Hospital Memories

This page records the memories of those people who knew Savernake Hospital in the past, either as patients or nursing staff.  The following provides a fascinating insight into Marlborough’s local social history.   

Please note that the following do not represent the views or opinions of the Friends committee, but are the views and memories of the public who provided us with this information.  The Friends thank them for their contributions.

Nurses on the stairs c1960's

Nurses on the stairs c1960’s


Beryl Smith

Happy memories of the births of my 3 babies in 1963, 1966 and 1970. Felt like a family, nice food, lovely nurses, very lovely.

My father [Jack] Davis died in Savernake in 1968 after wonderful care for 4 months.  Michael Smith, my husband was nursed back to health in 1955 after a life threatening illness, he spent over 3 months being cared for by the lovely staff.

Such a great shame to lose such a wonderful place like the Minor Injuries Unit used by so many locals like ourselves.


Gill Finch

Between approximately 1957  – 1961 Gill was a boarder at Wye House therefore attending Marlborough Grammar School.  She had a broken arm, which was set in Savernake by Dr Wheeler.

The boarders in Wye House were looked after by Dr Dick. (Maurice)


Harry Green in 2009

1933/4  When I was a lad I was in Lavington (men’s ward) because I was undernourished, built up with malt extract. This took a long time.

Harry remembers Dr Bashall putting chloroform on a mask and the doctors saying “Listen to the music”.  After my hernia operation I was very weak and when I put my feet to the floor I fell down!

1948 I was a patient in Lavington under Dr Wheeler (sen) and in for nearly a month and couldn’t open my mouth.  (Tetanus)

Harry Green started working at Savernake in 1982 (was 55) and retired in 1992. Employed as gardener and handyman and loved it.

Harry did all the gardens on his own virtually with rare bits of help. Got it straightened up and shipshape. I didn’t really have a boss.  Cliff Jones used to say what to do but real boss was at Burderop Hospital. They wanted someone they could trust to work independently.

The Day Hospital had just been finished when I started – the gardens were in a terrible state, left in a mess by contractors but all put right.


Heather Bennett

Went into Savernake for the birth of our son Christopher Michael Bennett at 11.30am. Delivered by Dr Bob – and possibly a sister called Sister “Quange” nicknamed by my mother-in-law May Bennett.  The sister was quite formidable.

As new Mums were not allowed to have our babies with us.  All babies were kept in a ward down a long corridor.  We were allowed down there for bathing and feeding babies only.  I remember being allowed off the ward after having the baby to walk around the gardens as long as we took pillows to sit on and weren’t out there any longer than half an hour.

My husband Michael Bennett, his sister Leslie Bennet and his brother John Bennet were all born in Savernake.  I was treated for a ganglion using hot wax baths or I was told by one doctor I could have had the ganglion removed by it being hit by a heavy bible!! No way!

My father in law could have been involved in putting in the radios in the wards and could have done quite a lot of the electrical work over a period of years. He worked for BW James who had a business in the High St next to the white Horse Bookshop.  My father could have been treated here as well.  He fell off a ladder and got some of it impaled in his leg – his name was Gordon Dick and was manager at ?Conigue Farm in Easton Royal. This happened before 1968.

I’m sure more things will come to me but will use the internet to pass them on.


J B Casper Cooper

Alfred Cooper, my father, was operated on by Prof Girdlestone for knee cartilage damage.  Because he (Prof G) was going on the Queen Mary’s maiden voyage this had to be cancelled and he stayed in a Summerhouse on a rotating base in the hospital garden. He often spoke of the deer coming in the night time and of course the kindness of the nursing staff whilst he was there.

(Ed’s note May 1936 was maiden voyage)


Jo Gay nee Reilley in 2009


Wonderful memories of starting my career training at Savernake Hospital and Swindon with the guidance of D. Clarke (who became Deidre Rix) Charlie and Mrs Hicks (Tania) RIP.

Childrens Ward (Maurice),

Lavington Ward,

Maternity Ward (Haydon) Sr Handel RIP,

Theatre – Mr Mason RIP

The days were long and hard but no regrets. Years of happiness.  Wonderful team work and that continues to this day, but not like the SAVERNAKE, I know and knew.  I still work there in the Out Patient Department.


John Cooper

When son Mark was born August 8th 1964, John’s wife Jane, was in the ward when a tramp got into the bed and slept the night.


Judith Lefever

Just remembering Bob Wheeler taking my appendix out in 1962 and waking up with it in a jar on my bedside table.

My father sadly died there in 1981 and my Mother was a volunteer there on the wards for a number of years and I have been volunteering there happily for over 10 years.

Written In 2009


Margaret Harper at the History Exhibition Jan 2009

We were delighted to welcome Margaret Harper, aged 100 years to the History Exhibition.  She was a former nurse whose three sisters all nursed at Savernake Hospital.  Margaret was the fourth sister and she nursed at the Devizes Hospital.

Her Mother, Ada Craig, made all the nurses’ uniforms for Savernake Hospital including for her three daughters, Isobel, Florence and Daisy.

Margaret loved her six year nursing career in the Devizes Hospital, which ended when she married.


Mrs A Perry

Every week (Wednesday) the new probationers were taken by taxi to Strattons shop, Miss Arneys’ quarters, and given first aid lectures by Dr E R Wheeler and Dr Taylor.  Mrs Lupton and Mrs Gooch took us for Home Nursing.

At the end of three years we were honoured and very thrilled to be given our striped dresses, and classed as a Senior.  As young probationers we were always in awe of the Senior Nurses!

Life was indeed very hard in those days but extremely happy.  These are the most vivid memories.


Sheila Crees

I have lived in the village of Marten all my life, first at the manor Farm and later at my present address, I am 81 years old and recently attended the Falls Clinic at Savernake Hospital – fantastic help.

In 1939 at the age of 11, I was admitted to Savernake as a patient with an abscess on my appendix and peritonitis.  For the first few days I was put in the Women’s’ ward entered from the front door of the original building then first left.

Miss Swale was the new Matron and I remember she had ordered new nice china for the patients! Also she had other refurbishments in the ward. As she retired to live in our parish of East Grafton she became a friend. Dr Wheeler senior operated on me twice to drain the abscess.  My family doctor, Dr Bashall gave the anaesthetic.  Soon I was moved into the girls’ shelter just along the corridor.  This room had windows and doors along one side.  Even in February/March our beds would be pushed outside on a sunny day.  I was in bed in that ward for some weeks.  Deer would come into the grounds if we were quiet.  Brilliant.  After 9 or 10 weeks I was sent home for a month to “get my strength back”.  But three weeks later I was rushed back with more pains, this time Dr Wheeler removed the appendix and after 10 days or so I went back home.  Here I am with three scars to show for it and happy memories of my time in Savernake. Click here to read more.


Walter & Sheila Palmer

I shall be interested in your exhibition on Savernake Hospital next week. You will probably know all about what I am writing but we old men like to look and “remember”.  Most of the villages in the area had carnivals in aid of Savernake hospital.  Aldbourne was no exception. During the week before carnival Bill Davis would set up a table top every evening in the square with a box and 5 tennis balls and have bowling for a pig, 6d  (2½ p) a go, everyone wanted to win the pig. During the week there would be a whist drive, perhaps a local talent contest.

On Saturday the farm carts and local lorries would be called upon for the carnival procession around the village with nearly everyone involved. (some years the carts were not available as the harvest wasn’t finished by the first Saturday in September).  On the Saturday, Hospital Sunday, a united service was held in the village hall, this was something special, in those days as united services were very rare, not acceptable to many people.  My family were Methodists and were used to having services out of the chapel, our neighbour was a devout Anglican, he attended three times every Sunday.  He would never attend the Hospital Sunday Service. The Hospital Doctors would take part in the service. I remember Oliver Hawkins, Tommy Barnes and the Vicar were among the organisers.

Other villages would do similar things, Aldbourne, Ramsbury and Pewsey, I remember.

Thank you for reading this, keep up the good work with every blessing in all you do

Wally Palmer


Previous entries:

Dawn Griffis nee Alsford – More of my Memories at Savernake Hospital 1956

To enlarge or add to the first chapter, Savernake Hospital, in my book titled “Nursing at The Horton: The Way it Was – When Care to the Local People Really Mattered“.

First I must make a correction, the problem with my wrists that caused me to have to give up nursing for awhile on Matron Blackwell’s suggestion. It was my left wrist first, and then my right one that went. I still get right and left confused! In follow-up from this incident I always wished I could have gone back to I tell her I did manage to complete my nurses training.  In fact nursed until 2013. Happily I believe I saved and made things better for many of my patients. Hopefully my nursing students will give the same care to their patients as I taught them from my teachings.

I mentioned a staff nurse on the children’s ward that was very kind to me and to the entire cadet nurses on the ward; she was Staff Nurse Clark, now Rix. I hope she reads this, because I have always been grateful of her kindness, consideration, and what she taught me, especially in light of Sister Faust’s behavior, towards me.

When I saw the photo of the TV presentation in 1956, I noticed it didn’t say how we came to have them. I believe in fact there was one given for all the adult wards. They were donated by a very grateful American family after we had cared for their mother in one of our private rooms on the Children’s ward. The Mother had become seriously ill while on holiday, she was with us for several weeks. When it was time for her discharge, the family could not understand why there wasn’t any charge for her care. They wanted to give something in return for all her excellent care, so they donated the TVs. I am sorry I do not remember their names, but I imagine there is a record somewhere concerning it.

Fun things we did while I was there Mid summer night June 1956 a group of the nurses went out into the forest to enact mid summer night dream. I think hoping to see some of the forest activity. There was none other than what we created.  It was moonlight so lots of shadows was all we really got out of it, plus our refreshments.

Chris Tomlin (son), not sure of her name spelling, we became firm friends and liked to go on long walks in the forest when we were off duty. After one really long walk we plopped down on a grassy mound in sight of the Nurses Home to rest- when we both looked down at the grass between us to see an adder curled up there. We made a very fast trip to the nurses’ home!

I remember fondly the town of Marlborough and how friendly all the people were towards us.  As you walked through town half way down on the right was a very good chemist, who very willing removed a splinter that had bedded itself very deeply into my right hand. On the opposite side was a tea room where a staff nurse took another student and myself to for tea, after she had taken us both to a dentist for extractions – we had both been given gas, and she felt we were to woozy to walk the mile up the hill to the hospital without being more alert.

I remember going to dances in the town hall, well really I just went to keep the others company when they weren’t dancing, because being tone deaf I did not have the capabilities to actually dance. A former patient came up to me and asked me why I didn’t dance. After I explained to him why. He said I can teach you how to overcome that problem. He said just listen to the drum beat, and tap your feet to it. He sat with me during many dances to help me with it- it worked, except if there is no drum beat I can’t dance!

On my final note of memories. I have to go back to the food and the meals Matron Blackwell cooked for us. One of which was soft roes on toast, this was usually a supper treat. When we knew she was cooking these, I tried very hard to go to last supper. The reason for this was, after everyone was finished, if there was any left, we could finish them off. Chris and I could do that very easily. Sadly I have never had soft roes since that were anywhere near as good as those.


Helen McKim – 1960s onwards

Our first child was born in Aug 1962 at Savernake Hospital.  He was about 3 or 4 days old and it was a lovely sunny morning and I was longing to be outside.  In those days the whole area in front of the hospital was laid to grass which was sparkling with dew – bliss. I took my shoes off and was enjoying walking in the grass when a furious Matron Blackwell appeared and ordered me inside – at once – you will catch cold on that wet grass was her comment.

My peace shattered, I had no option but to return to the ward like a naughty little girl! Click here to read the full article.


Mrs Iris Alsop (nee Robins) -Night Sister 1958– 1960

I heard very loud snores coming from Lavington Ward (louder than usual).  On investigating, I discovered a tramp had climbed through the bay window and had made himself very comfortable in between pristine white sheets!  He was still wearing his hobnail boots.

Other patients were unaware of the intruder and we, the staff, decided to leave them in ignorance.  We placed a set of screens around the bed until the morning when we gave our “patient” a cup of tea and toast and saw him on his way.

Memory written in 2009


Nora Grant (nee Osgood) aged 86 at time of writing from Tasmania

She is the aunt of Janet Louth (currently chair of the Friends of Savernake and the Community).  Nora was known to all as Oggie.  She emigrated to Tasmania in 1956.

Savernake Hospital was there when you needed it and the whole community constantly raised funds to support it.  Her sister (Janet Louth’s mum, Rene Osgood) aged 8 in 1927 was in Savernake with rheumatic fever.  When Oggie visited, Irene was one end of the bed and a girl who lived in Silverless Street who had mastoids was at the other end.

The hospital had “tonsil” days and the corridors were filled with rows of children lined up for their operation.  Oggie had hers in 1929 at 11am and was home by 1pm.  She thinks the injection in her leg was administered by the lady who worked in the hospital office.  In 1950, Oggie had appendicitis and Dr Tim visited her at home and took her to the hospital in his car.

Patients welcomed eggs, which were brought by their visitors who were asked to write the patient’s name on the egg.  Click here to read the full article.


Norma Tubb

Norma, who lives in Pewsey recalls that from 1946 when she was 5 years old to her early teens, the AA man, known as Yorkie, collected medicines from the hospital.  He delivered these to Norma’s grandmother, Nurse Florence Rosier, who lived at Froxfield.  She was district midwife and also went daily to give the medicines to the ladies at the Duchess of Somerset’s Hospital, Froxfield.  These alms houses were then for the widows of clergymen, now known as the College.

Norma had a son, Julian, born at Savernake on October 31st 1964.  He was a full time fireman in Newbury, living in Hungerford.  As a fit 39 year old, he suddenly felt very unwell.  He drove to Savernake, collapsed in Reception and four doctors attended to him.  He was taken to Swindon then Bristol where it was discovered he had right ventricular cardio myopathy.  This condition had been undiagnosed, he underwent surgery and had a pacemaker defibrillator.  Just months after, he cycled from London to Brighton with a friend and raised £3,000 for the British heart foundation.

Norma said that the doctors at Savernake saved his life.


Robin Spring in 2009

When I was about 8 years old I cut my right wrist very badly.  After being taken to Savernake Hospital they were going to amputate my arm.  But a young doctor from Reading was visiting at the time and he managed to save my arm.  He was sadly killed in an air crash about 12 months later.  This was 60 years ago so I have fond memories of this wonderful hospital – many thanks to all the staff.


Alison Palmer – daughter of Dr R. O. Wheeler (Dr Bob)

I have enjoyed looking at the pictures and reading about Christmas Day in Savernake.  Our Christmas Day was centred around lunch at Savernake.  We all came up to hospital to help Daddy with the carving of the turkey and handing the plates around to the patients.

I had my two sons in Savernake – in December 1971 my son Charles, and in July 1974 my son Simon.


Audrey Peck (nee Mundy)

My wonderful memory is not about Savernake Hospital but about old Dr Wheeler, Dr Bob’s father.  It was about 1938 in Lockeridge.  My Dad had a nervous condition, probably a recurrence of shell shock and my Mum was ill with a thyroid condition. Neither could work.  Dr Wheeler told them not to worry about the doctor’s bills, he knew they would pay when they could.  Just before Christmas Dr Wheeler came to the house with a doll for me – I was four.  He asked me what I would call her and when I said “Mary” he replied it was odd I had chosen that name because his daughter Mary was in his car outside.


Beryl Smith

Happy memories of the births of my 3 babies in 1963, 1966 and 1970.  Felt like a family, nice food, lovely nurses, very lovely.

My father Jack died in Savernake in 1968 after wonderful care for 4 months.  Michael Smith, my husband, was nursed back to health in 1955 after a life threatening illnes; he spent over 3 months being cared for by the lovely staff.

Such a great shame to lose such a wonderful place like the Minor Injuries Unit used by so many locals like ourselves.


Lorna Cook – on Nursing at Savernake Hospital (1940s)

“The way I became a nurse was quite extraordinary.

In May 1947 I was working in a milk testing laboratory but fancied a change.  The work was becoming repetitive and boring. I could advance no further without going to college, which for me was financially impossible.

After mentioning the wish to become a nurse to the milk delivery girl she remembered a friend of her parents had recently taken their daughter to train at Savernake Hospital near Marlborough in Wiltshire.  She said she would make enquires.  The next day she returned to inform me that I was to meet those friends at Worcester railway station the next Sunday morning.  I could go with them when they visited their daughter. The Matron would be expecting me.

The new friends left me in the care of the formidable Matron arranging to pick me up later and take me home.  Meanwhile they took their daughter out to afternoon tea and a chat.

The Matron showed me around the hospital, explained what my duties would be and measured me, visually, for my uniform.  I can remember very little about the interview; I was paralysed with fear…”  Click here to read the full article


The Memories of Deidre Rix (née Clark) for the Friends’ History Exhibition (1940s and 1950s)

At the end of 1945, Deidre Clark went as a cadet nurse to Savernake Cottage Hospital to get some experience prior to commencing training in Winchester.  She liked it so much that she ended up staying a couple of years!  She worked on Merriman Ward, an overflow ward in those days for the women’s ward, and also Casualty and Out Patients.  Nursing staff were expected to cover more than one department within the ward.  Her overriding memory is of a busy happy hospital.

One night, the Nursing Sisters of Savernake had organised a midnight feast in the gardener’s shed!  Click here to read the full article


An Interview with Matron Blackwell in the Autumn of 2008

“There was one farmer – he rang up – he said he’d got a field that was white with mushrooms – and could I bring someone?  We got the mushrooms, and I said to some patients, “Do you like mushrooms?  Because you’re going to have a lovely surprise if you peel them all!”  They were all sat up in bed peeling them!  And the next morning I gave them bacon and mushrooms for breakfast.  Oh, when they saw the mushrooms they thought it was lovely.”   Click here to read the full article


Gwen Winter (née Ball) aged 86 years talking to Val Compton at the Friends’ History Exhibition in 2009

This delightful lady was brought to the Exhibition from West Swindon as she used to work at Savernake Hospital.  I asked her, if she thought about Savernake Hospital, what the first picture would be that popped into her mind.  Her reply was instant:

“Matron’s little black poodle!”  Click here to read the full article


Alan Rix – Hospital Administrator (1950s to 1980s)

When Alan started at Savernake he was given a room in the Nurses’ Home where Sister O’Grady was the Nurses’ Home Sister.  The nurses were up to playing tricks and one night put the hospital model (pretend patient on which to practise) from the Training School in his bed.  Alan decided to get his own back and give someone a fright by putting the model, for an unsuspecting person to discover, in the bath!  Click here to read the full article


Brian Ward – Memories of Savernake Cottage Hospital in summer of 1954 and revisted

“I am pleased to have come across website which invites people to record their memories of Savernake Hospital.  I was admitted to Savernake Hospital on Monday, 12 July 1954 and spent 8 weeks there.  I have never forgotten the hospital, the staff or the treatment and kindness I received at Savernake.”  Click here to read the full article


Ann Hastie

From the cheerful receptionist and caring nurses, Savernake was a remarkable small hospital to have a baby.  When in March 1967 our son took time to appear the nurse kept me informed that my husband had taken our Jack Russell dog for yet another walk in the Forest.  

When our baby son James arrived I was given every care, being pushed around in a wheelchair and staying in Savernake for the then 10 days.  Quite a change when I arrived home!

Ann Hastie in 2008

(Still lives near Marlborough and supports Savernake)


Betty Bicknell (née Fleet) in 2009

In about 1946 when my brother, Tony Fleet was about 4 yrs old, he was walking along St Martins (Marlborough) with my sister Edna, past the Duke of York public house (where York Place is now).  He had one foot on the kerb the other on the road, as children do, when a tractor with a big rake on the back came along and clipped him and ran him over.

The rake went across his stomach and punctured his bladder. He was taken to Savernake Hospital where his condition was quite serious, my father was called home from the army as they didn’t know if Tony would make it or not. Click here to read the full article


Buster Cox talking to Val Compton 2009 

Buster was born in 1921 and is a well known figure around Marlborough.  He appeared on TV talking about the closure of the Day Hospital at Savernake and more recently as the last customer in Woolworth on the day it closed.  His wife Dorothy had been the first customer to make a purchase on the day it opened.

Buster remembers Dr Walter Maurice taking two or three of the Boy Scouts out on his rounds with him on a Saturday morning – Buster would have been around 12 at the time.  It was a treat to ride in the car and go round the villages. Click here to read the full article


Roger Lack – June 2010

I just remember my Grandad Charlie Mansell being looked after so well at Savernake. We were all offered tea, drinks and ice cream during our visits to see him. I was born at Savernake, so have an inseparable bond with the place. I often drive by and think about the old days. I’m 42 now.

Thank you Savernake.


Reg and Doreen Giddings – from the 2009 History Exhibition

Reg Giddings – Reg was born in 1928 and used to live at Hardings Terrace, Hillcot – 2 doors down from the Prince of Wales Public House.

He remembers, every week, as a small boy of 7 or 8 years, running to the front door with 6d (sixpence) when the Collector called from the Savernake Hospital Contributory Scheme.  Reg’s wife;

Doreen Giddings – Doreen used to live in St Margaret’s Cottages in Marlborough.  Her Mother, Jean Harper, was friendly with Matron Lavington and she remembers hearing many stories of Matron.


Nick Fogg – Memories 1978

“… So I was straight in to see Dr Nick Maurice. He too took one look at me, bundled me into his car and drove me to the Savernake Hospital. Soon I was lying on a bed with what seemed to be every doctor in the county surveying me….” Click here to read the full article


The Memories of Muriel Clark – Medical Secretary at Savernake Hospital

“When I arrived at Savernake in 1971, there was a wonderful porter called Charlie Hicks.  He lived in the little lodge which was allowed, sadly, to deteriorate, but is now looking better.  Charlie told me about the hospital donkey, which was driven (with a cart of course) into the town.

Matron Lavington

All I know about this wonderful lady is that she was so dedicated to Savernake that if there was no bed for an emergency admission, she would give up her own bed for the patient….” Click here to read the full article


Memories of Mrs Ovens – aged 88 years

Mrs Ovens visited the 2009 Savernake Hospital History Exhibition, travelling in from Swindon on the bus.  She said it brought back lots of memories.

Whilst living as a child in Avebury – her parents ran Perry’s Shop opposite the pub.  The sitting room in the house doubled up as an Out Patient Surgery for the doctors who came twice a week.  The sideboard was full of antiseptic and drugs but the children never touched it.  The room had to be thoroughly cleaned on a very regular basis for the doctors.  There was a basin on a stand for the doctors to wash their hands. Click here to read the full article

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