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Shropshire Star, 12th January 2013, by Toby Neal
And notes from Dorothy Roberts nee Franklin
Dorothy Franklin
A photo of Agnes Hunt was in the possession of former nurse Mrs Dorothy Roberts, who lives in Wellington, Telford, but hails originally from Rushden.

"My father was John Franklin and a colleague of his, who was a bit older than him, told him that Agnes Hunt had lodged with his family, the Robinsons. His name was Sam Robinson and he gave me this photograph they had taken while she was there living with his family in Rushden."

Mrs Roberts was, as the teenage Dorothy Franklin, starting her nursing career at the Oswestry Orthopaedic Hospital (renamed 'Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital'), and it was because of this that Sam Robinson had thought she might be interested in the photo of the hospital's founder.

"My father was born in 1907. Sam was a bit older and I think he said he remembered her. I trawled through Dame Agnes' book and found out that the dog is a bull terrier called Mike - got for her by her sister because she was 'going to the Midlands and needed protection from tramps'.

"I've had the picture ever since I was given it, wondering what I should do with it. I'm very proud of it. There's no point in me having it. I would like it to go somewhere."

Dame Agnes' book "This Is My Life" does refer to a dramatic episode involving Mike and a tramp.

Note: Dorothy has now donated the photograph to Rushden Museum, along with a copy of the article below, and she also drew our attention to the fact that Agnes Hunt, as a newly qualified nurse, had come to Rushden to fight a Typhoid epidemic in 1892, as Agnes recorded in her autobiography "This Is My Life" written in 1938, and re-printed in 2000 to celebrate the centenary of the hopsital she founded. Dorothy also sent us a copy of the book, for which we thank her - Published by Derwen College.

Shropshire Star, 12th January 2013, by Toby Neal

Remember winter of 1963? That was cold

Weather forecasters are predicting a big freeze in Shropshire next week, but it's unlikely to come close to the scenes 50 years ago, when the county was in the grip of one of the worst winters on record which left indelible memories with all those who experienced it.

Throughout the big freeze in January and February 1963, temperatures were around zero degrees both day and night. In Shrewsbury, there was skating on the frozen River Severn. It was not until February 8 that several weeks of snow and ice finally eased into a thaw.

Summer 1963, Dorothy sitting on the window sill of her room at the nurses’ home.
During that time Mrs Dorothy Roberts was working as a student nurse at Oswestry Orthopaedic Hospital, where things were tough for both staff and patients, and she took a number of pictures capturing the snowy scene there.

She was at that time Dorothy Franklin, and had gone to the hospital at Gobowen at the age of 17 in January 1961 from her home in Rushden, Northamptonshire.

"It was very cold on the wards," she recalls of January 1963. "We were dishing out breakfast and other meals while wearing our capes and gloves. We were told to take them off. And we had extra woollies underneath our uniforms.

Extra blankets

"That patients were not happy, as you can imagine; they formed a deputation to ask the management for heating. The patients had orthopaedic problems, fractured arms and legs, and a lot of them were physically unfit. We didn't have medically sick patients. Some were mobile, and some were not, and the fitter ones who were mobile were the ones who got the petition up and went to see the management.

"Electric heaters were eventually provided, but I don't remember them as being particularly effective as the buildings were so flimsy.

snowy scene
Snowy scene - a view towards Commonwealth and Baschurch Wards, children's wards, during the hard winter of 1963

"We spent most of our time filling hot water bottles for the patients and getting extra blankets for them.

"There was no heating on the ward. The sluice floor would freeze the moment it was mopped. I can remember everyone being relatively good humoured."

A few years earlier things would have been even worse as the hospital used to have wards open to the elements. This practice had ended shortly before the young Dorothy Franklin had arrived.

"The hospital had had a fire (in 1948) which had travelled up the corridor in the roof and had demolished a lot of wards, which were rebuilt. So the bottom ones were solid brick wards, while the ones at the top were the really old ones which had been open and where the patients had been treated with fresh air. They had only discovered antibiotics to treat TB just before I got there, and that was why they were able to close in the wards and not treat them solely with fresh air. They had closed them in around about 1959.

"My father had had to go into a similar orthopaedic hospital in Mansfield a few years before and he was on an open ward. He was told by the other patients how in the winter they would have snow on their beds."

Dorothy Franklin took this picture from the nurses' home in the snow of
1963, showing the little train that ran between Oswestry and Gobowen

Student nurse Angie Williams (centre - holding the icicle)
with patient Bob Evans, and Staff Nurse Heirs
At the time of the 1963 freeze she was living in the nurses' home on the complex. "We had heating there. I don't ever remember being cold in the nurses home." The harsh weather emphasised the isolation of the site. "We were marooned. The Orthopaedic is out on its own and we only had the little train to get us into Oswestry. It ran between Gobowen and Oswestry regularly and cost 6d (2.5p). I don't remember getting the bus. We always used the train, or we walked into Oswestry."

One of Dorothy's pictures shows the little train chugging along, taken from the now-demolished nurses' home, and another shows a trio standing outside Denbigh Ward. One of them, fellow student nurse Angela Williams, is holding an icicle two feet long. "She was a friend although I have no idea where she is now. She went to Canada, and then to Australia."

Dorothy, who lives now in Wellington, Telford, was to do two years orthopaedic nurse training followed by three years physiotheraphy training, finishing at Oswestry in 1966.

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