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St Margarets Hospital - Great Barr

Nicholas

master brummie
I'm currently looking to make contact with anyone who has first-hand experience of the former St Margarets Mental Hospital in Great Barr, either ex-staff members or patients.

Predictable as ever, my interest in the site does involve a 'paranormal' related angle - so I just thought I might mention this prior to anyone possibly making contact with me over this matter.

As always, if you do not want to reply on the open forum, please PM or e-mail me on [email protected]

Thanks,

Nick
www.westmidlandsghostclub.com
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Nicholas

master brummie
With regards to this post being edited on the ground of containing an 'inappropriate reference to St Margarets and patients', I should like to stress that the wording used by myself was certainly not intended to be offensive and / or derogatory to anyone.

While I will not use the full title of the site again - for fear of causing more offence - could I just point out that the wording used was the official, recognised name of the Hospital concerned as denoted (I believe) by the Walsall and West Bromwich Board of Guardians in the early 20th cent. While clearly 'un-P.C.' by todays climate, the reference was made from a historically accurate reference point and certainly not in an endeavour to be indelicate in any way. While a wholly unacceptable reference by modern standards, our history is littered with such titles / terminology and - unfortunate as they might be - should obviously be viewed as part and parcel of our heritage.

For any offence / concern caused, I apologise....... but the offending phrase was an official title and certainly not of my invention.

I am currently working in conjunction with some ex-staff members of the site and, as mentioned above, would like to hear from anyone who has first-hand experience of the site in question.

My thanks....

Nick
www.westmidlandsghostclub.com
 
W

Wendy

Guest
Nick we fully understand sometimes when referring to historical sites especially Asylums etc the wording can be a bit of a suprise. I think it was just a shock as it was put in the title of a thread. This site is used by schools of all ethnicity so we do try and keep an eye on posts that may offend. I understand you mean't no offence. I hope you didn't think we were being heavy handed but we have to keep a balance when some get upset by posts. I tend to use brackets or simmilar to make it not look to offencive when dealing with historic text. Keep posting Nick!:)
 

Nicholas

master brummie
Thank you very much Wendy.....

I thought I had better explain myself fully to the forum, as my use of the term had evidently caused concern in some quarters and the reason for the post being edited, i.e. 'Inappropriate reference to St Margarets and patients' fell a little short of explaining the situation fully and could have been misinterpreted.

Ironically, given a considerable history of 'mental illness' in my family - past and present - I should have been perhaps feeling a little 'delicate' about such terminology myself!? Many past relations have ended their lives in such places as St Margarets, unfortunately.

I notice that the words 'Lunatic Asylum' appear on the forum numerous times in reference to such places..... Needless to say, we wouldn't even consider using the term 'lunatic' in conjunction with mentally ill people these days, but, in a historical context - as an accepted, past title of such establishments - we do (should) not even pay such terminology any heed......

Best wishes,

Nick
www.westmidlandsghostclub.com
 

KEVIN GS

Brummie babby
Dear Nick
I was in contact with you quite a few moons ago about when I worked at St Margarets Hospital over a period of six to eight months during the years 1972/73 and still have vivid memories of my time there.
It is one place that I would not like to live, having seen and heard some of the sadness that accured on that site.
I would not admit to believing in the paranormal prior to working there as a porter but events rocked my opinion.
yours KEVIN GS
 

JohnO

master brummie
This is an interesting point Wendy .....when researching such as 'workhouse' admissions-lists, I've often come across the use of ''imbecile, moron, witless'' etc. I believe it behoves us to be accurate; but as you say, to acknowledge any quotes clearly, with quotation marks. Such usage, are facts of history, and I doubt the worth of denying them .... if we deny the language of a period, we deny much of our understanding. For instance, in recent years there has been such 'tinkering' with the teaching of history, because of prevailing attitudes, that preclude the teaching of certain topics...ie. Sir Francis Drake seems now to have lost his 'hero' status because of his occasional involvement in the 'slave trade' .... in my opinion, it is important to acknowledge this, but not to eradicate him from the School Curriculum; or to allow one particular aspect, to out-weigh all others.

I admit that this is a particular bug-bear of mine, as it often seems as if we sometimes re-write history to suit some other purpose, other than truth. A reverse example being: I can remember, as a child, that Australians were VERY touchy indeed, about aspects of their past. Whereas now, if you haven't a 'convict' in your family history, you're a nobody! :)
 

mikejee

Super Moderator
Staff member
At the time the records you were researching were written the terms idiot, moron, imbecile had a definite technical meaning, so there is no reason not to use them, as long as they are used properly . Moron was a mental age in adulthood of between 8 and 12 on the Binet scale.[5] It was once applied to people with an IQ of 51-70, being superior in one degree to "imbecile" (IQ of 26-50) and superior in two degrees to "idiot" (IQ of 0-25). (courtesy of wikipedia). Just because a term is used as abuse, that does not mean it should not be used in the right context. "Thatcherite" is a perfectly accurate term, even if it is often used to describe a particularly obnoxious type of attitude.
mike
 

JohnO

master brummie
Mike, that was very interesting, thank you!

Now I can justifiably tell my better-half that I'm not so much an ''idiot'' but more of a 'moron' :D
 

KEVIN GS

Brummie babby
Hi there friends
This will be my second attenpt to type this, hope this one does not vanish from my screen before I finish.
As I mentioned I worked as a porter at St Margarets Hospital during 1972/3 and even though I did not look forward to working there having lost my driving licence (pride you know-- and only 22 years old) in retrospect I am very glad I did .I do hope I am not going to bore the pants of you so here goes.

I was based in the main kiitchen and duties included delivering food in heated containers to the various homes, both male and female for breakfast, dinner & tea with reverse trips to collect empties a hour or so later, helping out in the kitchen, deliveries to the Hall, trips to Sister Doras in walsall and much more.
The food the patients recieved was first class, better than I was getting at home in some cases.
Very clean and the staff in most cases were priceless .

My first day included an induction talk with a short history about the Scott family and the development of the site as a hospitel etc along with a few sheets of A4 with more details typed. How I wish I still had it.
One thing I do remember is mention of the sign outside the Scott arms Public House being a bloodied hand and this relating to one of the Scott family being naughty with one of the female staff .

1st day on duty, the head porter Fred who was showing me and a few others the ropes and took us to if I remember right either ward 17 or 47 which was a isolation ward for violent or very sad cases and he warned me prior to entering the ward that if I was upset with what I might see to just walk back out.
he would understand. We entered and after a few moments I saw his concern.
A baby about one year old, normal in body but with a head at least 18 inches across was lying on a cushion and the staff had to pick the poor mite up by its head for fear of snapping its neck if using the usual method . As a know it all 22 year old at the time this made me realise that however bad you think it is , or how unfair the world is to you someone else has it far worse. (The poor parents who I later observed were devoted to that child and visited every saturday and made an attracive couple)

The patients were allowed 50 pence spending money a week for sweets etc and this could be spent at the tuck shop on Saturdays if I remember correctly. We all know that for all the good people in the world there is always a complete B-S-A-D and this one was a male nurse who was changing the patients 50 pence coins for a few coppers and the patients not being up to speed thought they were getting a good deal as 10p in pennies looks more if you cannot add up. He apparently got away with it for some time, but I think the long arm of the law called.

Anyway hope you are not bored and will let know more soon
Here ends part 1
Good health to you all Kevin
 
W

Wendy

Guest
Thank you Kevin for the very interesting account of your time at St Margaret's. I was always a bit scarred of the place as a child in the early 60's. I think that was because my Victorian grandmother lived on the Queslett Road in the houses who's gardens backed onto the grounds. I think she told us it was dangerous because of the inmates and didn't want us playing in the grounds.
 

pollypops

master brummie
Kevin,
I enjoyed reading your memories and look forward to hearing more.. It must be reassuring to people who had family there to know that most of the staff were nice to the patients.
Polly
 

Shortie

master brummie
Nick, there was even a Cripples' Hospital at one time, that's another term that no-one would use these days - a ghastly title, but normal for the time.

What we also should remember is that these 'Lunatic' hospitals often did more than just look after those mentally ill, or whose family claimed they were mentally ill (I have one of those in my family). Rubery Hill Asylum took in people from a large catchment area who were chronically ill. My gt gt grandmother had a severe heart problem, probably caused by her having Rheumatic Fever as a child. She died at Rubery, but nothing wrong with her mentally. One of her sons, too, had TB, and he was at Rubery also. I am assuming that all mental hospitals operated in similar ways, I have been lead to believe they did.

Shortie
 

KEVIN GS

Brummie babby
Hello again all and thank you Wendy for your comments

Now I wonder if anybody can help me with a problem that has driven me crazy since the seventies relating to what I was told by various members of staff at St Margarets and it involves murder.

Apparently some of the patients (depending on mental & physical state of course)were allowed out daily to help in the community and the one patient had been doing gardening work for a lady on Queslett Road (near the main entrance I was told)for a considerable time and apparently she must of said something to him that tipped the scales and he took her head of with an axe and hid the body in a shed, Honestly this is what I was told.
At various times over the past ten years of using the internet I have a little lazily tried to find out more informationwith no result.
My local watering hole is a Working Mans Club close to the Old Horns and over the past twenty years of being a member have brought the subject up with no real result, until a few months ago when discusing it again a friend piped up No thats a load of rubbish Ive lived around here for 40 years and never heard of that when from behind him another club member said yes Kevin it is true but you have got one fact wrong ,he did it with a shovel.
Since then I have cornered him a few times and he is addament that it is true and he remembers that they closed one of the local schools and closed part of Queslett Road while investigations were going on .
He thinks it was around the early to midd sixties and remembers having trouble getting home from junior school that day.
Now I suddenly find that various people who I have known are aware of the event (the answer usualy is next to you)and swear that it happened although dates are hard to pin down.

I wonder if any of you esteemed persons know anything of this , true or a wind up,but knowing my friends I dont think so

Many thanks to you all
Kevin
PS now have I told you about the ghosts at St Margarets ???
 

Dave M

Pheasey Born Bumper
Kevin yes it is true, might be in the late 50s, the house one of the large ones, not far from the main gate, on the left heading towards the Scott Arms
Dave
 
W

Wendy

Guest
I now wonder if this is why my grandmother scared us stiff about St Margaret's. It would have been around that time. I would think there would be newspaper articles about the event.
 

Dave M

Pheasey Born Bumper
Was a place to watch out for, used to play on the fields up to the fence on the Pheasey side, no houses then, but now, it`s a nice walk around the lakes, and past what`s left of the Great Barr Hall Dave
 

Shortie

master brummie
I had never heard of this, but if the late 50's was correct, I was living in South Yardley at the time, and then I went away to school for two years, so that might explain me not hearing about it. What I would suggest is that you find out from Central Library, they have all the newspapers on film, and they may even know about it themselves. Do let us know.

Shortie
 

JohnO

master brummie
I too vaguely recall something quite terrifying happening in the sixties; but no details....memory like the proverbial sieve these days.

However, the hospital was regarded as being a frightening place before then. Two of my cousins lived quite near to the hospital and were occasionally terrified by the 'howling' they heard at night, born on the wind. Although I never disbelieved them, I had no idea, until I heard it for myself, just how frightening it was! The memory has haunted me ever since.....it is for me, the very epitome of a night-mare/horror-story. This would be around 1957-ish etc. I had spent the evening at my cousin's house; and was put to bed there for part of the evening, whilst our parents went to a 'do' at the Golf Club....they returned late, and I was bundled into the car whilst still half asleep, and was still semi-comatose as we were passing the drive-way to the hospital....but I soon woke-up!


For some reason, possibly road-works (?) we had to stop for a minute. Again, it was quite a windy night, and each time the wind gusted, there came the most spine-chilling wailing sound ...and amidst the howling, shouts, shrieks and wild laughter! It would rise and fade with the wind; and I don't mind admiting it, it put the fear of God into me! As we drove-off, I could tell that my father was purposely avoiding making any mention (my mother, being deaf, probably hadn't been aware of the noise) .... he couldn't NOT have heard it, so why didn't he say something??? This frightened me even more! I asked him what it had been, and at first he attempted to brush it off as unimportant, but then realised it just wouldn't do; so he explained about the ''poor souls'' who lived there, and that often they couldn't sleep when it was windy, and grew excited and made a noise. He said it was all perfectly normal, and nothing to worry about.....well, it didn't seem very 'normal' to me, and it DID worry me! Besides, I had seen my father's reaction when he heard the howling - he'd been 'spooked' too!

Up to that point I'd always loved the sound of the wind; my mother had told me never to be frightened by the howling of the wind during the night; as it was just ''God combing the loose twigs and branches from the trees''.....but following from that night, it was several years before I could relax, without fearing to hear those 'other sounds' riding the wind!

Looking back, it was all incredibly 'medieval' .... and decidedly too 'gothic' for my young mind!
 

MrFaultless

proper brummie kid
Unfortunately the murder stories are true. My Dad told me his version of the story and I felt inclined to research it's truth. I came across this shocking news report-

https://www.birminghammail.net/news/crime-news/2011/12/22/casebook-lone-wolf-responsible-for-halloween-murder-97319-29996988/

It's surprising that incidents like this didn't detur the 'care in the community' scheme which saw the majority of patients pushed back into the open community.

A similar story is linked with the Glenthorne youth treatment centre in Erdington, (now known as Ardenleigh), In 1981 almost 30 years later a 16 year old convicted murderer escaped from Glenthorne and in 1990, a local woman was stabbed by a young person on day-release from the centre.
 
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