In the early years the hospital was largely run by staff who lived on site and worked very long hours. A Medical Superintendent was in charge with just four other doctors known as assistant medical officers, along with 170 nurses and attendants and 18 administrative staff. Hospital records show that the working week was reduced from 87.5 hours to 79.5 hours in 1901 and an additional five attendants were employed as a result.
The First World War ushered in a new era at the hospital although plans for it to be taken over by the American Army as a military hospital never materialized. The working week was dropped from 77 to 48 hours with a 70% increase in staff levels. Four years later the hours went back up to 56 per week.
The 1930 Mental Health Act allowed some patients to be admitted on a voluntary basis for the first time as opposed to being certified and forced into hospital. Patient numbers remained high however with the onset of WW11.
During this time part of High Royds was given over to treating military casualties with 218 cases being admitted from France in 1940. The patient population peaked to an all time high of2,600. Inthe same year the Princess Royal came to the hospital to visit the troops.
The Medical Superintendent would have a rather large house in the grounds.
Resident staff had certain obligations. You were effectively on call if they were short of staff. Day or night you had to turn out for fire alarms, and so on, so the charge for board and lodgings wasn¡¦t very much. It was taken directly from your salary.
The accommodation was basic, a room with a bed and simple furniture. We also had maids who cleaned the rooms. On your day off, if you put your name in the book, they would even bring you breakfast. That was certainly one of the perks.
When you worked a night duty and came off at 7am, you went to the staff restaurant and there was a full three course dinner if you wanted it.
The extensive lawns, flowerbeds, shrubberies and airing courts at the hospital were always immaculately maintained, most commendable when you consider it was all done by hand with no power driven tools.
Many patients were dragooned into this work as cheap labour for farming, general maintenance and delivering coal from the central dump to the numerous individual coal stores. Each building had at least one store as heating throughout was predominantly by open fires.
This work by the patients was considered a sort of primitive occupational therapy. The lawns in particular were sacrosanct. You would be in trouble if you walked on these show pieces. There was a beautiful lawn with a line of sycamores along it¡¦s northern edge which is sadly now long gone. It was located where the General Stores oil store was later built.
At one time an unsightly path developed across it and the then Medical Superintendent Dr McDowell, lay in wait for the culprits saying that whoever he caught would ‘go down the road’ the term for instant dismissal. There was great hilarity amongst the staff as the perpetrator he discovered was his own wife!