Wednesday, 4 October 2017

The Books

Many books have been written about Asylums though to my knowledge only two about Fairmile. In this blog I will be reviewing three. The third one is called Life in the Victorian Asylum by Mark Stevens of the Berkshire Records Office, this was the first of the three to be published which I read. Mark has given some very interesting talks on the subject and they are well worth going to. His book Life in a Victorian Asylum tells you what life was like if you were a patient and in the first half of the book explains what life will be like and what you would expect. It's as if the Physician was talking to you. His tour round the building is just like being there in person but then from my point of view I could tell what ward or corridor he was taking you as I have walked the same places. In the second half he gives some detail on some of the patients who were there and tells you how Caring for the mentally disturbed had changed in the time Fairmile was open. The book was based on both Fairmile & Broadmoor the latter I might add I have never been to.  The book I found was amusing in places and gave a good insight as to life in the Asylum

The second Book called Fair Mile Hospital A Victorian Asylum is by Ian Wheeler and he gives you the history of Fair Mile form it's beginnings to when it closed in 2003. Tells of the changes to the place and the story from the people who ran it's point of view. It helped that Ian started out tracing his relatives who worked at the Asylum and it's backed up with may old photos of the people who worked there not to mention a good few form me in the form more modern ones.

The third book by Diana Macintyre DeLuca is about her Mother Mary Fairburn who worked at Fairmile from 1935 - 1939. Diana send me the first chapter which I read and I found I could walk around the place from memory. I started sending her some photos of the places mentioned and ended up reading the whole book before it was published.  The Fairmile part only covers a few chapters but is true to life and I ended up going to the next Hospital she was at to get a couple of photos of how that looked now.  In truth I found it a fascinating story of the Mary Fairburn's life from Fairmile to when she finished working at a Prison in Canada

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Fair Mile Revisited

I know my blog had been off line for a while now but my reason was I needed to update the whole thing a bit. I should have it back up again in the not too distant future but some exciting news.
Ian Wheeler is running another exhibition on the 21st & 22nd of October 2017 it will be a little bigger with more content

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The OT (Occupational Therapy)

Stands for Occupational Therapy and patients were given this to try to stimulate their minds. I have no doubt that working on the farm  was how the Victorians used to do this as back then the place was self supporting. In my parents time not only was there the farm but also a building where they used to do various crafts.

This is the only photo I have of the original building which is on the left, it was taken around 1951.The original building was demolished before the hospital closed and by then the OT had moved to a new purpose built place that my Father worked

 Some of the male patients in the OT, Hermitage ward and veranda can be seen off to the right

Group photo of the staff taken near the OT which would have been on the right . My Uncle Ken is in the photo

This all that was left of the place when I visited back in 2008, only thing you could see was the sink stand. The OT was in a building in the distance.

Which looked like this in 2008

Inside it was very grim with the roof leaking and water everywhere.

The partitions and work bench's in place

This was left hanging on the wall

A few items remained to show what had been done in the place and that it was once used.
The corridors were left dark foreboding  and dangerous, I was glad to get out

The OT taken in September 2012, I used this for a reference point in a few photo's

November the place still stood though things did not look good for the place

December and the place had gone, for some reason I missed this happening and all that was left was a big pile of rubble. The memory of the place and the people who worked there had gone but hopefully not forgotten.

a couple of weeks later and all was at a standstill

rubble from the building waiting to be recycled

Into the new year and the place was no used as storage for the recycled material a lot of which was used to build an access road

because the main one had been dug up for drainage work

this is how it stayed for all of 2011

though the access road had been reinstated

Looking down at the site from the roof in 2011

At some time the recycled material was removed

and some building work started with the footings  going in

With the winter weather the area turned in to a quagmire

but work went on

towards the end of 2012 building started to appear

and were the OT used to be a new one arose

The sign was not there but I still had a reference with the wall to go by

nearing the end of 2012 the buildings were finished

and it was not long before people moved in

Today it looks like this with a new community of people living and working on the site of the old OT building. 

 The new houseing on the last OT building

Monday, 14 December 2015

The Road Names

Even before development Fairmile had it's own network of roads for daily delivery's and movements round the hospital. Once the site developed they utilised the old roads and built the new ones. The roads and blocks of flat's needed names so in this blog I'm going to endeavour let you know the story behind the road name.
Map cropped from the CCDT website

This is the site of Fairmile as it is now, the shaded out area is the main building around which is the road network serviced.  The other shaded parts were the farm and gatehouse. The old roads were upgraded and used for the present roads and some new ones added.
 The building was split in two as far as patents were concerned so if you draw a line down the middle of the map the right hand side was Male and the Left Female. They were only known by their numbers.
I remember as a child my parents talking about the wards they worked on be it Female Ones or Male Eight. I knew this when I started recording the site the wards were referred to by their numbers and was presently surprised to find that the wards still had the numbers on under the hardboard covering which had been fitted on the doors  in the 1960's (Dad did the same at home). In 1959 the numbers changed to names and were named after villages & Towns which is how the names come about you see on the main building. With the exception of Ridgeway, Ipsden & Goring all the wards are named after Berkshire Villages though now after the boundary change in the 1970's many are Oxfordshire

We start at the place people first see. This was the old administration block I was surprised to find it was called Hermitage Court which was a male ward that is right on the other side of the block and called Ridgeway

The old entrance to the administration block and records office is now Hermitage

The blocks of flats in the main building are now named after the wards that were nearby, the entrance to the female airing courts  can be seen to the right of the building

Faringdon ward was the female ward  that used to be in that part of the building


Blewbury is where the ward it is called used to be

along with Frilsham, the small door you see to the right was an access door to the services in the base of the  tower

Ridgeway (the old Hermatage ward) is the odd one out. It's named after the long distance path that passes by the Fair Mile up on the downs nearby which is what the Hospital was named after, so now you know where the hospital got it's name

I will go on with the road names and start with Schuster Close

 This was the first of the development to be built and finished

Its was Named after this place

The George Shuster Ward which was built in the 1950's and named after Sir George Schuster

Heading down ferry lane you come to the old service road for Fairmile.  This view shows you looking towards Ferry lane from near the Kitchen entrance. This was one of  the next area to be worked

Where they removed the old social club and built new housing, the road became  Newlands Close. A little further along to the left is Villa Close this was one of the last areas built in this part of the development. The one thing they have in common is

Both are names for the same ward that was off to the side of the cricket pitch

Named for the architect who was behind the building of Fairmile

Named after William (Bill) Southby who was Clark off works for Fairmile


Named after Joan Woodward

She used to live with Albie Ruttle who's name you see here, the both worked in the Laundry which ironical used to be around this area and I note the roads are not far apart so even now they are still together

Albie & Joan

Rotherfield road takes it's name from the old building which used to be the isolation ward

This used to be the old farm entrance and the court is
named after Mary Ratcliffe who came as head nurse and finished as housekeeper which was equivalent to matron

 I should Mention Thames View. The small development  at the end of Rotherfield Way this was built on the edge of the old Rotherfield ward on the ground that was fenced off, could not say it's used though  there were what looked like chicken house on it. The development is nearest the Thames (about half a mile away) but I doubt you can see the Thames from them, I found it had on the roof of the main building, still they will have a view of the allotments when they are finished.

I've left this one till last one reason is there was no one at Fairmile with that name. It should read NICHOLLS Close but the South Oxfordshire District Council miss spelt it when the sent out the list Cholsey Parish Council who either never saw or noticed the mistake. End outcome is the people living there were not keen on changing everything because of the mistake (who can blame them) though I doubt the council would have worried about changing it if it was named after a famous person and they miss spelt it.
 So just to give some background to the name from what I can tell there were four Nicholls who worked at Fairmile. Moses Nicholls who as Clerk & Steward in the early 1900's Avery Nicholls who was Steward in around the 1930's and Dick & Mary Nicholls who worked there from around 1942 to 1978. There was a fifth for a short time. Dick had a sister called Lue who married Alfred Kennedy. Personally I like to think the close is named after Dick & Mary. I might add the close is where Dick used to work Rotherfield Ward.

Dick & Mary

Hope this gives you some insight into the story behind the name of the roads and flats. All Black & White photos come from the Forgotten Faces Collection and are copyright 
This blog may well be updated when I find out new information.