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John Kinnersley Kirby
Bps Stortford 1939-45
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Clipped Hedge Turkey Farm was at the end of Beldams Lane and was constructed at the end of the 1950’s next to the Trigg’s house (The Keepers). In fact the land for the farm was rented from the Triggs. This land is now built upon and now called Beldams Gate. The farm was very much tucked out of sight so very few people knew it was there.

Anyway, when I was thirteen I was walking by the Turkey Farm in Bishop’s Stortford and Gilbert Hutchin was locking the huge gates at the entrance to the farm. He asked me if I would like a Saturday job on the farm. I thought what a great relief from homework and accepted the princely sum of 35 shillings a week, which was good money.

So the next Saturday I arrived at 8 o’clock in the morning. Gibert had parked his VW van in the yard and was in one of the sheds smoking his pipe. He showed me round the farm first of all. There were hundreds of turkeys. He explained that this was the breeding farm and the main farm called Clipped Hedge was on Hatfield Heath. Later Gilbert had to pop into town for something and left me alone to deliver food and grit to the turkeys. I thought it funny that turkeys actually eat stones to aid their digestion. I heard a car pull into the yard. A gentleman got out and introduced himself as John Goddard who was the owner. A few minutes later Gilbert returned and we all went into a Nissan Hut for a cup of tea. I looked around for an electric kettle – there wasn’t one. Gilbert proceeded to light a brazier, placed two iron bars on it and a blackened kettle on the top. The flames leapt up to the hut’s ceiling and all our faces were aglow. The heat drove me back somewhat. Finally we got our tea served in large tin mugs. I can truthfully say that was the best cup of tea I have ever had.

The job consisted of feeding the turkeys by filling up their hoppers with Spillers pellets and then distributing grit. This was followed by going round each shed and opening the shutters. The turkeys were so happy to run around free outside in their pens. They were clucking and gobbling – they were so excited. The next job was going round the nest boxes and collecting the eggs which would be used for incubation at the Heath. Occasionally new sheds had to be erected due to expansion and some of the workers from the Heath would come down to help. I can name most of the workers: Other than Carmen who lived in Spellbrook, they all lived on the Heath.

Michael (Charlie) Bird, Gilbert Hutchin, Malcomb Jackson, Carmen (exItalian prisoner of war – on the Heath), Jack Gunn, Lou Armatage, Ernie Barker, John Goddard (owner), Ken Crow, David Mernane, David Smith, Roger Pearmain and Jeff Smith who was foreman of the farm on the Heath.

When I left school, I joined the farm full time for around 4 years. In that time I learnt many skills: Husbandry, carpentry, plumbing, killing and trussing, artificial insemination, driving tractors and lorries – I passed my driving test at 17 and soon after was driving a large lorry taking dead turkeys to Smithfield Market in London. I left the farm to study accounting and since then have been working in banking for over 40 years – now I’m looking to retire. But, I will never forget the great fun of working on a turkey farm and knowing all the great characters that worked there and the stories they toldof life in the trenches during the First World War.

Bob Johnstone-Ayliffe

Contributed August 2012

I am at that age when it is pleasant to wander down memory lane and I discovered your wonderful site.

I graduated from Hockerill Teachers Training College in 1965, and moved to Canada in 1969 where I have been living since. In 2009 I made a trip back to Bishop’s Stortford and was allowed to briefly visit the "old" college now a school. It has changed a lot, but it was wonderful to see the quad and the old chapel where I served as Deputy Head Sacristan while studying Divinity, and attempted to play the organ while taking music lessons.

During my student days I stayed in a house on Dunmow Road (couldn’t recall the house number) with the lovely Orsman family. Some names of former students and friends came back to me, so if a Mary Owen or Valerie Patterson are ever visiting this site. I’d love them to contact me…and anyone else who has connections with the college from those days.

Lesley Tarrant Belcourt

Contact: herbel-h@agt.net

Contributed August 2011

The following memories are thanks to Norma Clare (nee Tuck) who was born and brought up in Dimsdale Crescent. She has also supplied two photographs of the crescent, taken in 1955. Norma hasn’t lived in Stortford since 1968 but still has fond memories of her home town.

My parents and my brother, who was 2 at the time, moved into number 7 Dimsdale Crescent in January 1939. I was told that the roof was not quite finished when they moved in. I was born in that house in June 1939. Dimsdale Crescent was all of the curved bit, the top part of which was in Essex, and was where prefabs were built after the war. A gravel path separated the prefabs from the brick houses that were on our side of the path in Dimsdale and in Beldams Lane.

When the prefabs were erected it was supposed to be for a period of ten years as emergency housing, but they just didn’t get knocked down when they should have done. All prefabs were well designed and made good use of every space, but the walls were thin. I remember there were also some prefabs in the Firlands area.

Dimsdale Crescent was away from the main part of the town in those days and everyone knew everyone else. Some people had their ‘jobs’ within that community. For instance my mother did dressmaking so people came to her with alterations and curtain making. Because she made our clothes, she was able to trade in her coupons with other people in exchange for food coupons.

One lady worked at the telephone exchange and was the first person to have a phone in her house, so everyone went to use her phone before the phone box was installed near to number 1 Dimsdale Crescent. But the person who laid out the dead was called May Green. I remember hearing my parents say ‘poor old Mr So and So must have died. May Green has just come out of their house’. Now as a child it was easy to think Mrs Green had something to do with the death rather than the aftermath! I remember thinking I didn’t want her to come to my house.

The first TV was bought by a couple who lived in one of the prefabs. They had no family and they didn’t really mix with anyone and yet they allowed a group of us kids to go into their house on Sunday evenings to watch ‘What’s my Line’. Most people bought their own TVs in time to watch either the King’s funeral or the Coronation.

Because of the county boundary running through the estate, we had the problem of roadsweepers from Herts lifting their brushes when they got to the edge of their boundary and likewise the Essex crew would stop at the edge of theirs. Ambulances were known to arrive from both counties and the ‘wrong’ one drive straight past if it wasn’t theirs.

For the Queen’s coronation in 1953 school children were given a commemorative book. The children who lived in the prefabs at the top of the road had to get their books from Hallingbury because they were in Essex. The books were identical to ours.

A row of tall poplar trees ran behind the gardens of our part of Dimsdale Crescent, separating us from Hockerill Cricket club ground. My dad had played for Hockerill occasionally but more often he was an umpire. The ground had a pavilion at the top end and originally it had had four tennis courts, two to the left and two to the right of the pavilion. But only the one nearest to the left of the pavilion was maintained and used for tennis.

In 1951 my brother and I wanted to learn to play tennis so we asked if we could join the club. My dad said he would pay the fee. The members said we couldn’t join and we should go and play on one of the other courts. Dad pointed out that the grass was waist high on all the other courts, so they said he could cut it if he liked! So, My Dad and my brother set to and cut the grass and rolled it and cut it again and rolled it night after night until dad was satisfied it was perfect. Then he marked out the court and put up the net. Fearing we might be told we didn’t have the right clothes, we made sure we had our ‘whites’. We even had our photos taken on the court dressed for playing. But then we were told that ‘our’ court was better than theirs and they were going to take it over. We still were not allowed to join.

Of the pictures (below), the one on the left is taken from the front bedroom window of No 7 showing No 4 where Mr Aldridge lived, and No 2 where the Smith family lived. Also shown is the side of No 9 Beldams Lane where the Whiffen family lived. The Everitt’s lived at number 11.

The other photo was taken from the landing window and shows Nos 29 to 35, I believe. You can also see the side of No 20, home of one of the Barker families.

Norma Clare – contributed April 2008

Three of the photos below were taken in the Heath Row area when it was very new and everything was covered in snow. Also a photo looking over the back of the houses towards the "swamp" as we used to call it. The swamp was a wild sort of  area in the centre of the crescent formed by Heath Row, which later had houses built on it.  As kids we would play over near the swampy pond, and collect tadpoles, frogs, newts etc and pick hazelnuts which we cracked open with our teeth.

Sonja Martell (nee Pitt), New Zealand

Herts & Essex Hospital

David and Mary Handscomb, now living in Australia, both did their General Nurse training at Herts & Essex General Hospital from 7 January 1957 to February 1960. David’s vivid memories of the time he spent there give a good insight into what the hospital was like in those far off days.

Thanks for the stortfordhistory.co.uk website. I found the information about the Workhouse of particular interest. However it was a bit confusing to read of both it and the later prefabricated huts which comprised the post-NHS Haymeads Hospital referred to by the same name!

The photograph on the website of the entrance to Herts & Essex Hospital was obviously taken after my time spent there as it shows a sign for the Eye Dept. There was no Eye Department in 1960, although the visiting Ophthalmologist (Eye specialist) at that time was a Mr May. He attended in the Outpatient Clinic, which was in the red brick building to the left of the huts shown in the picture. Although we learnt about the care of such patients, all except minor cases were referred to Hertford County Hospital.

Nor were there bushes along the boundary wall or in the centre of the roadway in 1960, although there was a raised centre. In fact there was a continuous wall, about 6ft high, which hid all but the roofs of the huts. On the other side of the entrance another prefabricated hut was home to the Wages & Salary Dept, as well as the hospital telephone exchange. In those days it was the old ‘plug in’ type switchboard, manned 24 hours a day by four male operators in three eight-hour shifts.

The entrance to the long corridor connecting the wards was past the 3rd hut, turning left. Turning either left or right took you to the main hospital. Going straight across the corridor, you followed a path past theatre to the X-Ray Dept, which at that time was located behind the theatre. In the time that both my wife and I were at the hospital, there were no interconnections between wards – each was a separate unit. I used to think it must have been a genius who named the wards originally. Turning left at the entrance, one reached the end or beginning of the corridor – the end abutting onto Haymeads Lane. An about-turn had you facing up the corridor toward the door at the end, which lead to the garden about one third of a mile away – the province of the Head Gardener (Mr Cawston I think) and his staff.

On your Right (where the Eye Casualty was later) was A1 and, on the left, A2. In 1955 they were Male TB wards – 30 patients in each, 60 in all. Next was B1 (Female TB – 30 patients) and B2 (Male Surgical). C1 was vacant. C2 was another Male ward – Orthopaedic Surgery & Accident Ward. What would have been D Ward was the operating theatre, and behind was X-Ray. Two wards on the left were E & F (Female Surgery & Gynae), opposite which was the Linen room from where clean ward linen and staff uniforms were issued. On the left, the male medical ward was G ward and opposite this was the administrative offices (Matron & her assistants).

In an interview with Nancy Poole (13.1.1988), a copy of which was sent to me by Wally Wright, she records that:

Miss Harris (as she was then – now Mrs. Gilbert) was Matron of the hospital from 1954 until her retirement in 1970, aged 60′. The title ‘Matron’ was discontinued at that time.

In our day it was The Admin (Administration) Office. There was no Unit Management (that would have come AFTER discontinuation of the term ‘Matron’).

There was no Day Hospital up to 1960. The wards then were arranged ‘St Albans’ to ‘Winchester’. The Workhouse had not been given names at that time.

Next to G Ward was the nurses’ dining room, through which the Sisters had to pass to get to their own dining room. In those days, all students ‘lived in.’ Opposite that was the main kitchen, the other side of which was the hospital shop. Opposite this was the dining room for non-resident staff. Next (on the Left) was Physiotherapy & Occupational Therapy depts, and then the male Geriatric – Ward Q2. Next to the shop was pharmacy and next to that, the storerooms. There were 2 female geriatric wards – O1 and Q1. On that same side was the childrens ward, R1.

This was the limit of patient accommodation on the corridor, but there were two more buildings – a prefabricated hut S2 which served as sleeping accommodation for female nurses on night duty and, opposite, a wooden hut, S1 used to house various male staff. Another two-storey building housed patients. Barnard Ward (female medical) was on the ground floor, while above was maternity (later the Psychiatric Unit).

The Outpatient dept was on the ground floor of the red brick building, which also served as the Porters Lodge. The upper floor was accommodation for male nursing staff, known as A17. ‘Outpatients’ was later extended and connected to the main building by a short corridor from which the Casualty Treatment room and minor operating theatre were entered. When I paid my only return visit in 1988, this and the theatre in ‘D’ had been divided into four smaller theatres.

Originally, Outpatients included various offices, including that of Miss Nichols (the Lady Almoner) – they now call themselves Social Workers. The door of her office carried the name ‘Lady Almoner’. A colleague once told me she came to the (female) ward with a letter from a former patient. ‘Look at this’ she said. The letter expressed the patient’s thanks, and an invitation to tea. ‘And please bring Lord Almoner with you.’

The Pathology Dept was originally housed on the 3rd floor of Essex House (even in 1960 they were ‘E’ Block & ‘F’ block). The 2nd floor of ‘E’ Block was later (1959) to house male students, and I believe female assistant nurses had been located in ‘F’ Block for some time previously. Later that year (no doubt due mainly to the efforts of the new Matron Miss M.W. Harris), that the name was changed to THE HERTS & ESSEX GENERAL HOSPITAL – a move seen to reflect both the areas from which patients were admitted, and the type of patients cared for. To my recollection that was in mid-1955, and it wasn’t long after that wards were given the names of a Cathedral cities.

A1 became St Albans Ward, and A2 Canterbury

B1 became Carlisle Ward, B2 Chester

C1 was empty (although the far end had been used by Dr Samson for his Gynae Out Patient Clinic) and C2 was Chelmsford Ward

E became Ely Ward, while F was named Exeter

G was renamed Gloucester Ward

What was then an empty ward was named Lincoln Ward, as I recall..

Q2 became Salisbury Ward, while O1 & Q1 became Oxford & Peterborough respectively.

The childrens ward became Winchester Ward.

The Lodge was occupied by Mr & Mrs Healey and their son and daughter, and Warwick House was a prefabricated hut (similar to the wards in construction), which was the Doctors’ residence – referred to as ‘The Dream House’. The only other building I recall between there and Rutherford House was, I believe, originally the Childrens Isolation ward. During ‘my’ time it was the main classroom, used for the PTS (Preliminary Training School). Off of the female medical ward (Barnard), there was a class room and another large room where we practised bedmaking, bandaging, setting up trays and trolleys etc during our first 13 weeks – before we went to the wards!

Rutherford House was used as accommodation for Sisters & Staff Nurses, although a house was later bought in nearby Pine Grove for the Sisters. During our off duty time there was a sitting room with a TV where we watched gems like: I love Lucy, Wagon Train, Car 54 Where Are You?, and of course, EMERGENCY WARD 10, with June Barry, Bud Tingwell & Ray Barrett.

Harris House was known as ‘The Annexe’, accommodation for student nurses. There was no Haymeads House at that time. Where there is now a car park was once two tennis courts, which gave a lot of pleasure to both staff (playing) and patients (watching).

When I returned in 1988, the teaching classroom was on the ground floor of what used to be the dining room of the ‘Part 3 Accommodation’ as the former Workhouse was known then. In 1955 there were still some people living in the accommodation – the upper floor being their dormitory – but they soon went elsewhere (destination unknown). By 1988 the Training School was part of Princess Margaret hospital. I was shown around by a Unit Officer and when I showed her my hospital badge (given when we qualified) she said she didn’t know the Herts & Essex hospital was once a training school in its own right.

I was delighted to see reference on the web site to Brother Xavier. I remember him well.

He had terminal cancer, and in his last days was a patient on Chester Ward. When he discovered my name was HANDSCOMB he enquired if Sid Handscomb was my father, as he remembered teaching him English at school in 1913. My Grandfather Thomas (whom I never met – he died 2 years before I was born) was a Catholic, so all the children went to the Catholic school. Sid Handscomb was my father’s brother – my uncle. My father was Jack Handscomb – the family moved to HISTON (just outside Cambridge) – back to my Grandmother’s parents house, so that she could look after her sick mother. Dad had another brother, Philip Percy, and a sister Phyllis, known as Sissy.

But back to the ‘Brother Xavier’ story.

I and another student nurse were giving him a ‘blanket bath’ one day, talking as usual. I rolled him towards me so that nurse could wash his back, and within minutes he gave a gasp and died in my arms. There was nothing I could do – no CPR in those days. And anyway, why even try when he was so sick anyway. In those cases I truly think it’s the Almighty’s will, and who are we to try to reverse his decision? But that’s a debatable question I suppose!

Being only 16, and not being allowed to start General Training until I had passed 18, I was a Nursing Cadet for the first two years, working in the various departments of the hospital. I started at what was then Haymeads Hospital on January 1st 1955 (A Saturday as I recall) and was allocated to Pharmacy. I worked from 8 to 12.30, and was then ‘off duty’ until Monday morning.

My accommodation: For almost a year I had a room on the 3rd floor of the old workhouse building – facing the original entrance. There were/are 5 windows across the front. On the far right was the sitting room with one window facing Haymeads Lane. The next three rooms were occupied by an Irish Orderly named Eddie Cogan; myself; and another male cadet, Albert Smith. For a short time I had to move to the wooden hut known as S1, before another move took me to the upper floor of the brick building known as A17. During the day it got rather noisy, with the traffic coming to and from the hospital – bit of a nuisance when I was on night duty.

David Handscomb, Perth, Australia

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