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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Dovenby hospital memories form basis of new book

Former nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, voluntary workers and patients were reunited at the launch of a book about the former Dovenby Hall Hospital near Cockermouth.

Around 50 people were at the launch of Dovenby Days, which looks at the history of the hospital which was for people with learning disabilities.

The Whitehaven Hospital Research Group, a group of retired general nurses, started researching material for the book about three years ago with the help of former Dovenby nurses Joan Warwick and Edyth Stephenson,

The book features photographs taken at the hospital by staff and patients.

In its heyday the hospital, which was open from 1931 to 1996, had 400 residents and employed more than 400 members of staff.

Johnny Sealby, 89, of Challoner Street, Cockermouth, who was a physiotherapist there for 12 years, said: “I have very pleasant memories of working here.

“I remember when I first started, Dr Tom Ferguson took me onto the wards and one of the wards smelt rather like a latrine and that’s not a criticism. He said to me ‘if you can stand this for a fortnight then you’re here for life’ and I was. That was just the beginning.

“You might wonder why a physiotherapist was needed there but a lot of the patients had physical disabilities.”

Mr Sealby, who trained at the Royal National Institute for the Blind in London, added: “I was sad when the hospital closed, as it was the wrong thing to do.

“It was a safe place for the residents and they weren’t just stuck inside. They had regular exercise, would be taken out into the community and some would even go on holidays abroad.”

Lilian Lister, 94, of Holmewood Residential Care Home in Cockermouth, was one of the first nurses to work at the hospital from 1939 to 1952.

Mrs Lister said: “We had some great times at Dovenby Hall and have so many memories. There are only about three of us left who were the first nurses there as the others have sadly passed away.”

Maureen Fisher, group leader for the research group, said: “Anyone interested in local history knows that it’s important to record reminiscences and information about our communities before that knowledge is lost and forgotten.

“We didn’t do it to be judgemental about how people with learning disabilities were cared for in the past. The contributions tell the story, warts and all.”

Also at the event, held at Dovenby Hall now the home of rally business M-Sport, were Mayor of Allerdale Carole Armstrong and her consort Glynnis Ackerley and businessman Malcolm Wilson, who owns the present Dovenby Hall site, and his mother Pearl Wilson.

The Times & Star Charitable Trust donated £500 towards the cost of the book.

The group has made 1,000 copies to be sold at The New Bookshop in Cockermouth and libraries in Workington, Seaton and Maryport.

Have your say

I trained at Dovenby Hall under the guidance of Joan Warwick and it was great to read this article on line as I am now a Senior Manager in the Health service. It brought back fond memories of days gone by and Mrs Warwick was an excellent mentor and leader of nurses

Posted by Tracey Peters (nee Chapman) on 20 March 2013 at 20:59

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