Rendlesham ward (M10), early 1890s.

“In the morning they’d all get up and obviously with one pair of hands it was bedlam really because you’d have people just grabbing clothes…” (Yvonne Hines, former nurse at St Audry’s)

George Simmons, a former charge nurse, recalls that the day at St Audry’s started early at 7am and that most patients went to bed by 9pm.  People spent the day mostly out of the ward, for example working in the gardens, on the farm or doing various jobs and attending classes.  He recalls that: “Patients were nearly always dressed as early as possible but anyone with any pretence of running away, causing trouble, being dangerous etc… were kept obviously in pyjamas and dressing gowns.”  He also remembers that wards were sometimes overcrowded and that there were upwards of one hundred patients in them at times.  Indeed, nearly 100 years before, Doctor Kirkman reported that buildings were ‘overcrowded’ (1876) and that ‘insanitary conditions continue.’(1893).

Despite this staff really tried to make the place homely.  Helen Armstrong, a former social worker, remembers that “flowers were brought to the doctors’ offices and to the wards.”  The doctors’ offices were “all rather lush” but as one headed towards the back of the hospital it “got a little bit more basic.”  Apparently before phones were available in the wards, staff would tap on the water pipes to communicate – presumably using some form of morse code!