Click on the button above to listen or download on the Radio Brockley website to hear a Christmas story of how Miss Mary Wardell, in spite of financial crisis, fought to keep her Convalescent Home for Scarlet Fever open, and how epidemics of infectious disease in the 1880s reflect and inform the challenges faced by the RNOH during the COVID pandemic crisis of December 2020.
"The Despair of Miss Mary Wardell" takes place in Mary Wardell's Convalescent Home for Scarlet Fever, Brockley Hill, Stanmore, on Christmas Day in 1884. It is late at night, and she is exhausted. She writes:
"...after a day of toil with a heavy heart: to provide Christmas cheer and merriment for patients and household..."
She is firing off a letter to the Editor of 'The Morning Post' with a desperate appeal for money, and describing her heartbreak at the prospect of having to close her hospital due to heavy debts and no donations, in spite of the triumphant opening by the Princess of Wales just five months earlier in July 1884.
This episode traces the struggles, the serious challenges of financing the Home, and the many strategies she employs to keep her hospital going, as described in contemporary articles and letters. It includes a wonderful 1899 interview of Mary Wardell by a correspondent from 'The Hospital' magazine, who travels to "The heights of Brockley, easily accessible from the pretty station at Stanmore."
In this Episode we also have historian Julie Anderson, sharing her insights into Victorian women like Mary Wardell, who made such a significant contribution to philanthropy at a time where there was no state apparatus for Public Health.
The narrative ends with Mary Wardell's contemporary Christina Rossetti's beautiful Christmas poem "In the Deep Midwinter", first published in January 1872 and subsequently set to music by Holst.
Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital former Chief Operating Officer and Director of Strategy and Improvement Lucy Davies concludes with a reflection on the 'deep midwinter' of December 2020, the challenges and struggles faced by today's hospital after a year of COVID, but with the coming hope of Vaccination for patients and staff in 2021.
Pictured below the podcast's wonderful participants - RNOH patients, volunteers, staff, and the wider RNOH Stanmore family. Click on the photographs to read more.
Cast in order of performance:
Narrators: Keith Reeve, Nicola Lane, and Christine Bows
The Journal of Public Health, 1891 : Christine Bows
The Queen, The Lady’s Newspaper, 1889: Aarti Shah
Reflections on Mary Wardell and Victorian philanthropy: Julie Anderson
British Medical Journal Advertiser, 1884: Monica Richardson
The Nursing Record,1897: Sandra Staffiero
Reflection on 2020: Lucy Davies
Sound Design: Louis Morand https://www.louismorandsound.com