After the First World War and establishment of the 'Country Branch', legacies of rehabilitation contribute to the evolution of the RNOH, at the intersection of rehabilitation, education and training for work.
In 1978 the Warnock Report identifies the first steps taken in the late Nineteenth Century to provide 'rudimentary' education and training for disabled children:
"The first separate educational provision for physically handicapped children was made in 1851, when the Cripples Home and Industrial School for Girls was founded at Marylebone. A training Home for Crippled Boys followed at Kensington in 1865. Both institutions set out to teach a trade, and education as such was rudimentary. The children came mainly from poor homes and contributed to their own support by making goods for sale..."
Warnock Report (1978) Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People
The 'Wright's Lane Home for Training Crippled Boys' in Kensington mentioned in the Warnock report becomes an important part of the evolution of the RNOH. A cutting in the RNOH scrapbook from the 'Uxbridge and West Drayton Gazette' reports in 1934 on the AGM of the RNOH at Great Portland Street, with Mr Louis Fleischman as Chairman of the Committee. He emphasises the need for a Training School for 'cripples':
"...the arrangements would provide for training cripples whose deformities were not susceptible to complete cure, in trades at which they might be able to earn an independent living. It was obviously desirable that such a school should be in immediate proximity to a fully equipped Orthopaedic hospital"
Another cutting reports the progress of the scheme:
The Times, 1935: "...Arrangements had been completed with the board of the Wright's Lane Home for Training Crippled Boys for the amalgamation of the Home with the work of the hospital...a smaller block for paying patients should be provided...it was anticipated that the training centre would be self supporting after the first few months..."
The phrase "...it was anticipated that the training centre would be self supporting after the first few months..." is a familiar one. Mary Wardell's Committee had urged her to include 'first class" paying patients to enable the financial survival of her Convalescent Home. So the same model is proposed for the financial viability of the Stanmore 'Crippled Boys Training College', but in neither case did it prove to be a successful strategy.
The Wrights Lane National Industrial Home for Crippled Boys had been negotiating for the transfer since the 1920s, as it was in financial difficulties. It can be seen in the image above, where the words 'Crippled Boys' can just be made out on the right hand side of the building.
Discovered in Derek Sayers' collection is an architect's drawing of the proposed Training College at Stanmore, with treatment block and dormitories.This is a significantly more 'progressive' design than the Wright's Lane Industrial Home, designed to be accessible, with light and air and green spaces.
At first Pegleg Productions could not find any onsite or archival information about the architects - the buildings still exist today at the RNOH, and house the Orthotics Department and the Prosthetics Rehabilitation Unit:
Then archivist Dr Milnes-Smith made important discoveries. He presented his findings in March 2022 in a paper for "Invisible & Under-Represented? Disability History, Objects & Heritage" hosted by UK-based PhD students funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Dr Milnes-Smith writes:
"...Plans were eventually drawn up by the hospital architect (Richard Mountford Pigott) and went to tender in 1936. The Crippled Boys’ Training School was opened at Stanmore in July 1937......In contrast to Woolsthorpe House, this was a deliberately step-free complex. Designed in a wide arc aimed at securing “the maximum sunshine and air” it was a significant investment (equivalent to £3.5 million today)..."
Thanks to the RNOH Estates team, Richard Mountford Pigott's plans for the Training College were located on the RNOH site. Dr Milnes-Smith contacted the firm which continues under the name Mountford Pigott and was told that archives relating to the RNOH had been destroyed in the Blitz - so the firm were delighted to discover the existence of this important part of their practice.
Dr Milnes-Smith also discovers a remarkable account of the Training College in the 1937 BMJ, titled "New Training College for Cripples - The Stanmore Enterprise":
Dr Milnes-Smith writes: "...It is described here as “one of the pleasantest places of the kind we have ever visited” and it was noteworthy that “Nowhere is there any institutional atmosphere.” and that “The dining hall, with the flowers on its tables would do credit to a good-class hotel.” The workshops were deemed “model establishments” from the point of view of “light and hygiene and convenience”.
The historical context is worth considering. Hitler is in power in Germany, and in 1936 the Olympic Games are hosted in Berlin, showcasing Nazi ideology as personified in the ideal 'Aryan' body. In 1937 the Earl of Stanhope, President of the Board of Education, opens the 'Crippled Boys Training College' - the culmination of many years of hard work by Louis Fleischmann:
Dr Milnes-Smith observes: "One of the archival challenges of uncovering the past history of the RNOH site at Stanmore is that, In some cases, the records no longer appear to exist: from the minute books, ledgers and correspondence of Mary Wardell’s convalescent home to the self-published magazine of the Crippled Boys’ Training School.”
Fortunately a number of photographs of the Training College initially believed to be lost, have been discovered in Derek Sayers' 'Photographic Archival Collection' trunk:
The caption reads:
"The 'Cripples' Training School moved to the west end of the hospital in 1936 from Kensington. Some of these chaps stayed all their working lives in the hospital. "Mac" McKensie can be seen just to the right of the boy standing in the centre. He retired and sadly died just a few years ago. Boots are still made in the hospital in the same area - now called Orthotics Dept."
In the summer of 2019 Nicola Lane and Jan Letocha began to film and document the Orthotics Department, with its accessible workshop space designed by Mountford Pigott for the 'Crippled Boys':
Pictured below is a foot operated, cast iron ('Made in England') hole punch, which leaves both hands free - a resilient relic of the Industrial Revolution which is in daily use in the Orthotics workshops. It could have migrated either from the Wrights Lane Industrial Home, or the old RNOH workshops in Great Portland Street.
The computer in the background illustrates the synergy between different technologies, which frequently occurs in workshops - both are in daily use.
Not long before Pegleg Productions started filming, the hole punch pictured above fractured, for the first time in its very long history. Because it was so useful to the Workshop's workflow, a search began for another one. But there was nothing out there - even on the internet, with its vast resources of vintage machines for sale. Eventually just one was discovered, in another workshop - but no way would that workshop Manager let it go.
Below is one of several anvils. We were told there used to be a fully functioning forge in the Workshops:
Pictured below one of the many Singer sewing machines from different eras, durable and reliable machines for stitching different materials:
During a visit to the Orthotics Department by Nicola Lane, Iva Hauptmannova and Science Museum curator Stewart Emmens, another box of treasures is discovered - a wooden box filled with tools.
In the detail below we can see that it is one of the boxes containing the tools for the 'Boys' learning their trades.
Someone remarked that the tools 'smelled of slave labour'. But it is also a very important object in the history of disabled people, and it can also be argued that the box and its tools represent the transmission of skills and knowledge.
Former Orthotics Production Manager Chris Trueman shared a number of archive treasures, including the Price List pamphlet pictured below, dated 1936 - Stanmore Cripples Workshops - Surgical Instruments & Appliances and Surgical Boots.
There is also a promotional magazine from Shell Oil, possibly from the early 1970s, which contains a feature article by Tim Kenny about the Workshops' use of plastics in Orthotics and Prosthetics, and references Mr. William Tuck, then Manager of the Orthopaedic Appliances Department at the RNOH - a clue to the Workshops' link with the First World War. The article describes how as a child Mr Tuck was was treated for a 'foot deformity', and for many years wore surgical boots and a leg support, and that:
"The tragedies of the 1914-18 War taught him the skills he uses..."
Mr.Tuck's portrait was another find in the box of old copy negatives - a spectral black and white presence. He has become invisible, but once he was featured as an important member of the RNOH hierarchy. (The article also describes his 'overweight' Siamese cat Anna, who travelled with him to work and was popular with his child patients.)
We do not know the back story to Mr. Tuck, how it was that the First World War taught him his skills. A possible theory is informed by Jane Robinson's discovery that Great Portland Street RNOH was the first hospital to treat soldiers with 'bad arm and leg injuries' from the First World War, suggesting that wounded ex servicemen might have been employed in their Workshops after rehabilitation. A former employee remembers:
"The Surgical Appliances Department (pre-Prosthetics Unit) had a large workshop...The workshop took up all of the basement area and employed several disabled (prosthetic-wearing) men who made the prostheses... I think Mr William Tuck was the person in charge of the department..."
In a RNOH fund-raising film made around the late 1920s or early 1930s there is a reference to the 'wounded ex servicemen' employed in the RNOH Great Portland Street workshops. Perhaps Mr. Tuck had been a child patient, and was then inspired to learn his skills from these men. (Be prepared for lots of 'dated, offensive' language in the film.)
From 'Buttercup Time" at 2.47:
"Look at the makers, fitting splints! Instruments and boots are made in the Workshops, by wounded ex servicemen, who have been taught this difficult and useful work..."
Below is the scan of another treasure found in Orthotics: "This book belongs to J. Hall" - a well-used 1935 catalogue of 'Orthopaedic Apparatus and Appliances' by A. E. Evans and Son, makers to many institutions and charities as well as to the War Office and Ministry of Pensions, who were the providers of Appliances to ex servicemen. It is likely this catalogue came from the RNOH Great Portland Street workshops.
"Following the formation of the Ministry of Pensions in 1917, discussions took place to decide which and how appliances should be supplied to disabled war pensioners by the state and the Lord Kitchener Memorial Fund..."
"Fig.113: Illustration of Metal Limb for above knee amputation, noted for lightness, durability, and comfort. An important feature of this limb is that the whole of the lower section is made out of one piece of Duralumin..."
In the catalogue, 'Duralumin' previously known as 'Duraluinin' is identified as an important innovation in the fabrication of prosthetics and it has an interesting history, used in aviation in the First World War. Pictured below is a 1928 cutting from the RNOH Scrapbook describing a Garden Party hosted by Sir Trevor and Lady Dawson in Elstree, with "little guests" from the RNOH and "...a party of wounded soldiers from Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton, arriving for the party."
The Garden Party's host is Sir Trevor Dawson, and he is a very important person. He is the Chairman of 'armaments giant' Vickers, from 1906 to 1931. He was going to be made a Lord but was removed from the New Year Honours List in 1917, probably because of 'the unpopularity of the armaments companies' according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
The arrival of the truck with its wounded soldiers could be experienced as a reassuring message of recovery and renewal after the First World War. They are no longer wearing the 'hospital blues' that identified them as war wounded and they appear to be back in the world rehabilitated and ready to be 'self-reliant citizens'.
One man on the top left appears to be an upper limb amputee. Presumably the other men are also amputees who have been issued with their 'appliances' at Queen Mary's Roehampton - and perhaps the 'Duraluinin" advertised by Vickers in the image above was used in their prosthetic limbs- sending another reassuring message that weapons of War were now being used to "repair war's ravages."
Opposite the RNOH Orthotics department is a theatre. It was once the 'Louis Fleischmann Concert Hall', built as part of the 'Crippled Boys Training College' and representing their commitment to 'progressive' values:
"There is a recreation room with provision for table tennis, billiards, and other games, a quiet room where even the wireless is prohibited, and a concert hall of quite surprising size, equipped with stage and accessories..."
July 17 1937 BMJ 'New Training College for Cripples;The Stanmore Enterprise'
Today the Concert Hall is used for Plaster Casting Courses by the British Orthopaedic Association (https://www.boa.ac.uk/ )
In the 'History of the BOA' we see that yet again the First World War is the source:
"On 1 February 1918, a temporary Executive Committee met and a formal proposal to form the Association was agreed. The Inaugural Meeting of the Association was held on 2 February 1918 at Queen Mary’s Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital in Roehampton...The First World War further stimulated the growth of Orthopaedic Surgery..."
'Old' technology is often perceived as redundant and totally superseded by new technology. But it is a 'ghost in the machine', existing alongside and in dialogue with modern technology. Legacies of the First World War are present in the skills and materials still used in today's Prosthetics and Orthotics.
Pictured below plaster casts for prosthetic sockets stored in an area known as 'The Flat'- believed to be the living quarters for the Crippled Boys Training College Matron - and now part of the Prosthetics Rehabilitation Unit.
Plaster is still an essential material in Orthopaedics, and yet again the First World War has left an enduring legacy through the pioneering and innovative work of artist Anne Acheson, another of the 'hidden histories' uncovered during our search for the 'Grey Lady'. Anne trained as a sculptor, which in those days included rigorous training in anatomy. In 1915 she volunteered for the Surgical Requisites Association (SRA), set up to supply surgical dressings for wounded soldiers. She witnessed soldiers coming back from the Front with broken limbs held together with wooden splints:
"Armed with an expert knowledge of the human anatomy gained from her sculpting experience, Anne invented the first anatomically accurate splints which allowed soldiers with broken bones to heal faster. Constructed initially from papier mâché made from sugar bags, and later Plaster of Paris, Acheson’s splints were comfortable, lightweight and cost-effective. Moulded around the injury of an individual, the custom-made splints also ensured that bones were held in the correct position to properly heal."
The Wellcome Collection image below is labelled as 'Women manufacturing prosthetic limbs'. Pegleg Productions suggests it could actually be a representation of women in the SRA, utilising or being trained in the new techniques for making splints:
Three years after the opening of the Crippled Boys Training College, Louis Fleischmann addresses the RNOH Committee at the AGM in June 1939, as for the second time in living memory the UK prepares for War. He also announces that the Great Portland Street workshops have been transferred to Stanmore.
The Times, 23rd June, 1939:
DEFECIT OF OVER £7,000
"...Legacies and donations were down to £6,000. Expenses were higher in most departments, and during the crisis in September the Hospital had to evacuate a considerable number of patients... The workshop at Great Portland Street had been transferred to the Training College at Stanmore, and the number of trainees had been increased to 112. The training college was not self supporting yet, and unless the hospital could get an increase in the contribution from the authorities it would be difficult to make both ends meet..."
The Training College was closed throughout the Second World War, opened briefly in 1946, then closed permanently in 1948.
Thanks to Derek Sayers and Keith Reeve, pictured below is a rediscovered group photograph of the 'Stanmore Cripples Training College', illustrating the residential nature of the School, with its many staff. It is possibly taken in 1948, perhaps as a final farewell when the College closed.
What happened to the 'Boys' afterwards? We know some remained as technicians when the building was re purposed as the Orthotics Department. But sadly Pegleg Productions has been unable to discover any equivalent of Frank Ruck's testimony or personal accounts by 'Boys' who attended the Training College.
For the next and final chapter in 'Our Search for the Grey Lady' go to: