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?

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