Half A Century Ago
798 patients, 360 male, 438 female were resident. 318 were ‘informal’ that is, not under detention. Ward kitchens and sanitary annexes were improved in some of the female villas. A lift was to be installed in Villa 6. Mrs Jones was Head Teacher, with a staff of 9. There were 17 student nurses, 5 female. The nursing staff consisted of 48 men, 50 women- full time, 4 men and 28 women part time. Dr Breslauer died after 9 years on the staff. 102 children were attending the hospital school. Scouts and Guides activities were run by voluntary help. At Crooked Acres Annexe 26 female patients went out to work daily. There were 13 deaths during the year. A group of severely mentally retarded residents helped to lay a concrete car park, as the hospital grounds were gradually developed with a football pitch and villa gardens being created.
Stones dug up were used to build walls around the hospital.
The name of Mr Savage a Nursing Assistant was associated with much of this work.
When Geoffrey Kaye was still a boy he was made to work on the building of the perimeter wall which divided Meanwood from the outside world.
The stone was dug from within the grounds and the entire wall, 3 miles long was built by hand.
Geoffrey “You had to carry wet sand bags on your bare back. Heavy ones n’ all. I had one of them big ones, you know, I didn’t carry two. I carried one. It was all wet and slippy. If you stopped, bang with the cane or a whip across your back. We were getting punished, that’s what they were doing, they were punishing. I didn’t like it at all”
For hundreds of inmates, Meanwood Park Colony remained their home. The injustice of the whole system wasn’t recognised until 1959 when the Mental Health Act stated that only those who were a danger to themselves or to society could be detained any longer. Overnight the vast majority of the inmates at Meanwood became technically free to leave but it wasn’t until a real effort was made in the 1970s and 80s to resettle people under community care that they were finally given back their freedom.