Former Staff Memories

Blowing The Whistle Norman HancockHare and Hounds during the warThe War YearsThe Farm Residence The War YearsFemale Epileptic Block Female Nurses ResidenceFemale ward 15, MenstonJeff Robshaw the first social club steward 1971 All TugsKingsdale HouseWard 10 trapsWard 24 Kitchen Ward 8 refractory ward Harry RamsdensBarbara revisits Welcome To My World FootstepsKingsdale HouseBarbara revisits Angelina Standen Angelina Standen Angelina trainingArthur RobinsonBob Sanderson, Hospital Gravedigger 1959 - 1969Bob Sanderson, Hospital Gravedigger 1959 - 1969Nurse RoseClifton -  Beamsley A Singular Existence...Dales wing Dales wingDonated by Nurse RoseEthol  Hogben Female ward Female wardGuiseley Station 1935Hazelwood Ward 8 Hospital Wallpaper Jimmy Saville Joyce and RoseSarah BaysAngelinaNurses residenceNursing staff Menston.Tom BoothWard 8 Hazelwood High Royds voluntary driving id Ken DuesberryHigh Royds voluntary driving id Ken DuesberryIsabella Duesberry, ward gallery Menston Mental Hospital,  post 1939 Barbara 1963.Barden Single RoomsSingle RoomFebruary 1970, farewell party for Mr W Neary, photo Mr ClarkeFemale nurses residence centre, Melbeck ward 24 behind Melbeck, Ward 24Voluntary helpers, December 1971

Every picture tells a story, but in this section we would love to read first hand, the tales and experiences of the dedicated staff involved in the running of this magnificent institution.

Any reminiscence you have, no matter how seemingly insignificant, will be of great interest. The legacy of information you share will bring a realism and greater awareness of this hitherto cloaked environment, and perhaps dispel a few myths.


Many thanks to Ken Duesbery for sending the photographs of his grandmother Isabelle Duesbery, nursing at Menston – circa early 1900s.

My family originated from the East Riding, direct family fromHull. My grandmother when she was younger lived in Goole and a small village Swinefleet.

She came from there as a young woman to Ilkley, and eventually became a nurse at H.R.H Menston.

She bought a house facing H.R.H on the Glenmore estate.

Ken Duesbery


Norman Hancock

Many thanks to Sheila Hancock for sharing the wonderful photograph of Menston Asylum from around 1950. Her father in law Norman Hancock is the smart suited gentleman in the centre of the picture who worked at the hospital for many years. Sadly, Sheila never knew Norman as he passed away two years before she married her husband Pete in 1955, and we dedicate the picture to his memory.

Sheila has happy memories of the hospital as much of her courtship took place, walking in the vicinity of the well manicured grounds. Some long forgotten reminiscences returned, as Sheila recalled one time passing a patient who asked her to come and help him tie the apples back on the trees because they were falling off. On another occasion as she walked with her fiancé a tremendous downpour sent them running for cover but a group of female patients sitting on the grass, knitting never moved at all and carried on in the deluge. In innocence at the time, Sheila said they must have been crazy, and the irony was not lost on Pete!

There were also a few regular patients considered able, who could go to the Hare & Hounds for a drink in the evenings, but only in the tap room. Sheila recalled having a broken purse which a patient kindly offered to fix for her, but she never saw him or the purse again.

Recalling earlier times, Sheila was evacuated to Menston during the war when she was just 9 years of age and she well remembers seeing the military patients in their distinctive blue suits when they came into town. Pete at that time, being nine years her senior was not in Menston being stationed elsewhere engaged in military service.


Thank you to Glenda for sharing her archive postcard in the collection. After 35 years working in Administration, Glenda has many memories of her time at High Royds. ” I recall one patient who used to go by the name of ‘Jimmy’, she would come into the office everyday and we would have to write her a cheque for two million pounds and she would happily go about her business!”


Can anyone help us with information regarding a former patient. Her name was Nora Louise Stoney or maiden name, Nora Louise Whitaker. She was a patient from 1941 -1964. We hope that a former patient, member of staff or indeed a visitor to the hospital may have some recollection of Nora, please get in touch. Thank you.


My name back then when I started was Miss Sarah Guy & I was stationed on Kingsdale House. {I got married in 1986}.

I worked there from October 1984 to April 1987, & I was only 18 years old when I started working at Highroyds as a Nursing Assistant.

You have a picture off part off Kingsdale House with Beds ect. I can confirm that it is Kingsdale House just from that Picture.

When I worked on Kingsdale House it was used for the Care off the Elderly & it was a Female Ward.

We were to have to assess the new Patients & see if they needed to be put back in to the Committee or be placed on one off Highroyds Wards. {But that was down to the Qualified Staff as I was never asked to give an opinion}.

While I worked up atHighroydsHospitalI had some Weird experiences, but not from any living patients. And it was mainly when I was on Kingsdale House.

I heard footsteps in the main corridor on a night when I was going from a ward back to Kingsdale & nobody was on the corridor at the time. That was usually around 9.30pm. as when I was on the late shift I finished at 9.45pm & I had to go back to my Ward to get changed as well as pick up my Mopped.

It wasn’t till I looked at the old map on your sight that things have started to make sense to me. As I never new that Kingsdale House was in fact the old Infective Hospital.

As I use to see flames on beds when there was none. I use to smell smoke as well. Lights would turn off for no reason. & I told my Nursing Officer at the time. But he said that I was talking nonsense. Other staff then started having the same kind off things happen to them. We even one day got the fire

brigade out cos the smell was so strong. & the Fire officers could smell the smoke. But they couldn’t find any fire on the ward ore outside the ward.

The last late shift that I worked my Husband George {who is a Medium} came to meet me at work & he walked into the ward turned round & walked out again. Then when I joined him he said that I was never to go back on Kingsdale House as it was going to go up in flames. So I had to hand my notice in.

I did try to tell the nursing officer but he did not believe me. And I had also asked to be moved from Kingsdale House {when it first started happening} cos off all the weird stuff that was happening on that Ward at that time.

The first that I new that something had happened at Highroyds was when I was a few months later when I was going toLeedson the bus & they were pulling down Kingsdale House. & I’ve since herd that there had been a fire! I do know if this is true? Or if they got everyone out O.K. I hope they did.

Oh & Opposite Kingsdale House was a Children’s Ward. P.S. Paul O’Grady use to work on one of the wards when I was there. He was a Staff Nurse & was training to be a comedian at the time. Sorry but I do not have any pictures off when I worked at Highroyds.

It’s a shame to see all the damage to the building, as there was some lovely mosaics & tiles. But the things those walls would have seen.

Mrs Sarah Bays.


The lady bearing gifts in the leaving party 1984 ish was Janet Hemingway. As she was pregnant at that time. She had a Son. She’s the one in the Purple & Black smock dress & Blond Hair.


Angelina Standen 1970 -1987

Angelina has very fond memories of her time nursing at High Royds. It was incredibly hard work with some very challenging experiences but she loved every minute of it.

There were many occasions when she was hit by patients and even punched – but still her overriding instinct was to care and keep her patients in the best possible condition.

Angelina remembers often hearing footsteps when nobody was around but a much more frightening event took place one night in Kingsdale House. She was engaged with another nurse and they agreed to check half the patients each starting at either end to meet in the middle. As Angelina was in the process of doing this she was suddenly and violently attacked by an unseen force or entity which tried to strangle her and she could feel the pressure tightening around her throat but there was no body to be seen.

Angelina misses her patients and fellow staff and would love to be engaged in the profession now.


Can you help Gillian ?

my mother and father both worked at high royds many years ago my mother died aged 44 while working there she worked nights her name was marjorie lamb my father was a charge nurse i am 66 myself and was a student nurse in the late 50s my father was Gorden Lamb i am an only child with hardly any knowledge of my parents any information would be greatly appreciated. Gillian Rushworth


What a marvelous site, brings back many memories having worked at High Royds for 42 years until moving to The Mount in 2003. Thank you. Colin


I worked as a staff nurse for 27 years, now retired.

My grandmother worked there as a Sister/Matron for many years till she retired, many years ago.

I still have photo’s of her in her uniform with patients in early 1900’s dress also some in their fancy dress parties.



Many thanks to Tom Booth from the Social Club for writing the following piece. After 41 years nursing at High Royds and still running the club on site, he has become something of an institution himself!

I have a great deal of affection for High Royds, and will always put the positive point of view. Asylums are an easy target for critics peddling a negative line that projects their own personality.

When contemplating the life time/history ofHighRoydsHospitaland it’s contribution to the care of the mentally ill it is well to remember that ‘success is a journey not a destination’. Though the search for knowledge and guidance in the provision of care continues, those involved in High Royds history can look back with pride and forward with hope.

The increase in the knowledge of all staff involved in the treatment and care and the changes in practice over the last sixty years have seen the focus of care move from hospital to community; from a Medical Model (passive) to holistic care; from custodial care (passive) to a therapeutically active approach. These demonstrate that what we do about a problem is determined by how we view that problem.



Nurse Rose Remembers

Thank you very much to Mrs Rose Johnson (pictured) for her reminiscences of her time spent nursing at High Royds.

I went to work at High Royds in the 1960’s and have very fond memories of my time there. I was chosen to manage the new Rehabilitation Centre which surprised many of my senior colleagues who were quite jealous and sent me toCoventryfor a time, but I didn’t care. I had a good relationship with my patients and pride myself on the way they were cared for. When I left High Royds my title was Occuupational Therapy Charge Nurse and Matron told me that I was the highest paid nurse in the hospital. Doctor Todd told me that I should really not leave the profession and go and work for Social Services and I regret now that I didn’t.

I remember some interesting stories. There was an occasion when I was permitted to act as escort with another male member of staff, which is unusual as escorts were usually two men. We had to deal with an incident where a patient was holding a knife to his mother’s throat at his home. This patient was a large man so it was decided that I should sit in the ambulance while the male escort a 6’ fellow, attempted to talk the patient round. Well I sat in the ambulance for hours and was getting pretty fed up so in I marched all 5’ of me, and I looked the patient straight in the eye, which is very important, and I said “ come on, come with me, we are getting out of here and we are not going back to the hospital”. That did the trick and he came with me into the ambulance like a lamb. Of course when we reached High Royds he started to act up again a bit but by that time the incident was over and nobody was hurt.

Another occasion, I was driving through Ilkley and saw a female patient who had obviously escaped, just wandering around. I stopped and spoke to her and managed to get her into my car. She said she wasn’t going back to the hospital so I said “ come home and have tea with me”. So I took the patient home for tea, called Matron and said I had the patient at my house and after tea, she agreed to let me take her back which was a good ending as there is always the risk that a patient can “turn”.

There were two incidences when I helped patients to recover when it was not expected. One was in the Rehab Unit, there were two sisters that had been patients for many years and were expected to stay for the rest of their lives. I spent a lot of time talking with one of them and she totally changed. The Doctor told me it was as if something just snapped in her brain and she was completely normal. Another patient, Dulcie, I remember spending time sitting on a log chatting to her and eventually she was discharged and she was found a job inBradford. I saw her some time later and she brought me chocolates.

There were some sad occasions when patients I recall would get ready for the weekend visits home and would wait patiently to be collected by relatives. I would never go off duty until the last of my patients had been collected and there were times when the families did not turn up. Once I drove toBradfordfrom the hospital to ask the families what the delay was as so and so was waiting, but they didn’t want to know, so I drove all the way back to tell the disappointed patients.

Happier, times, I was entrusted to take patients for a walk in the woods, out of the locked wards and they would follow me in a trail. I got them all to pick up nice stones and we created a rockery which they really enjoyed. We also won a prize for the miniature garden we built.

Sister Wynn was responsible for my training and she was an excellent nurse. Our patients were always clean and organized with fresh ribbons. The wards were spotless and there was always ample good wholesome food and lovely warm fires. Sister Wynn would boil fresh coffee every morning in our little kitchen for all the patients. It was a shame when the system changed and they got rid of all Matrons. I remember that our matron suddenly went from a position of authority to being ignored on ward rounds. It was a mistake as Matrons always ensured high standards.

There were some unpleasant staff who were unsympathetic but they knew that I would have none of that and my patients were treated with respect. I remember once when a cruel nurse locked an old patient out in the snow because she wouldn’t eat her food. I ran all the way to Matron to report the incident and get the key. I was quite breathless telling matron, but it was well known that I would always ensure the patients well being.

I have to say that contrary to the belief of many, I worked with patients having ECT and in my experience it was a good thing. Patients would be a bit dizzy for a minute or two after but then they would forget all the awful thoughts that had been plaguing them and giving them such distress. My time at High Royds was rewarding and overall it was a good place.


Thank you to Jack Robinson for sharing some of his memories of his time working at High Royds.

I worked as the Technical Instructor in the joinery shop at the side of Kingsdale House, from 1957 – 1964. I suffered a heart attack after a trip to America so was retired from work as they did not want me to have another attack in front of the patients!.

At theMenston Drive, Occupational Therapy Unit, I had a team of long term patients who were engaged in the construction of wooden pallets for a catalogue company. The patients were conscientious and keen to get on with the job.

I have very fond memories of taking my dog ‘Tiny’ a Yorkshire terrier, on to the hospital site for walks where the patients would always be very pleased to see him.

When I retired, Kingsdale House was in the process of being modernized and the management gave me the front doors from the building which I still have, and I also purchased the greenhouse which is in my garden and is a lovely reminder of my time at the hospital.

Jack Robinson


Ada Ranken nee McSweeney

Adaworked at Meanwood Mental Colony in 1957 for a few months , she fell out with her tutor Mr. Bartlett then went to Menston as a Staff Nurse from 1957 – 59.

Her husband took her to work everyday on the back of his BSA Bantam!Adathen went back toScotlandto have a daughter and came back toYorkshire, starting work at Stanley Royd as a Ward Sister leaving in 1984.

She’s still got a bad scar on her finger which a patient called Anne Barker, a patient on Juniper ward, (Stanley Royd) bit to the bone.

When she started at Stanley Royd she was on £8.2s.6d for a 48 hour week.

She was 80 on the 25th June 2008.

Many thanks to Ada for these memories.



I started working at High Royds in September 1987 as a Tutor in theSchoolofNursing. Prior to this I had worked at St James inLeedswhich was in a different Health Authority and there was a bit of rivalry between the two sites. I was a bit reluctant to work there as I had heard stories about the institutional care. St James was a bit elitist and some of the staff had worked at High Royds and were quite derogatory about it. The pre-conceptions I had about the hospital were never realised. I had a very happy two years there and I felt very privileged to work with some fantastic staff. I worked mainly on the rehabilitation wards. There were four of them but as the hospital was gradually closing the number of clients was declining. It was an exciting time but a lot of the staff were quite anxious about their jobs and what would happen to them in the future. These anxieties seemed to be managed better by the clients. During my time there I was helped to introduce student nurse placements into Social Services. These were outside the hospital and there was quite a lot of resistance from some staff. I als0 played a part in the hospital panto of 1987 which was ‘Robinson Crusoe’.

I left High Royds in 1989 to work on the Project 2000 Nursing Programme but I maintained a link with the hospital for another 2 years. I have mainly fond memories of my time there and the people I met. It was a formative experience in my career and I have a lot to thank the hospital for.

Access Gwen’s story from the front page in a separate collection.



This site is great it brings back loads of happy memories for me, i commenced my training at high royds in feb 1985.

Do you know if i could get hold of the documentary, Black Daisies for the bride which was filmed here.


Retired RGN district nurse, Midwife and psychiatric enrolled Nurse.


Just to say this site is brilliant, I will be getting in touch with old comrades to try and get what info I can. I was there 1962-65, an account of what is was like then is on by humble msn board!



We lived relatively close to a large old Victorian style National Health Service (NHS) psychiatric hospital that employed nursing assistants for 3 nights of the week. The job on offer was a 7-7 shift and perfect for young mothers. I applied for the job and lo and behold I was accepted. We were given basic training to enable us to sustain life. We were taught how to do mouth-to-mouth on the famous dummy. Shame, that poor thing took some hammer from us learners. Some of us would end up bright red in the face and the dummy still had a totally flat chest, so to all intents and purposes we had not revived our patient and probably smothered them to death with all the wind and spittle that we mouthed up their noses, none of the air going into the lungs. We learnt how to get it right eventually and to see the plastic chest go up and down as the air entered the lung cavity gave one a feeling of a job well done. We were taught bandaging of various bodily areas, injections to the upper outer quarter of someone’s backside (oranges made great butts for practicing on).As nursing assistants, were only allowed to give injections and apply learned bandaging techniques if there was a qualified nurse in attendance. All in all, I thought that the basic training I underwent was very useful stuff for a young mother to learn. We all underwent an examination on what we had been taught and I managed to pass. I felt totally competent to help all and sundry.

The hospital provided me with a nurses’ uniform that looked very similar to the ones that were sold for children to dress up in: starched apron, cap, cuffs and a very impressive batman type cape (navy with red lining and red front cross-over fasteners). I really looked the part.

On my first night I was shown into a ward with approximately 40 female patients lined up in neat beds. The lights were a very dimmed shade of green and in the corner was a small table with a night light on it and a comfortable chair. I was given a torch and told to sit and observe. If there was a problem, I was told I could walk down the passage to another nurse who was also observing 40 patients. She was classed as qualified because she had been there for a few years.

I sat in that chair with my eyes on stalks. What was I doing sitting in a ward full of mentally disturbed women in the middle of the night? I dare not move in case I woke one of them up. This had to be the longest night of my life. I had taken a book to work and I think I read the first page about ten times. Somebody came to relieve me at midnight and I was allowed to go down to the canteen. Just walking to the canteen in the middle of the night was a terrifying concept on its’ own. Those passages appeared to travel on forever and every so often a staircase or another ward entrance would emerge out of the dimly lit corridors. I huddled into my large cape as this gave me a false sense of security. During the course of the night a qualified nurse came around to check that all was well. All was fine I told her – how on earth would I know if there was a problem anyway? I couldn’t tell her that the patients absolutely terrified me, pasty faced in long, white, billowy button-up nightgowns.

By the time 7am finally arrived and the day staff came on shift, I had to stop myself running off. The staff read my feeble little night-report scrawl in the nurses register indicating that my shift was over – I had actually made it through the night! My eyes felt as though they were full of sand. I got back to our flat and bravely confirmed to my husband that the job was a piece of cake, I can do it. I actually dreaded the thought of going back but I would let not him know this and I would not give up. I managed to doze on and off for the day and dreaded the impending night duty.

The second night of duty was different altogether and I was put on a different ward to work alongside another nurse. This was so much better! The work was a lot harder, the patients were incontinent and had to have their beds changed in the early evening and again the next morning but at least I was not on my own. The patients themselves were elderly females and many of them were not mobile so they needed soap rubs, creaming and turning every four hours. Many of these elderly ladies were not true psychiatric cases. For the majority, old age dementia had set in and their families could not cope any longer with them at home and so had placed them in the care of the local psychiatric hospital.

I left at 7am and felt as though I had to drag one foot in front of the other. I was shattered and now understood why I had been issued with 5 aprons. My beautiful starched white apron was covered in urine and faeces. Again I walked into our flat and claimed that it was a piece of cake. I was such a little liar but I would not quit. Luckily, my mother-in-law took my daughter for a few hours and I was allowed to sleep to prepare myself for the final night.

I felt pretty ropey for my last night but as soon as I donned that uniform I woke up. I was assigned to the same ward as the previous night and just got stuck in and held up my end of the deal, I did what needed to be done for the patients and was told by the other nurse at about 2am to put my feet up. That hospital is where I truly learned the art of “cat-napping”.

I soon learned to switch between half asleep and wide awake in seconds, literally. If caught asleep whilst on-duty it was a dismissal offence so I cottoned on fast. We were a bunch of married women with young kids and we were all experts at it. I did come to realize pretty quickly that I could not survive doing 3 nights consecutively and so I was allowed to split into a 2 and 1 night system.

To work in a psychiatric hospital you have to have a sense of humour or you will not survive. It was very noticeable how many people were frightened of mentally unwell people. As nurses, we got to know the patients and were quite attached to them; we were willing to defend them from the outside world if needs be. The majority of the patients (i.e. those not in the ‘lock-up’ wards) were allowed to come and go from the hospital grounds during the day, as they pleased. The entrance to the hospital was not locked so occasionally we had small mishaps.

On arriving at work one evening, myself and another nurse were summonsed to the local police station to collect a female patient who had been caught soliciting her wares in the main town. We jumped into a taxi and went down to the station. The patient had given of her services and the male customer had walked off without paying her. She had been arrested for subsequently causing total havoc in the middle of a very large town. The police had her locked in a prison cell and were very pleased to see two young nurses arrive to take over custody of the patient. I think they were scared of her and this had me giggling a bit. We calmly took control of the situation, soothed her injured pride, climbed back in the taxi with her in tow and took her back to the hospital and, with tongue in cheek, advised her for future reference to always take the money in advance. This episode made me realize why all the young, sexually active female patients were issued birth with control pills alongside their psychiatric medication.

One evening, I was assigned to cover the night shift on a male ward. There we were, two female nurses on a ward full of older men whom we were told, were harmless. I was experienced by this time and probably a bit too confident for my own good. I had a relatively new nurse working with me and she looked to me for the lead. We set up our night station – two chairs each covered with clean sheets and put our feet up. The patients were all quiet and sleeping. Everything was calm until the gentleman with syphilis of the brain appeared. He was 6 foot something. A large, fit, healthy specimen of a man who had been infected with syphilis during the Second World War and the disease progression had left him with the brain capacity of a five year old. He had obviously seen the two of us comfortably parked in our chairs and wanted to join us. The man was stark naked and he sat on my knee. He turned to me, looked me straight in the eyes and said “you’re scared of me aren’t you?” It dawned on me that night why the hospital paid such good money to do this job – it was danger pay that bulked up the pay packet. Great. I managed to convince the naked man that I was not in the least bit scared of him and asked him to please remove his naked butt from my knee. Luckily, I was convincing enough that he got up and started back to his bed. The nurse with me shot off to the ward office and I followed her. The problem was that the top half of the office was see through and the telephone was in there. My colleague just hit the deck when she saw the naked man coming towards the office and so I had to take over – my fingers would hardly work but I managed to dial for help. To be honest, I would have loved to hit the deck with her but I knew it would have been irresponsible; I was after all, the senior nurse on this ward. After phoning for help, I came out of the office and attempted to persuade him back to bed again. No go.

A male charge nurse arrived on the scene and aggressively instructed the patient to get back to bed. Wrong approach. Aggression doesn’t work and the naked patient simply refused to comply. We were very lucky that he didn’t get upset with the course man-handling of the situation and I was quick to phone for even more re-enforcements. An aging grey-haired nursing sister arrived. She was an old hand at this game and she soothingly gave him a little injection, then we proceeded to play trains. At the head of the train was the grey-haired nursing sister, followed by the large naked man, then myself, and lastly, my junior nurse colleague (the male charge nurse refused to play – spoilt-sport). We all shouted “choo choo” and off we went. Our human train went merrily chugging along to the bottom of the ward where the single containment side-rooms were situated for mental emergencies such as this. They had thick, lockable doors and a peep hole.

In he went, as meek as a kitten.

The sedation lasted until the next morning. When the patient woke up, we realized just how thick those side room doors were and how lucky we had been. The day staff were met with his full body weight trying to bulldoze that door down. Noticeably the majority of the day staff were male nurses.

The female lock-up ward was always an interesting place to work. Dangerous but interesting. The ward itself was a locked ward and so when on duty, we were locked in (the nurse in charge of the shift held the lock-up keys). The ward also had the lockable single containment side-rooms which were used for any patients whom were out of control and dangerous to others. It was in one of these side-rooms that I lost a large chunk of my hair. I found out in that side-room that it is true what they say when they tell you that what is missing in the brain is made up for in the muscle.

The patient was an elderly lady, physically active and completely mentally unbalanced. There were the usual two staff members, the ‘slow one’ and myself and we had to go into this side-room to remove anything that the patient might damage herself with. I honestly did not think this was a good idea at the time but the ‘slow one’ was in charge of the ward and so in we went. The next thing I knew, the patient had a strong hold of me by my hair and had done a sort of grab and twist and there was absolutely no way she would let go. This is where the other nurse got the name ‘the slow one’. The ‘slow one’ seemed to take an hour to prize the patient’s fingers off me. I actually thought at one point I heard cracking but I was in no position to argue, just do what it takes I don’t care, just get this mad woman off me and my hair I thought to myself. After what seemed like an age, the patient was eventually separated from my head and she took a large chunk of my hair with her. The urge to counter attack was strong but I just had to suck it up, do my job and try to take solace in the knowledge that she was mentally sick.

On the lock-up wards you are very dependant on your partner to watch your back, I never cat-napped whilst on duty on this ward.

Many patients had been in the lock-up ward for years. One of these long-stay patients was a large African lady who had a multitude of tiny plaits in her hair, all held in place by ripped sheeting. She wore men’s army boots with her nightdress and when she walked down the ward, the floorboards seemed to vibrate. She had been reported as having thrown a nurse through the window when upset. I never had any problems with her but had made my own silent resolve that if she went “off”, I was out of there, fast!

The female lock-up ward was also home to a lovely character who would roam around the ward singing the old hit song “Green Door”. We would often hear her erupt into song ‘There’s an old piano and they play it hot behind the green door’, this was followed by a cheeky kick of her leg into the air. When in entertainer mode, she wore an old fashioned sanitary towel around the back of her head with the string loops hooked over each ear – kind of a sweat band for the back of her neck. She would burst out of the toilets and into the corridor to announce the start her act, sliding sideways towards the nurses and singing that wonderful old song. Staff had often been known to join in with her, one could not help but laugh and she made things a lot more light-hearted for all of us sometimes.

Attached to the female lock-up ward was a male ward where the relatively able bodied males were housed. The two wards were connected by a locked see-through door. The sight of female nurses through the locked door drove some male patients to stand at the transparent door and masturbate. I got rather used to the most bizarre behaviour that human nature can offer and did not bat an eyelid.

One night, I was told that a spirit walked up the back staircase at midnight on New Years Eve. I was not a nervous person but I was working in a very old, historical building where there had been countless deaths over the years. Patients in long white nightgowns, drifting up and down the wards was eerie enough and to be told that a spirit walked around once a year as well was a bit too much for me. When the charge nurse came round to check on everyone I openly I admitted that I was spooked. I was fortunate to have an understanding person listening to my story and the charge nurse stayed with me for the hour to ensure that the spirit did not get me. The nurse that started this rumour later explained to me that one has to be a special sort of person to be able to see spirits. Who was I to argue given that many people think that you need to be slightly mad to work in a place like that anyway? Does anyone really know what normal should be?

The hospital also held patients who had committed crimes. I had always thought that the concept of sheep-shagging was part of a joke. I was wrong. One of the male patients was being charged by the local farmer for interfering with his sheep. The nursing staff had to paint his penis with gentian violet every day which he rather enjoyed. He had probably caught something from a sheep; I never was quite sure about how that works.

All in all, there was life on a totally different level going on in that hospital. Dr Kitty was an elderly female patient who believed that she owned the entire hospital. She regularly packed her bags and fired all the nursing staff. Dr Kitty was once found down in Bridlington, a sea side holiday town about two hours away from the hospital. Nobody knew how she had got there but when the local police in that area quizzed her and she claimed to own a hospital, they soon realized the problem and she received a police escort back to us.

I loved the job and it fitted in perfectly with my home life. My children hardly knew that I was a working mum and the money was obviously a big help to a young family. From naked men to singing sanitary pads, from masturbating sheep-shaggers to laying out dead people and trips to the mortuary in the night with spirits roaming around. Yes, I had actually received training on life in general and was unknowingly well prepared for all the future eventualities that could be thrown at me.



I’ve got some photos of a High Royd’s wedding, too. It is the wedding of Robert Batty to Zalisha Hosein in about 1982. I was a bridesmaid and could send those pictures and tell you about it. Robert and Zal, as we used to call her, used to have parties in residence 2 and they would make a large curry and chipathies. Zal would spend all day cooking for these parties. We would have music and sit on the floor eating curry from paper plates.

I lived in residence 1, in the middle of the main hospital.There were steps just outside the entrance door and certain male long stay patients would sit there sometimes relieving their sexual frustration ( sorry to be indelicate). Occasionally one of them would even leave a turd on the floor. Once, my boyfriends parents, his brother and girlfriend, came to visit from Morley. They hated me anyway, but his mother nearly had a fit on seeing one of these unfortunately displayed deposits! It gave her more fuel to dislike me at the time but eventually we split up anyway.

At this time, in residence 1, was Janice Hardy, an aide from Norwood ward I think. She was nice but I have no photo. A girl called Tina Harris lived there, we were on the SEN(M) course together. There was a girl called Susan Douglas who I used to drink tea with and talk to, and somewhere, I have a photo of her. I’ll try to send it. The photo is a timed photo lit only by the light of her cigarette. There was a girl called Gloria Symms, but I have no photo although we were friends. I do not know were any of them are now.

The in house resident staff used to congregate in the cafeteria in the evening and often in the social club. I was never one for the social club much but did hang around with Robert and Zalisha, Kamla and Francis, Gloria, Susan.

My first ward was Hazlewood, a female long stay ward, with Sister Ingham, a relic from a long stay age but with a heart of gold. Some of the staff I did not like at all as they were rotten to new students. One of the patients on ther picked me up under my ribs and slammed me up against the boiler in the kitchen. I could not scream as I was winded. Eventually, she put me down. While it was going on, another patient came in, looked, walked out again, did and said nothing. I hated the job of cleaning all those damn false teeth because it would nearly have me retching. First one there in the morning had to ‘do the teeth’. Sometimes I would be late to avoid it. I still hate false teeth now, after 30 years and several types of nursing.

I think my next ward was Asquith, but might have been Aysgarth. Whatever, it was with the nasty Sister Fisher. Sister Chatham on the other shift was ok but moody. Ramsgill, on nights, was ok, and I got left alone pretty much, away from MOST nastiness, and worked with some nice people. Some of the staff, were worse than the patients. One Sister threw a fit when the soap was changed from Imperial Leather to something else. They were as institutionalised as the patients.

I left in 1982 and went to Airedale General.

The picture of High Royd’s clock tower was taken because I used to wander about with a tripod and camera sometimes at night or late evening. There used to be rabbits running about in the grounds and they were quite tame if you were quiet. I used to talk to the man on the switchboard quite a bit but can’t remember his name, except he must have been about 30, glasses, chatty.He had a young daughter called Emma and was married.

Any other memories that come by, I’ll write to you. Some of it is coming back. It wasn’t all bad. I find that now, in retrospect, I laugh about it all. However, at the time, some of it was no laughing matter. People I meet who had had these experiences working in mental hospitals often feel the same way and it turns into a raucous bit of entertainment.


Hi just to say your website is wonderful!

I worked at High Royds from 1992 untill the day it closed, I am now at the

Mount Hospital and the whole place is completley different there isn’t any

atmosphere at all, and the whole sense of the old place has gone. it was so

nice to look back and see memories.




I view your photos with interest having worked there from 71-90 (intermitantly). Would be interested to know which ward these photos are actually depicting. I worked on the west side and would be interested to hear from anyone who worked there – who knows me.

I don’t have any pictures worth sharing. My time there was kind of bittersweet. I went into the profession hoping to make a difference but unfortunately the “Old School” didn’t appreciate us young student nurses using “New Fangled” methods. I enjoyed a lot of my time there but saw a lot of things that made me unhappy and caused me to realise that I couldn’t personally change years of practises that in my opinion was dreadful, so I left. Hopefully mentally ill people are treated better now than they were then. I worked with a lot of caring staff but also with many that didn’t. Once again, a great site, I shall revisit often. Shirley Thompson

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