If you read this blog last week, posted on my late dad’s birthday and you clicked to read Preserving the Memories, you’ll know that my dad had an accident when he was about 6 years old, resulting in complications and leading to his spending a number of years in Standon Hall Orthopaedic & TB Hospital, 10 miles south west of Stoke-on-Trent (now a wedding venue).
Here’s his own account of the accident:
I had a pedal car… and that’s where all the problems with Paddy [the dog] pulling me off the wall with his chain and me banging my hip… [Later] I was pedalling in the pedal car with Ray [brother] pushing me and I got my leg stuck and that didn’t help any… I had to go to hospital for a check and they put me in plaster. Then I was put in a spinal carriage and was there for 12 months… I was in plaster from my neck to the bottom of my leg.
Incredibly he appeared to be quite philosophical about it, saying: I can’t say that it worried me too much because it’s one of those things as a youngster you don’t.
Because he couldn’t move, he had to be lifted in and out of the carriage and carried upstairs to bed. When it was clear this “treatment” wasn’t doing any good, that’s when he was admitted to Standon Hall, where he stayed until the outbreak of WWII in 1939 - some 3 years later - when they requisitioned the hospital for injured service personnel.
As children, we knew the story well but it was only in recent years that I asked the question, who provided the hospital facility? – the NHS not being introduced until a decade later.
Historically, charities and institutions such as workhouses had provided medical care for the poor until the National Insurance Act of 1911 when access to GPs and hospitals became available to labourers and lower paid non-manual workers. But it didn’t cover wives and children. After WWI, there was a growing awareness of the need to plug the gap in health care provision and various insurance schemes were introduced.
I have a National Health & Pensions Insurance card with my gran’s name on it and although it’s undated, her address is shown as Foxhill’s Lodge, where the family lived at the time of Dad’s accident, though the cover it offered may not be relevant in Dad’s case.
In 1929, the poor law was abolished, and workhouse infirmaries became general hospitals, managed by local authorities. By then, the number of voluntary hospitals was already growing to cope with an increasing demand for medical services.
Standon Hall, originally built as a private house, was purchased by Staffordshire County Council in 1928, for the specific purpose of converting it to a hospital, “for crippled children”, as reported, in The Staffordshire Advertiser in June 1929, when the chairman of the Public Health Committee was asked how the scheme was progressing. “Satisfactorily” was his answer, though it would be another couple of years before the hospital would become operational.
Images courtesy of Find My Past's Newspaper Collection
Dad mentions the tedium of being in hospital, with very little to do and minimal schooling, maybe one or two days a week. He went on: what we did do was handicrafts and we used to make little pearl type broaches… putting putty onto a back board… and then sticking little things into patterns.
My grandparents visited weekly on the bus, and if they couldn’t come together for any reason, my granddad would cycle from Wombourne to see him, a distance of almost 40 miles, which must have taken him 3 hours each way.
By complete coincidence, this week I got a message to say someone had added a comment to my blog post mentioned above, Preserving the Memories. The contributor declared that his own father had also spent time in Standon Hospital: “3 years flat on his back with TB hip”. He was now 87, had had an “an amazing life” but his memories of Standon Hall “will always stay with him”.
Information about hospitals prior to the NHS can be found in a fascinating article, with the wonderfully flamboyant title of - Eggs, rags and whist drives: popular munificence and the development of provincial medical voluntarism between the wars
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