Jump to content

Winwick Hospital. history, photos and recollections


Recommended Posts

I just came across this fascinating website about the old Winwick Hospital.


May be of interest to others too and there are old photo, history and some really interesting 'recollections' on the various pages too.




Quite sad in places and apparently 'The register of male patients in Winwick from February 1933 to 1946' lists 3456 names, and the longest resident was admitted in 1898 aged 6.


One recollection which I found interesting was from a gent called Brian Stapleton who details the following



I believe that Winwick had its own bore hole and pumped the water up to the very large tanks in the top of the water tower to provide enough pressure throughout the hospital.



The hospital had its own sewerage works situated beyond the farm and the effluent was reused as an agricultural fertiliser. The works also had a large incinerator where many kind of things were burnt. I remember things like bandages and dressings from the wards of the wounded soldiers plus old packing cases and the like. (Mr Derbyshire was the person in charge)



The heating was supplied from a large coal-fired boiler house with I think three automatically-fed boilers. Steam generated here was fed round all the hospital radiators to supply heat and through calorifiers for the supply of hot water. The wards also had open coal fires with a lockable safety cage around them. The supply of coal to the wards I don't know how it happened, but the supply to the boiler house was initially brought in by train then superseded by lorries.



The hospital was self-sufficient for electrical power during the day and had its own generators attached to steam turbines (fed from the boiler house): these made Direct Current (DC) electricity. During the night they stopped the turbines and switched over to the main grid supply, which of course had to be rectified from AC to DC using Large Mercury Arc Rectifiers. I was lucky in that I was shown these rectifiers working and was very impressed with the purple arc seemingly to move about on the pool of mercury in these large glass retorts.


Fire Station

The station was manned and could call on the extra services of home-trained men for any incident that cropped up. The chief fire officer was a Mr Mather.



The following are a list of workshops that I can remember but apologise if I have missed some:








Butchers shop (the butcher killed and prepared pigs and cows down in the farm's slaughter house once a week)

(Tailors shop)

(Sewing Room)


Chief Engineer

The Chief Engineer in the 1950s was a Mr Copeland who lived in the first house on Hollins Drive.



The hospital had two churches both situated on Hollins Drive: one for Protestants and one for Catholics. The Hospital Chaplain for the C of E Church during the 1960's was a Rev. Peter Nunn who lived in the house next to the church. I believe that local priests came in when required for the Catholic worshippers.



The feeding of the patients and staff must have been a monumental task, and the hospital had a very large kitchen with an army of workers. Fresh food was delivered regularly from both the farm and the gardens, together with a continuous supply from outside. The Catering Officer in the early 1950s was a Miss PL Norton who was succeeded by Miss D Scott. The waste from the catering was collected in a swill cart from the farm to feed the pigs. On one visit to the kitchen as a young person I was intrigued with a machine that sliced and buttered the very long loaves, but of course with that many slices required it had to be automatic.



All the patients were kept as clean and warm as could be possible. This meant a large store for clothing and a person in charge of supplies. All soiled and dirty clothes were cleaned in the large laundry supervised by Maggie Wright and repaired if necessary in the sewing room where Miss Pierce was in charge.



The hospital had a very large hall with a maple wood floor and a stage at one end. Every week a full length film with a newsreel would be shown to the patients, and children of the hospital staff could occupy the last few rows for an evening's entertainment. Once a year the staff ball was held in January and tickets were like gold dust. It was wonderful to be able to dance to very large orchestras such as Victor Sylvester's and others. I also remember that Newton-le-Willows Grammar School would bring their current performance of Gilbert and Sullivan Opera for the patients entertainment. I was lucky to be both sides of the footlights on occasions.


Sports Facilities


Billiards/snooker tables in the male wards: the administration at times would arrange for professional players to come along to give an evening's entertainment. I was at one such evening when they had the renowned billiard player Sydney Smith to give a show, I can remember him sending a ball into a long necked basket and a different coloured ball would come out as it spun round. Since then I have seen it repeated by the snooker players on the TV. I asked him what he thought of Joe Davies, the World Champion snooker player. H said that when Joe ever lost the crown he would take it very badly. This didn't happen as Joe was a very gracious loser.

Football pitches: situated alongside the A49.

Cricket field: along the side of the male wards exercise areas. This was one of the best pitches to play on, carefully kept by a Mr Greenhaulgh with an outfield that would have put many a clubs wicket to shame. This was achieved by cutting the outfield with a large Dennis mowing machine with a second roller holding the seat for the operator. The cut grass was unloaded at various places with it being tipped into small high sided four wheeled trucks that were then emptied with a small gang of patients. Sadly it deteriorated with the introduction of the cost cutting gang mower that didn't collect the grass cuttings and the outfield became spongy.

Bowling greens: there were four crown greens of immaculate manicure.

The female patients would play netball and those that were able would be taken along to the gym to do exercises and gymnastics. For those less able then occupational therapy was provided which included embroidery, basket making, rug making and other types of needlework They also had small domestic tasks like helping in the laundry and the sewing room. There were five tennis courts in the grounds, and these were again free for the staff and families in the evenings and weekends.

The Staff played Badminton in the dance hall and competed in the Warrington League.



The administration offices were situated along the corridor of the main entrance. The Clerk and Steward in the 1950s was a Mr CR Hoyle who was succeeded by Mr EJ Fox. The Medical Superintendent in the 1950s was a Dr Nicole who was succeeded by Dr Harrison. They both occupied the large residence which opened out onto the A49 quite close to the Swan Hotel. Mr Hoyle and Mr Fox occupied a house in Hollins Drive, at different times of course.



The gardeners were responsible for supplying the kitchens with as many fresh vegetables as could be grown. This included many tons of tomatoes over the years together with apples, pears etc. They also ensured that the wards had plenty of cut flowers and maintained all the lawns and shrubberies around the hospital grounds. The head gardeners from the 1950s were Mr Paton, Mr W Stewart and Mr G Hodgson respectively.


The Farm

The Farm Bailiff up to 1944 was a Mr Parks who was succeeded by my father Mr WH Stapleton, known as Harry, who was in charge until he died in service in 1966. The farm was then bailiffed by Mr D Allison. Later the farm was sold. The deputy bailiffs were Mr J Hardman followed by Mr W Britch. There were three farms initially: The Delph Farm, Winwick Hall Farm and Alder Root Farm. Only the Delph Farm remains as the original unit, as Winwick Hall Farm was absorbed into the new hospital and Alder Root Farm was sold off as a going concern.

The Delph Farm as I remember had eighty milking cows tended by Mr J Wright and would send up to the kitchens upwards of 500 gallons of milk per day. The farm dairy even had its own pasteurising plant and this was run by Mr J Straw. Quality milk in those days was judged on the butter fat content and the herd was added to each year by buying in Ayrshire cows from the Castle Douglas market on the Solway Firth to add their rich milk to that produced by the Friesian cows. The pig production peaked when the hospital had the wounded soldiers in the wards, due to the increase in waste food, and it was very common for there to be two full swill carts per day. The peak production was around 800 pigs, not only serving the hospital via the farms own slaughter house but also being sent off to the bacon factory. Mr J Blackman was in charge of the pigs.


The farm had also a large amount of arable land and this was used to grow food for the livestock and also to supply the hospital with potatoes. At the end of the war the farm had two teams of shire horses which did most of the ploughing and a cob used to deliver the milk to the hospital. Mr F Collier was the horseman together with my brother Mr R Stapleton, but as things started to become more mechanised he became a tractor driver with Mr P Derbyshire and Mr A Howard. Mr E Slater also worked on the farm and I can remember him cutting the hedges and keeping the ditches clean.


The farm also had a patient labour force and in fact the very large granary was run solely by one patient, Dick Banner, who used to mix all the ingredients for the cows feed. Part of the feed consisted of hop grains from the old Walkers Brewery in Warrington which were collected by horse and cart once a week. A funny incident occurred once when a patient, thinking he was doing a good turn, fed neat hop grains to some cows which became intoxicated, causing blown up stomachs and bellowing. I wonder did they have a hangover or did their milk taste of beer. I remember Dick Banner had been a fervent supporter of Joe Louis and would relate to me Joe's best moments in the boxing ring. During the late autumn, two gangs of patients were employed to help harvest the potato crop which was then stored in huge hogs covered with straw and weisals to keep out the frost. During the harvesting the kitchen would send out a couple of patients carrying tea urns together with some tin cups for the gang's elevenses. This was a time when the smokers amongst them would roll a cigarette with a tobacco issued to the patients called "shag", with a very strong smell.



Patient Memories

At the latter end of the war my mother made our spare bedroom in the farmhouse available for the use of the parents of the severely wounded soldiers. One such occupant was a Mrs Thomas, a most gracious lady who had experienced a divorce from an alcoholic husband. Her son Captain Len Thomas was injured when a piece of shrapnel lodged at the base of his spine and he had lost the use of the lower part of his body and the final straw was when her daughter Joan fell to her death from a bomb damaged balcony at Guy's hospital in London. How she found the strength to carry on was a miracle. I would go up to the ward with Mrs Thomas and Len and I would talk about stamp collecting and he would give me five shillings to go and buy cellophane packets of loose stamps for him to add to his large collection of albums. He left me six of his albums when he was well enough to be moved back down to London (minus all the expensive stamps). While visiting Len a soldier in the next but one bed had a bullet removed from behind his eye and the consultant Mr Kerr was dripping into his eye something called penicillin. It was a great success and they saved the soldier's eyesight.

My next few memories are concerned with the mental side of the hospital. If I was lucky I might have got a game of cricket and in the team was a patient called Herbert Holland. Now Herbert used to be a professional with Leicester County Cricket Club and was a very good batsman. If our side had to bat second then Ted Fox would say to Herbert, "Five bob for fifty". Herbert would go out and thrash the ball all over the ground, but on achieving fifty would allow the ball to hit the stumps so that he could get his five bob from Ted Fox.


Another story concerning Ted Fox was that my grandfather (on my mother's side) would bring over a cricket team made up of lads from the Yorkshire League and I was lucky once, as they turned up with a man short so I got to play with the Yorkshire lads. Glad to say we won easily and we were given a meal after the match followed by an oration by Ted Fox who said Winwick had been beaten by the cream of the Yorkshire league. The best reply I had ever heard was from the Yorkshire captain when he turned to Ted Fox and said, "Mr Fox, the dictionary definition for cream is, a kind of scum".


As mentioned earlier gangs of patients were employed and one such duty would be to rake up the leaves in the wood next to the cemetery and pile them up to decay down and be used later as compost by the gardens. In this wood near to the sewerage works was a three sided brick built shelter which had been whitewashed every year for at least fifty years. One day the gang were having their drinks and a patient called Clive, who was an artist picked up a piece of old slate. He started to scratch away through the layers of whitewash and produced what I could only say was the most beautiful angel in flowing wispy robes and large wings. I thought at the time that the whole wall should have been preserved and consider myself lucky to have seen it in all its glory.


My next patient memory is of Hugh Craven who did a few jobs round the farmhouse, one of which was feeding the hens. One day I was looking at my map of the world which was set up on the dining room wall when Hugh came in and asked what I was doing. I told him I had to write an essay for Geography on Manaus in the Amazon Jungle. He then said quietly, "I've been there". His story then unfolded: he told me he was a sailor and they would press gang all the way down the East coast of the USA and with a full crew complement would head for Manaus. He said they knew they had entered the River Amazon, even though the mouth is 150 miles across because you would have a very rapid colour change from sea green to muddy brown. He said that after travelling a few days up the river the captain would order that steam hoses be run out on deck; Hugh said they were used to repel native boarders. When they got to Manaus they loaded up with the hard woods, teak and mahogany and had to rerun the gauntlet.


Hugh was never mentally ill; he was on the receiving end of a detention sentence because the drunken brawl in Liverpool ended with his opponent falling and dying from a skull fracture. Hugh died an old man in Winwick.


Another patient who worked round the farmhouse was Billy Langridge. Like Hugh above Billy was caught out overnight when the workhouses came under the Mental Health Act and he became institutionalised. My brother-in-law Bernard Maguire had a little to do with Billy spending his last few years outside with his family in Liverpool.


My last person would have been known to lots of men as he was of small build, very bandy, wore a hair net and put lipstick and rouge on his face. I am of course writing about "Mary" the men's hairdresser who would give a very good cut for sixpence. Those were the days.



Voluntary Patients

The after-effects of the Second World War manifested itself later in that soldiers became mentally disturbed. Winwick Hospital opened Male 1 Down to allow for the treatment of these men. At this time I had passed my driving test and would take my father's car along to Ellison's garage on Manchester Road to have it serviced and get the rear springs oiled. It was fortuitous that my sister Rita was the garage secretary so I used to get spoilt something rotten with the mechanics. One of these mechanics was a Mr Price and he volunteered for treatment into Winwick. While he was in the hospital the American Burtonwood Airbase was still in full flow and nearly every day one would get a very fast low flying Sabre jet screaming past the hospital. While Mr Price was in Winwick he wrote an "ode" and asked my sister if she would type it up for him. It is a very moving poem and he brings in all the things that are happening around him and even brings in his garage work:



There's a beautiful building out of town

A kind of Butlins for those that's run down.

Some call it a mad house some call it a lodge

Some go there quite often when work they must dodge.

For treatment they came from out of the town

To a gentleman's club known as One Down.

When breakfast is over the polishing starts.

They came for a rest and its breaking their hearts.

The jumbo's they slide without pay or fee

But they soon get browned off and brew up the tea,

And into the easy's their bodies they ease

To dream of their dinner, black taters and peas.

There's dear Bert Galloway, head nurse in charge

Whose job is to see that none get at large.

Of neurotics in session we could write a book

Some of them present and some's took their hook.

The doctors are gentle and so very kind

Their jobs wrought with trouble whilst healing the mind.

There's sweet Dr Thorpe a picture indeed

Their minds like a garden she's trying to weed.

They rant and they rail on the grub that is served

And new patients there soon get unnerved.

The pills they all swallow with lightning speed

Often take six when one's all they need.

There's everything there from billiards to bowls

To fill up the time for the poor outcast souls.

Enter all ye and for ever remain

We might cure the body but doubtful the brain.

Some get shock treatment and some get injection

Part of a grand plan worked to perfection.

But from one big op you should refrain

It's called 'Leucot', they drill holes in your brain,

And stir the grey matter if any there be

Then wheel you back down and just wait and see.

To give you a life that's free from remorse

Or if it's a failure you'll perhaps be a horse

And start eating grass on the lawns that abound

And run round the building faster than sound.

Some it makes fat others it makes thin

Depends on the state your craniums in.

But if all your life your wife you would love

Refrain from that dread operation above

Because it's so chancy and so complex

There's always a chance it might change your sex.

Stick to the shocks whatever you do

And we'll make you a promise you'll never be blue

Perhaps a bit light headed and perhaps a bit funny

And just a faint chance you'll cry for a dummy.

Your battery's charged up you'll run on for years

Without recurring those terrible fears.

The pains the subconscious gave to your tummy

Have gone with the wind, your now in the money.

The black outlook, the trembling hand

Have vanished as if by fairy wand.

And when to civvy street your way you make

Don't start again that belly ache.

Be a man and face the issue

Let them see you've got the tissue.

Resolute and free from fear

You've passed the fog, you're in the clear.


How can one follow that?



Brian Stapleton


I hope they don't mind me quoting from their website but it did only have copyright stated from 2005 to 2009. Well worth a proper look though... fascinating.


Anyway in case everyone has now forgotten here's the direct link to their website again



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dizz, thanks for the information it's a very interesting site, my paternal grandfather was sectioned into there in 1924 and was never released, he was a railway engine driver and was seriously injured in an accident at Dallam locomotive sheds, after the accident he was unable to work and as in those days received no compensation, financial assistance or social help of any kind he sank into a serious state of depression, having four young children and one on the way and no way of supporting them he became violent and suicidal, granddad was taken into Winwick Hospital and three of the four children taken into Padgate Cottage homes (one being my father) where they remained until old enough to work, needless to say my grandmother lost the baby. I used to go every Saturday afternoon with my dad to see granddad (he was the only one who ever went to see him) and I remember him as a small, quiet inoffensive silver haired old man. Granddad passed away in 1968, with my dad and my wife being the only ones attending his funeral (I had just started a new job at Thames board Mills and they would not allow me time off), dad said that as the rest of his family never visited his dad they should not be informed that granddad had passed away, and that's the way it happened, they never found out until it was all over, just shows how much they cared it never even caused a ripple in our family. :(

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh Algy that's all really sad to read and I'm sorry if my post brought back some very sad memories for you.


A relative of mine was sanctioned there too which is probably why I found the website interesting as until finding it the other day I'd never know anything about the hospital really as I was only young at the time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No problem Dizz, I have known about it all my life so fairly hardened to it what does make me angry is granddad and his family were, as were many others was a victim of the times, if it had happened today they would have been looked after almost as well as all the scroungers and layabouts are looked after today. :wink:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 7 years later...
  • 1 year later...

The beautiful cricket pavilion was built in the wrong place, so a second less extravagant one was built. There were gazebos spread around the hospital. It was historically a requirement for nurses to be able to play a brass instrument. The band would play in a different gazebo every day. For the patients to hear the band playing, the wards would open the windows (restricted to 7“ to prevent patients escaping). The hospital was originally completely self sufficient, it had its own farm, cemetery, water supply, two churches. They even fired their own bricks on site to build the hospital. Planning permission for housing was granted on proviso that the water tower should remain because it was a landmark. Evidently the water tower has since been demolished. I worked there for a while in 83/84. The head gardener was seemingly ancient to me. He would show me all the secret things and tell me about when he was a boy and how he would sneak in on weekends to watch the cricket. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

I remember playing in the ball room when I used to run a mobile disco. It must have been one of those staff balls - I arrived and left in the dark, and the weather was cold - probably January 1980, I had a Leyland Sherpa then - remember them? That main room was like something you'd see in a film about the Russian aristocracy - absolutely, breathtakingly vast! The people at the other end looked like ants. Probably the biggest venue I'd played, except perhaps Southport Floral Hall.

On the stage, there were two full bands, my mobile disco gear - and there was plenty of room for all of us. No arguments about space. The stage itself was bigger than some of the actual VENUES I've played. The maple dance floor was a thing of beauty. Access, though, was a bit of a nightmare - via several locked doors, under constant supervision. Staff and ents. committee members were very welcoming, friendly and helpful, by way of recompense. They did provide me with a large trolley, onto which I could load half my gear at once.

Driving past the hospital a few years later, when it was being demolished, I caught the very strong, distinctive smell of burning maple, and felt a deep pang of sorrow and regret. What a waste!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 10 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...