Many thanks to David for his excellent reminiscences
I commenced my nurse training at Highroyds in February 1965, Highroyds must have been one of the largest employers in the area at this time. The first month was spent in the Nurse Training School in a class of 10 only two of which were female, for some reason it was easier to recruit males than females.The nurse training took three years.
At this time the hospital was segregated into male and female areas, facing the main clock tower entrance all on your left was male and all on your right female. The main corridoor linking the two was said to be a quarter of a mile long, it was not unusual to have to dodge cyclists who rode their bicycles along the corridoor on their way to work. We worked a three shift system, earlies 6-2, lates 2-10 and nights 10-6. On the male side a gentlemans agreement existed where the late shift came on duty at one o clock on Saturdays in order that the early shift could leave early to attend sporting functions. Unlike the majority of hospitals the staff at Highroyds were payed weekly in cash not monthly by cheque.
The staff patient ratio was low and the hospital operated on a system of trust, what was known as theraputic ward atmospheres. In practice this meant that patients were heavily involved in the day to day running of the hospital, participating in meals, cleaning, laundry, bathing and many other activities. Hot water was in limited supply and wards were allocated bath days. Most wards had just a single nurse at night and many a single nurse during the day. Staff tended to be concentrated on the admission ward, Escroft Clinic and the two locked wards, ward 4 Nesfield, ward 8 Hazelwood and ward 5 Barden for the physically sick. Barden was severely overcrowded during this period with 75 patients, this situation was only resolved when beds were opened atGrassingtonHospital. Space between the beds was very limited and there were even beds in the Day Room. Given this situation it’s easy to see why patient participation was so vital to the day to day running of the hospital.
I have many happy memories of Highroyds, Charge Nurse Jim Riggott sending me to the Hare and Hounds in my car at Christmas to get four large tea churns filled with beer for the patients on ward 4, the biggest round I’ve ever ordered.The winter evening slide shows organised by Charge Nurse John Tiffany on ward 12 [now demolished] some of which might have been theraputic in helping patients sleep.
In spare moments on Barden Ward I would look back through the admission cards. It was interesting the way the hospital name had changed with increased enlightenment. On the early cards it was referred to as The West Riding Lunatic Asylum. One of the early patients was a man called Willy Spencer admitted in 1898, his card told how he was brought fromBradfordup Hollins Hill in a handsom cab in the company of two policemen. Willy never adapted to central heating and would still go out into the grounds to gather wood for the ward fire.
Perhaps some of my most endearing memories of Highroyds are of the larger than life characters amongst both the staff and patients. Highroyds wasn’t always politically correct but it certainly fostered characters. Jimmy Stubbs, who was in fact female, would ask you for a cigarette then pay you for it with a cheque for a million pounds written on toilet paper. John Green and Ivan Conroy who had the makings of a music hall act, they ran the kitchen on ward 5 and even got up in the night to help change beds. Dancing Harry Dinmore an incorrigible romantic, to name but a few.
In 1968 I was seconded to Bradford Royal Infirmary to do my General Nurse training. On return I was promoted to Charge Nurse, then after a spell in theNurseTraining Schoolleft to work in the community.
A great many people will have unhappy memories of Highroyds, of broken famlies and disrupted lives, but the building itself always seemed timeless, it had the appearance of a stately home standing in its own parkland. I feel saddened to see the current state of Highroyds. It’s current developement seems to have been ill thought out with the old building decaying rapidly and the new buildings out of character with the old, surely it would have been better to develop the old buildings first before the neglect is beyond repair.