Cosy Corners in Depression and War - The story of one person's nests - Autobiography of Joan Martin [Mrs Joan Hughes] from 1928 to 1985

Joan Martin [Hughes] (1928-2008) was a working class woman who wanted to be a scientist. She succeeded, in between periods in mental hospitals, and as a scientist worked for social responsibility in science. From the early 1970s, Joan helped build unions of mental patients and became one of the first historians of the survivors' movement. Her nests were the homes she made and shared: her cosy corners in different kinds of depression and war. A previously published biography of her life was largely base on this autobiography.


1928: London childhood with Gordona holidays
1939: War and Gordona
1945: Work - Science - ECT
1956: Government Chemist
1962: Science teacher
1965: Mental hospitals, science and work
Trace Methods for Sulphate and Nitrate
1973: Mental Patients Union
1976: Polyvinyl acetate
1979: Central Books - 1982 life after Central Books
1985: Goodbye Gordona


Childhood   1928 to 1939 [The Martin Family]

May Steet, London   1928 to 1939

Star Road School, Fulham   1933? to 1939

Life Indoors   1928 to 1939

Summers in the Country 1935 to 1939 [The Ruthen Family]



War   1939 to 1942

War   1942 to 1945

War's end   September 1944 to 1945


I regarded 1945 as the year of my childhood's end and what happened after this was a different story.

Finding work - August/September 1945: "They asked about my father's employment.. he had been a paperhanger and decorator and was now a Sergeant in the Army. This did not go down well."


Science and religion   1947 to 1949

1947: BX Plastics

In 1948 Joan moved to London. Later the same year, her mother died. In 1949, Joan's father married his American pen- friend, Mary Edwards. Mary returned to the United States and, by 1957, Eve replaced her.

Chemistry   1950 to 1959

London Wholesale Dairies. Microbiology laboratory.

about September 1951: Permutit water purification: analysing effluents from columns of resin

Napier Ltd: Carbon in steel. Physics and Chemistry A levels (Autumn 1954)

1955: Gillette

Government Chemist 1956-1962

1957 - 1958 - 1959 -

The Sixties   1960 to 1963

Joan began working in the pesticides division in 1961
Joan became a graduate member of The Royal Institute of Chemistry in 1962 whilst working as a government chemist.

Science teacher


Teaching   1963

Mental hospitals, science and work


Joan's work as a Government Chemist led to research at Birmingham University on Trace Methods for Sulphate and Nitrate, for which she was awarded her M.Sc. in 1966. Just before, and after, her research, Joan was detained in several old-style mental hospitals. She was both a scientist and a mental patient.

Birmingham University   1965 to 1966

Birmingham University:   1965   -   1966

Trace Methods for Sulphate and Nitrate by J.M. Martin. October 1966. Joan explained that it was sometimes important to study very small amounts of a chemical (traces) in a large amount of material, amongst other reasons "to make sure that these chemicals are not accumulating in the soil, water or atmosphere of the earth". Her work explored the most effective way of testing for traces of sulphate and nitrate and led to papers by Joan and Dr W.I. Stephen in 1967.

Cadburys   from Autumn 1966

Rubery Hill   1968

Midland Assurance and Lucas Engineering

1969 to 1971

"For ... two years I did not initiate any activities for myself. It was a shadowy world in which I lived and I am not able to describe it".

Extracts from my Goodmayes Hospital Diary 1972

Mental Patients Union

1973 - From Goodmayes to Mental Patients Union

Hackney Hospital   1974

Russia   1974

Mayola Road   1975

1976 Janet Cresswell to Polyvinyl acetate

Polyvinyl acetate




Central Books - [from September 1979]

Open University: Technology and Social Science subjects 1979 to 1989




life after Central Books



Goodbye Gordona


before home page to all of Andrew
Roberts' web site after

What does she do
when she is not drinking tea?
Find out even more
about Joan's work

Time Line 1928


Anderson shelter

antibiotics 1942 - 1946

Apple Farm 1941

asthma 1942

Beer 1930s

Betting 1930s


Birmingham University


books autumn 1946


Broadstairs scare 1930s

Cars 1930s

chemistry a man's job in 1959

chemistry publications



Cosy Corner sweet shop 1930s

diptheria 1936?

Edme Villas

Errands 1930s

Games 1930s

Gordona 1930s
Gordona 1940
Gordona 1942
Gordona bought

Hearts Delight 1941

Horses 1930s

hospital visiting

Lamp Lighter 1930s


Latin mass

Lawford 1930s

lead poisoning


Manningtree 1930s




Mistley Church 1930s

museums 1930s


nylon stockings and new look dresses 1949


pneumonia 1942

Rome 1950

Rubery Hill Mental Hospital

sex education 1942

Silver Jubilee

Street Piano 1930s

sulphonamides 1942 - 1946

Variety Theatre 1930s

War 1939

Copyright Joan Hughes 1993-1997. Published with permission.