There were only two children's wards at the Royal Hospital, so they came to convalesce at The Beeches after their treatment.

I worked at The Beeches from March to August 1966 before starting my nurse training proper. At that time the dual carriageway had not been built so the front garden was much larger. It had a stone wall at the front, a lovely sweeping drive, and a lot of trees.

On the ground floor was the main ward and dining room, a very wide room for children and toddlers up to about 9 to ten years old. There were about 20 beds, spread along the two end walls, and a low table in the middle where the children could sit at meal times. Inside the large bay window on the left-hand side of the house was the nursery for small babies. We just had to feed them. Above was the orthopaedic ward with six beds and a balcony where they could sit on a nice day.

The Beeches as it is today.

The Lounge in 1937. Courtesy of Neil Fox.

There were nursery nurses, staff nurses and the matron Miss Hill, who lived in the old servants' rooms at the top of the house. They were small rooms, just big enough for a bed and a chest of drawers.

Below the house was a huge cellar with washing lines, where the washing was hung to dry on rainy days. We had a morning room at the back of the house which we used for our break, where we had slice after slice of wonderful bread and dripping sandwiches.
The gardens were lovely. They were terraced with lawns, trees, and a few large shrubs. To the left was a walkway where we took the old fashioned 'Silver Cross' prams, and walked around the grounds.

The matron, Miss Hill, had two retriever dogs which followed her everywhere. She was a strict, old-fashioned matron who carried-out spot checks to make sure everyone was working. She didn't say a lot, but didn't have to.

We helped with getting the children up in the morning, and things like that. Some mornings we had to do the washing in the scullery at the back of the house. It had a big stone sink, old mangles, everything was done by hand. We filled the sink with hot water and used the hospital's supply of soap flakes. On nice days we hung the washing out to dry in the lovely garden, but on wet days we had to go down into the cellar and hang it there.

There was also a kitchen at the back of the house where we made the children's tea. Usually consisting of a
sandwich and Instant Whip. We were kept busy, there was always plenty to do.

Nurses, staff and children from an earlier generation at St. Catherine’s Convalescent Home, which moved to The Beeches in 1935. From an old postcard.

Behind 'The Beeches' was this lovely house called 'The Laurels'. It was acquired by the hospital and became the women's convalescent home. At various times it was known as 'The Poplars', and 'The Old House'. Courtesy of Maureen Hunt.

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