being stuck on the many windows.

We prepared for a nativity play, dress rehearsal involved, in my case, brown face paint and a small wicker basket of oranges, one of which I was afterwards allowed to keep. I don’t remember tea towels, or any other dressing up nor the performance we must have given or to whom we gave it, but I suspect it may have been our parents during Saturday visiting.

One evening we were wrapped up and wheeled, in our beds, across to the big girls ward where the hospital staff put on a pantomime. I don’t remember what the pantomime was; just a couple on stage singing “Walking my Baby Back Home” and “How Much is that Doggie in the Window”. Strange how those two tunes have stayed with me for so long. Maybe because they were the first songs I had ever heard performed live. However neither song is much help in trying to work out what the pantomime was!

Another piece of entertainment we had was a conjurer and the one trick that stays with me, mystified me, and come to think of it still does, is the interlocking of solid metal rings. There must have been many others but they have all disappeared into the fog of my memory.

But I suppose the most lasting impression had to be the presents we found on and around our beds on Christmas morning. As well as those received from home there was always a collection from anonymous benefactors and to this day I don’t know where they came from. I’m guessing they were donated from local charitable organisations and friends of the hospital. I do remember wondering how they came to be on my bed but the thought was lost in the excitement of opening them all. 60 years on I guess it is too late to say thank you but perhaps the knowledge that they had made lots of children very happy was thanks enough.

I don’t ever remember feeling sorry for myself not being home for Christmas such was the efforts and dedication of all the hospital staff to keep us all happy and I can only say that at least in my case they all succeeded splendidly.

We would love to hear of any Christmas memories you may have of MHH.

Friday, 9 October 2009

An addition to Fred's search for Thorp Arch Grange

It seems many of us have tried like Fred to find the old hospital building, though not with such scientific care – thanks Fred. It’s also good to have more information about what has happened to Potternewton Mansion School, Leeds. Many contributors to the blog have good memories of this place - it obviously did a very good job of helping kids back into normal school life. As someone who got plunged in very much at the deep end, I must say I've envied their experience.

What Fred writes about his search for Thorp Arch Grange reminded me of a very interesting document I found while googling some years ago – after failing to locate anything resembling the hospital on a trip to Newcastle. This is a Thorp Arch Village Plan, apparently approved in 2004. It seems to be used still as the basis for planning decisions. I’ve often thought of putting some extracts from it onto the blog, so now seems a good moment.

The plan starts with a history of the village, going right back to the Domesday book. It has pictures, too. The whole document shows clearly how the places and buildings we all knew have been adapted to new uses, and partially or wholly disappeared in the process. No wonder it’s hard to find anything!

About Thorp Arch Grange it says: “A new boarding school for young gentlemen [!!] was built at Thorp Arch Grange in the 1840s. The school later went through a number of uses until it eventually came under the control of Leeds City Council and was used for young people in local authority care. It was then sold to a builder who developed it as office accommodation. Leeds United Football Club became interested in the playing fields in 1993 and bought Thorp Arch Grange to create their football academy.”

I wonder what purpose it serves now - is it still the football academy? and who the new “driveway owner” is that Fred mentions.

The history section of the plan also mentions the Ordnance Factory that comes up in so many contributions to the blog: “Of the 13 ordnance factories built during the war, Thorp Arch is the only one where buildings and blast berms can still be preserved as a historical site. The site was used to store surplus war material between 1945 and 1950 and reopened for munitions manufacture during the Korean War (1950-53). After that war the site was partly decontaminated. A local entrepreneur bought the site in the early 1960s and developed the Trading Estate and the Buywell shopping centre. The site, now employing some 2500 staff in 90–100 commercial enterprises, is currently owned by Hanover Properties who plan further development including up to 1500 new homes, subject to planning consent. The National Lending Library for Science and Technology occupied part of the site, in Walton parish, in the 1960s. It became the Lending Division of the British Library in 1973, steadily growing and now employing some 2000 staff. It, too, is looking to expand its floorspace.

“In 1950, near the main entrance to the munitions factory, a remand centre was
built to house about 200 young offenders; a third wing was added in 1980 to house
a further 100. It was converted into a Category C prison for adults in 1988 and a fourth wing added in 1996. In 1995, the Thorp Arch Category C prison and the
open Rudgate Category D prison next to it were merged to form Wealstun Prison. It
now holds 750 inmates and there are expansion plans to increase the number to 892”.

There are two pictures of these changes, showing the “Thorp Arch trading estate new buildings” and “evidence of historic ordnance factory". Unfortunately, I can't add them to this posting, as I don't know how to save them in a suitable format for the picture-adding facility!

Finally, it has this to say about “The Marguerite Hepton Memorial Home”.
“Mr Arthur Hepton provided the site for the Memorial Home to the Leeds Invalid children’s Society in gratitude at the recovery of his daughter, Marguerite, from
tuberculosis. Opened in 1910 as a home for up to twenty children with tubercular
related orthopedic problems, by 1942 it accommodated 80 children and thirty
seven staff. Its final use was as an old people’s home and a children’s nursery.
The owner closed it in about 2000 because it was claimed to be uneconomic.
In 2003, following an appeal against refusal of planning permission, the Public
Inquiry Inspector found in favour of the developer and allowed development of 7
flats and 55 houses on the site”.

The whole report is worth a look - especially for the pictures! It can be seen still on the Internet, on the Leeds local government site at:

The simplest way in is to google for “Thorp Arch Parish Plan”. About 8 options down the list comes ‘Village Design Statement’ which leads you to the document.

Monday, 5 October 2009

In search of the Hospital site

On a recent trip to Leeds I decided to take time out to attempt to find the original location for the hospital. But what is there to go on? My starting point was Jane’s photograph of her being given a ‘lesson’ by one of the nursing staff. In its background is the building thought to be the “Thorp Arch Approved School” now known as Thorp Arch Grange.

The building has a unique square tower which I assumed, should it still exist, would be somewhere between Walton and Thorp Arch. Google maps gave me a lead producing a satellite image of a large building which from close observation of the shadow a square tower looked possible. Just to the north is Walton Chase, a likely contender for MHH driveway.

Google Maps link

So one sunny afternoon I found myself on the Walton to Thorp Arch road where Thorp Arch Grange came into view together with the very tower I was looking for. I drove into its entrance marked with signs stating “Private Road” “no public access”, Not the most welcoming but the aspect of the building did not match the photograph of Jane’s so there was no need to linger.

Travelling back towards Walton I took the first turn left into Walton Chase, a cul-de-sac with fairly modern housing. I stopped at a point where I estimated I would have a view of the tower similar to the one in the picture but sadly the whole of the grange was obscured by trees. Moving further along the cul-de-sac the Grange came clearly into view. As the neighbourhood was very quiet and devoid of people I parked my car, blocking a driveway, and took a photo of the Grange. At that very moment the driveway owner returned from the school run and my parked car and me apparently taking photos of his property did little to improve his mood. Fortunately my apologies and explanation seemed to be enough to remove his suspicions and he promised to have a look at our blog as our history has now become part of his too.

Looking at the Grange from this angle didn’t quite match Janes photo but then I had moved further round the top of the building looking from further west.

Driving back towards the main road I became aware that the cul-de-sac is very probably located where the hospital drive used to be. Sadly there is no longer a row of chestnut trees along its borders.

An afterthought: I came back to this posting to check out the "Google Maps Link" and found another unnamed entry just above Walton Chase. A case of I couldn't see the wood for the trees? This one is tree lined and leaves me wondering if it could have been the hospital driveway. Pity I never thought to look further along Walton Road when I had the opportunity.

The following day after my success at finding MHH I decided to visit Potternewton Mansion School in Leeds. This was a school that a number of ex-patients were transferred to prior to resuming normal school life. This proved much easier to find and I recognised the building relatively quickly. It hasn’t withstood the ravages of time very well but is still a school, now operated by a sikh organisation. I would have tried to enter but it was closed up.

There is a plaque mounted on the wall overlooking the park telling something of its history.

The building is now surrounded with by heavy metal railings and has vandal proof mesh over its windows. Gone is the virginia creeper covering the walls where I watched a blackbird make a nest, hatch and rear its brood all from the first floor class room window. Also gone is access to the park that was the school playground. A really sad place to visit actually but it did bring to mind some fellow pupils from 1953. I wonder where Linda Tate, Georgie Howland and Ann Spence are today?

Colin Welbourne's further recollections

First, now that I come to think of it, at times there were some other girls on the ward we called ‘The Small Boys Ward’ although I seem to recollect that girls were on the ward infrequently and most of the time it was just boys. I always thought it was through lack of space on the girls ward, but I don’t know – maybe, as there was no ‘small girls ward’ any young girls were admitted to the boys ward until they were old enough for the girls ward. I can remember a girl called Pauline on the ward. The handyman – I think his name was Mr Bennett – made her a beautiful toy shop – a greengrocers – and I can remember him presenting it to her – obviously he had a soft spot for her. We all wanted one of course, but he didn’t make any more.

Like Ian’s mum’s note in an earlier entry, my Perthes started with ‘leg ache’. By the time I was five the medical people had finally diagnosed the problem but it had taken an awful long time and many x-rays for them to reach this conclusion and I didn’t know what was happening – all I knew was that I got ‘leg ache’ after I had walked a short distance. I can vividly recollect standing on the railway station on a January morning in 1943 with my father who was taking me to Leeds. I was five years old and thought I was having a day off school. He took me to the infirmary and after some chatting I was put in a cot and my father left me, saying he would see me soon, but the ‘soon’ turned out to be a long time.

After a couple of weeks in LGI, and some more x-rays, I was transferred to a hospital on the moors at Otley. It overlooked a valley and in the distance the railway ran along the other side. We took great joy in watching the trains running on it.

The hospital was a series of wooden huts – like army barracks - and apart from the one I was in, they were occupied by American or Canadian soldiers, all sporting bandages of some sort or other. They had a gramophone and played records almost continuously.

I can’t remember much more of the stay there apart from the fact that the hut was heated by a coke stove in the middle of the ward – we used to put our cod liver oil capsules on the top, they created a dreadful smell!

Anyway, six weeks later I was transferred to MHMO and again, that first day is very clear in my memory. I was taken straight to the treatment room in the Small Boys ward and put on a frame and moved out to the ward. School was just finishing and they were singing ‘Jesus bids us shine’ – a hymn I had never heard, didn’t like it, and still don’t like it!

The six weeks stay at Otley leads me to think that the frames were custom made for us and I wasn’t transferred to MHMO until it was ready. Either that or they were waiting for a bed to become vacant as I cannot recollect having any treatment at all and was able to walk around the place without restriction.

The frames were beastly things. As has been described in other contributions they were a metal frame, running from below your feet up to your shoulders and they were made to ensure that your hip joints didn’t move and that no pressure was put upon them. We laid on a leather pad – we called them saddles – and the frame kept your legs apart. Elastoplast was taped down both sides of your legs, terminating at the ankles with tape loops through which cord was passed and tied to the frame which extended past your feet. These elastoplasts were called extensions. The elastoplast must have been about three inches wide, so there wasn’t much flesh uncovered by the time it was applied to both sides of your legs. Your feet rested on upright supports which were metal arches over which canvas bags were placed (gallow bags they were called). These were pretty useless as either the metal bits (gallows) slipped down or the gallow bags tore under the pressure of our feet. There were two sets of curved bars over your body, I seem to recollect these bars were tied together with cord. Shoulder straps stopped you slipping up the frame and prevented you from sitting up and groin straps stopped you slipping down it! Our legs were first bandaged with light cotton bandages over the elastoplast extensions and then bandaged to the frame with stronger bandages to complete the immobilisation.

Changing the extensions was a time we dreaded. There was no simple and painless way to take remove an elastoplast and there seemed to be no releasing solutions in those days, so it was a sly distraction by the nurse and a quick ‘rippp’ and an instant howl!

Comments have been made about the use of methylated spirits. When the nurses bathed you they took you out of the frame and washed your back. They then rubbed meths in and finished with a dusting of talcum powder. As far as I was concerned it was very effective as I never had bedsores. But for me the smell of meths is very nostalgic – if ever I use it it brings back instant memories of MHMO!

Because of the way we were strapped down, I seem to remember that we wore either pyjama jackets or cardigans back to front, but I am unclear on this. It wasn’t the modern hospital gown, of that I am sure.

I stayed on a frame from the age of five till I was nine, when I went on to the next stage of treatment which was called mobile traction. For this, we were taken out of the frame but the extensions were kept on but this time they were tied to cords running over pulleys over the bed end and attached to weighted bags – they actually contained lead shot – great fun was had by all if one burst! The bed end was raised to allow more travel on the weights. The mobile traction got your joints working again as, with not having any physio, they had all seized up. Knees had to be taught to bend again, as well as hips, and we could learn to sit up at last and muscles slowly regained strength. The only photo of me in all my time in MHMO (which I can’t find) is of me in mobile traction.

The next step was walking on callipers which kept feet off the ground. I had them on both legs. I didn’t have problems with the calipers at all and could go at a fair rate on them after I had had them for some time. My problem was that I managed to break them quite often - I suppose it was metal fatigue.

There were no parallel bars or equipment of any kind to help you learn to walk, you relied on nurses to give you walking lessons by standing you up and helping you along. At the time I was learning to walk we got our first male nurse – it seemed so strange to us as this was really unusual – nurses were female, not male, but he was a good fellow and we all liked him. One day when my callipers had been put on me and I was waiting for a lesson he was busy so he just gave me a chair to lean on and push around rather than help me to walk – it was probably the first zimmer frame! Anyhow, this helped me greatly and I was soon fully mobile.

I went home in July 1947, the day before my tenth birthday and four and a half years after walking into LGI with my dad. He had bought cheap day return tickets to take me to Leeds as they were cheaper than a single. I found the unused return half in my mum’s belongings when she died. She had hung on to it all those years, probably as a momento of the day her son went away.

Contributors mention the food we had. I don’t remember having many problems with it despite hating scrambled egg and although I can eat porridge I simply can’t look it in the face any more. The other interesting thing is that I don’t think we ever had tea to drink – I still don’t drink it.

We sometimes had corn flakes for breakfast as an alternative to porridge. They were mainly Dalton’s Cereal Flakes which came in a red and yellow box and were truly delicious. If they hadn’t enough of them they would use Kellogs, which weren’t half as nice and we would frequently argue about who had which. The big thing about corn flakes was that they come in a cardboard box and this was super material for making things with and we always competed for the empty boxes. They stopped making Daltons flakes somewhere around 1957, such a shame as I would love to have some again!

We invariably had fish on Fridays for lunch. Sometimes it was fish and chips – the only time we seemed to have chips and which we all loved, other times it was steamed fish in a parsley sauce which most people hated.

I can’t recollect being made to eat our meals, maybe we were just hungry and scoffed everything! In school time there would have only been two hours between twelve and two for the nurses to serve lunch, clear away and clean us up and settle us down for our nap so if we didn’t eat our food there wasn’t much time to do anything about it. I don’t think we realised how difficult the food situation was outside and it must have upset nurses when we wasted food, maybe that was the cause of any food bullying but, come to think of it, all parents try to get their children to ‘eat up’, so it wasn’t any different for us.

We had a light blanket to cover ourselves with. Because it was next to our skin it was called ‘Next To’ but we always pronounced it ‘Necks Too’. This served many purposes, it covered our bodies, kept us warm, and if we dropped something we could use the blanket to drag the item closer to the bed to see if we could manage to pick it up. At night, or sleeping time (we had a nap every day after lunch) we covered our faces with it and as a punishment in the day we would be made to cover our faces with it so that we could no longer talk or play. It would have been plain for all to see if we were playing with a toy under the blanket or reading and the nurses were very good at spotting this. It was known as ‘Going down the Bed’.

The other punishment we were given was a rap over the knuckles with the nurse’s scissors – very painful! The smart boys discovered that the louder and sooner you howled, the quicker they stopped. I don’t think the nurses caught on to this dodge! However, I can truly say that I was never bullied, abused or mistreated by the nursing staff. The nurse I mentioned previously who was universally hated was just exceedingly strict, liked a tidy ward and didn’t like us talking and hated rumpled beds. We were frequently ‘sent down the bed’ when she was on duty and she made our lives a misery.

The design of the lockers was interesting. From the side they were ‘L’ shaped, with the foot of the ‘L’ being a storage box with a hinged wooden lid. The lid made a very satisfying bang when dropped and with a bit of co-ordination from everyone on the ward we got quite adept at making a machine gun sound which we loved doing and frequently finished being ‘sent down the bed’ as a result! The upright part of the locker had a shelf, forming an upper and lower compartment and these were open at the sides. The upper compartment was at bed level, making it an ideal playing arena between yourself and the chap in the next bed and this was the base for many risky adventures and you could whisper through it when we were supposed to be asleep.

Being adventurous and inquisitive boys, we got up to all sorts of things in that secret little locker area. Battles were fought, plays staged, factories, airfields and roads were built and bombed. I well remember that, following a visit by the fire brigade one evening to pump the boiler house out, we entered on a ‘boiler making’ phase. Once again, plasticine was the material we used. We made containers to store water in (we used our drinking water or took a bit from our washing bowls). Pipes were moulded by wrapping plasticine around pencils, the pipes were ‘flanged’ at each end which enabled us to join them, and we finished up by having a maze of pipes running from our boiler, ending in taps to catch the water at the end. We had a few floods, but were never caught out.

The boiler phase turned into a new phase – harbours! We built walls (good old plasticine, reinforced with pencils) at each end of the locker shelf and filled it with water and sailed model boats on it. Plasticine only floats if you make hollow boats from it, but we made quite a few good cardboard models to sail. Apparently one pair of smart lads had a pier in their harbour, complete with a battery-powered lighthouse! Unfortunately, the night nurse saw a light coming out of the locker and discovered it. A quick check of other lockers was made and a couple of others were found and a mass knuckle rapping session followed. Fortunately for me and my mate (can’t remember who he was) we had emptied ours that day and so we got away with it. We had moved on to something else by then, probably more dangerous as among other things, we went through a cooking phase using candles made from Glitterwax ( a tallow based substitute for plasticine) to make Oxo drinks!

The radio played a major part in our lives. We had school singing lessons from the radio – I vividly remember the over-jovial voice of the man who took the lessons, we used books bought from the BBC for these lessons. We listened to sports commentaries of football, boxing and horse racing. Raymond Glendinning, Eamon Andrews and Stuart McPherson were the main commentators, I think, and we would try to imitate them as they spoke so fast. We followed Bruce Woodcock, a northern boxer (?any relationship Jane?) and would get permission to listen to the commentary of any of his fights. I remember that we also got permission to listen to the serialised medical murder drama ‘Green for Danger’ and got ourselves scared stupid by it. Anyone due for surgery at that time were certainly not very happy bunnies! We needed special permission to listen to these programmes as they were broadcast after our bedtime.

We were all interested in sport. There was little interest in football - rugby league was our thing. The main teams supported by different boys were Leeds. Hunslet, Bramley Wakefield Trinity and I think St Helens, mainly of course because these teams were local to where the boys came from (except St Helens- that was too far afield). I think the St Helens or Warrington team came to visit us once and I do believe that Eddie Waring, who became a commentator on sport and ‘It’s a Knockout’ was amongst them.

We were keen enough on rugby league to devise our own version. One boy had a rugby ball bladder, which we could punt around to each other. There were metal tie rods going across the ceiling at the end of the big boys ward and the idea was to punt the ball with your hand (rather like in volleyball) to see if you could hit the tie rod. If you did, this was a ‘try’ for your team and you could have a go at converting it by attempting to punt the ball over the tie rod. The lights took a battering, but fortunately they stood up to it otherwise we would probably all had rather sore knuckles for a few days!

We devised a horse racing game which involved one boy being selected as commentator. He blocked his ears and sang so that he couldn’t hear us whilst we chose the name of the horse we would ride. When all was agreed, the commentator was given the horse names (but not the riders) and he would start the race and do a commentary from his imagination, doing the best imitation he could of Raymond Glendinning, whilst we did the best imitation we could do of riding. If your horse was said to be in the lead, you ‘rode’ that much faster, until the commentator reached the end and announced the winner. Stupid, I know, but we wore ourselves out on this one! It was our version of the real life thing, - we had our own versions of most sports.

We did a lot of jigsaw puzzles, Waddingtons , the game manufacturers, would send us a couple if you wrote to them asking them to replace the parts of one of their games, I expect they got wise to it in the end!

We were able to do these things because there were not many nurses on duty at any one time, probably two or three at most with a sister in charge whilst at night there was one nurse on duty on each ward with a sister in charge over all of the wards. There were no wounds to dress, no medicines to dish out, their duties must have been feeding and bathing us and making beds and taking temperatures – more meths to sterilise the thermometers! They were all very young I seem to remember, probably straight from their initial training course.

We spent most of our days in the open air as it was deemed to be beneficial, particularly to TB in those days. In winter we were well wrapped up and in summer we wore something similar to a loincloth (they were called splashers) but no regard was paid to the strength of the sun and there was no suntan lotion in those days. I got a serious dose of sunstroke one year and was dangerously ill with it, to the extent that my parents were asked to come and see me – the doctors must have been very concerned.

Looking back, some things come to mind which I suppose just wouldn’t happen nowadays. We left hospital totally unprepared for the big world outside. We were not very worldly and had no manners – other than an occasional ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. My parents had to sort all this out, as well as teach me to hold a knife and fork properly when I got home. We were a thankless, almost selfish, lot as we didn’t have to give much and it grieves me now to think that we never wrote a note of thanks to any of the organisations that had given us a party or sent us something – how good it would have made them feel – but I don’t suppose that we knew about such niceties. We had been in an all boys environment with no physical contact, protected from any harm or violence or cuts and bruises and we rarely encountered girls. We didn’t have to share things, although we swapped comics with each other and I don’t think we had any monetary values although I was aware that things weren’t easy for my parents. We didn’t know an awful lot about the world outside although, to a point, the radio kept us in touch with real life, and we read the papers on Sunday, but all in all it was a very closeted, almost monastic, life. Children entering the hospital younger than I was when I was admitted would have very little concept of what the world outside was like and would have had much to learn when they went home - nowadays television brings the world to you, but of course, there was no television in our time. If counselling had been around in those days I suppose we would have had endless sessions to prepare ourselves for the big world outside.

I settled back at home quite well although, after a lot of thought, I have realised that over the next few years I tried to get back all the boyhood things I’d missed in those years in MHMO, charging around everywhere and going on mad adventures. I have two elder sisters and a younger sister and brother and they seemed to accept me as though I had always been there. I went back to ordinary school when the Autumn term started and fitted in with a school class of children of my own age without too many problems but had to take a few weeks off when the time eventually came to discard the callipers and learn to walk normally again.

When I left school it was obvious I didn’t have the strength for manual work and settled for an office job. I have lived a normal life without obvious disabilities although arthritis crept in at quite an early age and I have had one hip replaced and might in time have to have the other done. The MHMO experience has left me to be quite skilled with my hands and I am quite inventive and have a dogged determination to fix things and make them work, it’s probably due to all that plasticine modelling!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

50th Anniversary Brochure - part 4


The hospital was first recognised by the Board of Education as a special school in 1920, and has had qualified teachers on the staff ever since that date. There are now a head teacher and four assistant teachers, who are on the staff of the West Riding Education Committee. The facilities afforded for the teaching staff cannot be regarded as entirely adequate, but it has been possible to make minor improvements for storage of equipment and for accommodating staff.

As far as possible the ordinary school curriculum is followed. A recent report by one of the Inspectors of the Ministry of Education expressed the highest satisfaction with the standard of work carried out in the school. An annual feature of the school's work is a painting competition organised by the local section of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, for which " Wilfred Pickles " and " Sir Malcolm Sargent " Cups are presented for the best entries.

Apart from the reading material provided by the school the West Riding County Council provide a library service.


Throughout its fifty years' history. Marguerite Hepton Hospital has had highly skilled medical and nursing staff, who have been able to inspire the necessary confidence in the patients. Even since the Second World War, when most hospitals have been desperately short of nursing staff, Marguerite Hepton Hospital has been able to attract staff of the highest calibre. Since 1951 it has been recognised as a training school for the Certificate of the British Orthopaedic Association in conjunction with Pinderfields General Hospital at Wakefield. A full-time Tutor was appointed in January 1952 and gradually the arrangements for nurse-teaching purposes have been improved, with provision for both theoretical and practical training. Students are enrolled at an average age of 16 and their training at Marguerite Hepton Hospital takes them up to the preliminary examination: they then proceed to Pinderfields General Hospital for the final part of the Certificate course. The hospital is also recognised by the General Nursing Council for children's training for Pupil Assistant Nurses.


In concluding this brief survey of the hospital the Committee recognise that the success of the treatment carried out at the hospital is due in large measure to the enthusiastic devotion of the staff, and take this opportunity of thanking all past and present members, who have made such a wonderful contribution to the fifty years that have passed since 1910.

50th Anniversary Brochure - part 3


In 1948, under the terms of the National Health Service Act of 1946, the Marguerite Hepton Hospital became a National Health Service Hospital administered by the Leeds (Group B) Hospital Management Committee. Thus ended an era in the life of the hospital and the record of achieve­ment from its first beginning is impressive when it is remembered that the hospital was mainly dependent for financial assistance on voluntary efforts.

It is impossible in this chronicle to mention all the gifts and benefactors of the Society over the years, or the tremendous amount of work and time given voluntarily by members of the Committee and its many helpers. Briefly, the main sources of income during these years were from ' the Leeds City Council and the West Riding County Council in return for maintenance of patients in the hospital, annual subscriptions, donations, endowments, District Guilds all over the City of Leeds, Charity Balls, the Leeds University Students' Rag, Rotary Clubs; B.B.C. Appeals, Flag Days, Sewing Meetings, Garden Fetes, Christmas Markets and gifts of eggs (an average of 5,000 per year). A typical example of service to patients was the " Birthday Club," run for many years by the late Mrs. Stirk.

It is perhaps invidious to draw a distinction between the importance of these gifts but one deserving special mention was a gift scheme organised in 1925 by Mrs. Edward Lane-Fox, at one time Chairman of the Hospital Committee, and Mr. J. R. Cross, as a result of which 44 purses of £50 each were presented in the Majestic Picture House, Leeds, to Her Royal Highness, Princess Mary, who subsequently honoured the hospital with a visit. The final sum collected from this scheme was £3,700.


The visiting of' patients over the years has often been difficult, largely owing to the infrequent transport services. In the early days, visitors from Leeds attended by train; subsequently bus services made things easier, and a great deal is owed to the West Yorkshire Road Car Co., which has provided special buses from Leeds on Saturdays and Sundays and augmented normal weekday services as and when necessary. Many visitors also now come by car. Thus, visiting has expanded gradually since 1949, when two wards were opened to visitors each week, to daily visiting since April 1959. The Wetherby Division of the Women's Voluntary Service has undertaken the provision of light refreshments to visitors on Saturday afternoons.

There has always been a close association between the hospital and the Religious Bodies and the visiting Chaplains have found their work amongst the patients most rewarding. Religious instruction and services are necessarily carried out at the bedside, but in 1956 an Altar Cupboard and furnishing was fixed in the Physiotherapy Department so that more formal services could be held when occasion demanded.

The hospital, in spite of national control, has continued to enjoy support from all kinds of organisations in the district, and perhaps particular mention should be made of the achievement of the parents of patients and ex-patients, who promoted an appeal in 1954 to provide television sets on each of the four wards. £900 was raised and as a result seven sets were presented to the hospital by Mr. J. Wright, the Honorary Treasurer of the Fund. A radio relay system also operates, including headphones for the older children: as the B.B.C. Schools Broadcasts form part of the educational curriculum, the West Riding Education Committee contributed to the cost of this installation.

A sound cinema projector was given by Mr. E. Blackburn in 1949 for use of the hospital and film shows are given each week in the winter months; a good film library has now been built up, films having been purchased from time to time from donations received.

Other features of the patients' social life are the establishment of a Boy Scout Troop, a Girl Guide Company and a Cub Pack, which have been run most enthusiastically. One patient, Miss Shirley Slee, was awarded the Girl Guide's V.C. in 1951. It is a source of the greatest satisfaction to know that the boys and girls continue with these activities after discharge from hospital.

50th Anniversary Brochure - part 2


In 1918 the Society had to face the problem of extending the accommodation for domestic staff which, in spite of a steady increase in the number of patients, had not been altered since the Home was founded. It was decided to launch a Public Appeal and the magnificent sum of £1080 was subscribed. Just at this time, however news of the death of Lt. William Hepton, one of the Trustees, was received and Mr Arthur Hepton, his father, again came forward and offered a gift of £5000 to defray the cost of extensions, in memory of his son. This offer was gratefully accepted and work commenced on the alterations in August 1920 which were completed in 1921. An extension of the existing verandah, a new kitchen, additional bedrooms and bathrooms were provided and from the moneys raised by the Public Appeal the Committee of Management was able to add a milk room and provide furnishings and equipment. The extensions were opened on the 28th of May 1921 by Mr Hepton.

In the same year a new sluice was added to the Riley-Smith Wing, the cost being partly defrayed by Mrs Cochrane. Mr John Halliday, the then President of Leeds Invalid Children’s Aid Society, presented a single-story building to provide bathrooms for domestic staff and an operating theatre and plaster rooms were opened.

The work of the hospital continued to expand and towards 1930 there were again accommodation difficulties for residential staff, particularly nursing staff. The night staff were living temporarily in a wooden block situated in the grounds of Thorp Arch Approved School, adjacent to the hospital. This was a most unsatisfactory arrangement and plans were drawn up for a new Nurses Home on two floors within the hospital grounds. The building was completed in 1932 at a cost of £5000

In 1936, following a gift from Mr. Hepton of land adjoining the Home for future extension and development, the Society decided that henceforth the Home should be known as the Marguerite Hepton Memorial Orthopaedic Hospital, in recognition of the many generous gifts which Mr. Hepton had made over a long period. In this year too the hospital received its first X-ray equipment.


On the outbreak of War in 1939 the safety of patients accommodated in the several small hutments in the hospital grounds had to be considered from the point of view of air raid precautions and the close proximity of a Royal Ordnance Factory. It was decided to replace the hutments by a permanent brick structure and this was completed in 1942 at a cost of £5,000. This Block to-day accommodates Wards 3 and 4, but the original design was for one Ward only. The subsequent division into two Wards has made difficulties in the ancillary departments, but these were partially overcome by alterations carried out in 1958.

By the end of the Second World War the number of patients that could be accommodated in the hospital was 90, ten times the original number first catered for in 1910, and the Committee of Management realised that the facilities of the hospital should be modernised and improved to meet the present requirements. A scheme of development was accordingly prepared.

Between. 1945 and 1948 two Airey Houses were erected in the grounds to provide married quarters for the resident medical officer and the maintenance handyman. A sluice room was added to Ward 3 and a recreational building provided for the nursing staff. Plans for the provision of a new building at the rear of the hospital, to accommodate a new operating theatre, X-ray department and an emergency ward have not yet been implemented.

50th Anniversary Brochure - part 1


On the 16thApril 1960, the Marguerite Hepton Memorial Orthopaedic Hospital reached the 50th anniversary of its foundation. Throughout this period extensions and improvements have been in progress to meet the changing pattern of treatment which the medical staff have required for their patients and it is obvious from the progress made that there has never been a want of benefactors to make this development possible.

It was in 1910 that the Leeds Invalid Children’s Aid Society was formed with the following objects:

1. To help to provide surgical apparatus, crutches and spinal carriages.

2.To arrange and help to pay for the maintenance of crippled and invalid children in Convalescent Homes and also the Marguerite Home, Thorp Arch.

3. To provide upkeep of the Marguerite Home.

4.To visit in their homes and teach in groups or individually the crippled and permanently invalided children of the City of Leeds who were too delicate to attend normal day schools.

5. to provide and serve daily a hot midday dinner at the Clarendon House Special School for Cripples.

It is with the second object that this Chronicle is concerned.


The opening of the Marguerite Home on the 16th of April, 1910, became possible when Mr Arthur F.L. Hepton of Leeds (later of Harrogate), presented the Society with a house of ten rooms at Thorp Arch as a thank offering for the recovery of his daughter Marguerite from a serious illness. The house was converted into a Convalescent Home for crippled children, and named the Marguerite Home. A Committee of Management consisting of members of the Society was appointed to administer the affairs of the Home.

Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War Mr Hepton made a further generous gift of £500 to the Society in memory of his wife, with the wish that the money be invested and interest, at least during the first few years, be applied to the improvement of the grounds around the Home, including the provision of trees.

The first expansion of the hospital buildings took place in 1915, when anew wing was completed through the generosity of Mr W. Riley-Smith of Tadcaster. The wing, known as the Riley Smith Wing, was a single –storey building and contained two wards for use as an observation unit and for the treatment of minor infections, three bedrooms for nurses, a dining room, a kitchen and bathroom. A verandah along the front of the wards made it practical for patients to be in the open air except in the severest weather. This feature of the hospital treatment has continued right up to the present time.

Mr Riley-Smith, shortly after the end of the First World War, presented to the Home the “Douglas Shelter” fully equipped. Four other shelters were presented, three by Mrs Robert Hudson in memory of her son, Colonel R.A. Hudson, who was killed during the war, and the other by school pupils. These shelters were ideal for open air treatment and isolation purposes. They were wooden in construction and of the chalet type of building used extensively in sanatoria.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Marjorie tells of her mother's experiences

Since my mum died in 2007 I have found myself wanting to visit places that played a part in her life and one of those places was "The Marguerite Home" or "The Crippled Children's Hospital" as she referred to it. Mum died just 2 weeks before her 93rd birthday. I guess mum worked in the kitchen. She would tell us how she slept in huts away from the main buildings and she would be woken at 4 am by a very stern lady whose voice she would imitate when recalling the memory. She then had to go across the field to the kitchen and light the fire to heat the water and the stove. She would prepare the vegetables and I seem to remember her describing how she would skin rabbits also for the meals.

Amongst my mum's correspondence I have found a letter (see below) dated Dec 1963 from E Young, Hospital Secretary, acknowledging mum's letter saying "I was very pleased and delighted that the recording on BBC was a means of reviving happy memories for you of the Hospital....." He also enclosed a souvenir brochure of the history of the Hospital which was published for the Golden Jubilee in 1960. I note from the booklet that the name was changed to Marguerite Hepton Memorial Orthopaedic Hospital in 1936 and I calculate that mum must have worked at Marguerite Home round about 1934-5 when she was 19-20 years old. Her maiden name was Gladys Wilson.

(Marjorie has very kindly loaned us the souvenir brochure and extracts from it are to follow - Fred Dubber)

Monday, 13 July 2009

Response to Fred's posting about Perthes' disease

This is Jane, in Nicaragua on a field trip, and with an unusually strong internet connection despite the rain, and time while I wait for something to charge on my computer, so I came here and read this. It's so interesting to hear about a 'modern' case of Perthes' disease - I never really understood what it was, and it's good to hear that it can now be treated so relatively easily and so successfully. Something that also comes through - so like some of the more 'old time' reports, is the importance of parents' being able to help children to get back to normality again. One of the things that strikes me about so many of our contributions is how people have taken in their stride - pun intended! - what on paper might look like quite awful experiences in childhood, but which people have not only survived but turned into good memories.
Jane F

Saturday, 4 July 2009

A patients Perthes Disease treatment in 1968

The following is an account of Perthes disease treatment given to me by the mother of the ‘patient’:-

At approximately 4 1/2 years Ian’s his leg hurt when walking in Snowdonia in the summer. He kept putting his hand on his hip and asking his Daddy to carry him.

On returning home his mother took him to see the doctor who said that it was normal for children to limp in summer – due to all the exercise they had outdoors. After another week of limping badly he was taken to see another doctor who suggested he should see a specialist at the hospital.

At the first consultation and x-ray nothing was confirmed but Perthes was suspected. A month had to elapse to give the bone time to ‘change’ – or not. At the second consultation and x-ray a definite change in the hip was seen. The consultant told his mother that instant wearing of callipers was necessary. The alternative treatment was long bed rest without putting the leg on the floor at all for many months. If nothing was done then the child would have a deformed hip joint and a dreadful limp. An instant decision was made to go for callipers and measurements were taken. They were ready within the week.

It was amazing how well Ian coped with the callipers and started school three weeks after they were fitted. The school wanted him to start two weeks after term started but his mother insisted he started on the same day as other children to avoid him being considered too unusual. He settled in well and took part in all school activities as far as he was able. He was taken to school in a pushchair.

The callipers were changed as he grew and he wore them for about 18 months – not as long as we had feared! After not using his leg for a time he had to learn to walk again and had prolonged exercises to do to strengthen his muscles.

No problems have been experienced since – and no arthritis!

A parental viewpoint of todays Perthes disease can be found at this Parents of Perthes Support Group website

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Jane responds to Judith's postings

I've been watching your postings unfolding with great fascination - and huge envy that you were encouraged to keep a diary of your experiences through the school work. They make a really valuable new contribution, and I've just emailed an early contributor (Yvonne Farrer) about it. Some time ago she expressed disappointment because no one seemed to have any detail about her time at Thorp Arch (yes, we did all call it that, didn't we). Maybe these pictures and the list of names will help.

In fact, after two years of the blog, I realise that, whilst we are all jogging each others' memories in all kinds of ways, actual 'direct hits' of memory of each other from those who are writing are very rare. As far as I know, the first one of these is Colin Welbourne's memory of me after all these years - and it was a real and rather peculiar thrill to read it.

I wonder how many contributions we'll need to accumulate before chance throws up another of these. The chances of such hits are further decreased by the way the lives of boys and girls seemed to run on parallel lines for such a long time. Colin remembered me mainly because for a while I was on 'small boys' as it was then called. So it's interesting to read that in your time there was a mixed ward. That might increase the chances of overlap.

I found your account of your father's views on the whole experience absolutely fascinating - we don't have too much information on parents' reactions, but they're so important. My own parents told me, many years later, how they had tried to object to the rigid visiting arrangements, all to no avail, of course. Like your father, mine had strong views. I found your father's resolute refusal to believe what doctors rather moving - it must have made it difficult for him to deal with your absence and treatment. However, his letter about the daft design of the lockers seem entirely reasonable - though I was interested at the ways round the problem you managed to find!

Your memory of being told by Mr Clark to ‘go and be normal’ almost reduced me to tears: I can almost hear Mr Broomhead telling me I could finally be released from my spika in similar words: “Go home and lead a normal life”. I was so excited I rushed out to where my parents were waiting, and promptly fell flat on my face – such was the stuff of normality.

As you say, being in hospital, immobilised and separated from home, must have affected all of us in some way. For a long time I was a very fearful child, though thankfully I grew out of it. I was also unable to see the joke in things like the operation sequence in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which starred Danny Kaye as a man always dreaming of himself in great roles. In this sequence, he was performing an operation, involving knitting needles and spaghetti, and I got so upset I had to be taken out! Only later, when a student boyfriend took me to see it again, did I realise how funny it really was!

I also wonder whether those of us who were immobilised during years when children pass important developmental milestones did actually manage to catch up on them, especially since we all seem to have retained a few physical limitations. For instance, I’m particularly bad at directions and can’t imagine even quite well-known routes if someone explains them to me. If anyone knows, could they please tell us?

At least they did us proud with the schooling – nearly everyone comments on how easily we were able to fit into normal school. So I’ve always been one for the quiet pursuits – and though I suffered terribly from homesickness at school (I was sent to boarding school about 2 years after I got home from hospital) I’ve now got a terrible travel bug (which still induces homesickness when I’m off on work travel alone!

I was interested that you’d become ‘a sort of medical ghoul’ who could relieve people’s pain. For a long time, I toyed with the idea of becoming a nurse – I wasn’t good enough at sciences and maths to be a doctor – but the Walter Mitty problem didn’t bode too well for that, and it faded away gradually. But it would be interesting to see how many of us went into jobs with some sort of social service element to them.