Survivors History
My Life
by Moyna Peters


I first went to Netherne Hospital on 1st May 1960. I was sixteen at the time, going on seventeen. I had left school less than two years before, at the age of fifteen. I found it difficult to keep my jobs. I had had jobs but I soon lost. Someone suggested to my parents that some psychiatric treatment might be of help to me.

First I saw Dr Freudenberg as an out-patient of Redhill General. Then after that I was admitted to Netherne.

First I was on the ward in the Main Building, afterwards known as Clive but then known as F6. It was usually known as Sixes. It was the Female Admission. My Mum and Dad brought me in. I was got into my nightclothes and put into bed, although it was only eleven-o'clock in the morning. Then Mum and Dad came and said good-bye to me. After this I was examined by a young doctor, Dr Galway. After this a ward-orderly brought me some lunch. There were about forty or fifty women on this ward. It was strange for me to be alone among all these strange people, as I had never really been away from home before

After a couple of days I was sent to The Beehive. This was also in the Main Building where Woodcote came later. It was Occupational Therapy. Mrs Farmer was in charge. There were various handicrafts going on. I did embroidery. In those days there was no Vale and no Downs View. The Head Occupational Therapist was Miss Constable. There were several other O.T.s.

Highfield Villa - Female convalescence

After six weeks in Sixes I moved to Highfield Villa. Highfield Villa. Highfield was Female Convalescence. Nearby was Templewood Villa, Male Convalescence. The men were allowed to visit the ladies in the evening. Every Thursday Highfield and Templewood patients would organise for themselves a Social which was held in Highfield. It was held here because we had a big sun-lounge. It was held in the evenings. We would have sandwiches and orangeade etc and then we would all have sing-song singing things like "Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner" and "Tipperary". Then we would have a dance.

Sister Brookes was in charge of Highfield. She had been Nurse Meadowes, then she got married at about the same time as her promotion. At the age of twenty-four she was known to be the youngest Sister in the hospital. Then there was Nurse Doreen Nelson who was from Jamaica.

I thought that Highfield was a great ward and I was sad to leave it. I left it in the October of 1960.

During the time I was in Highfield I was in the Land Group.

We used to 'do' Heath House garden. Miss Lee was in charge.

We were all "girls" and were known as the "Land Army". We were ex Land Army clothing including a very warm great-coat. As the autumn advanced we were mainly raking up all the leaves that fell from the trees in the garden!

Pendellswood and then Downs/Heath House

After Highfield I went to Pendellswood, a big mixed ward. I did not like it there so I was moved to Downs/Heath House that people afterwards knew as John Reid House. This was a huge ward, of about 100 people, both men and women.

I settled in there and I stayed there seven months, from November to the following June. Sister Coombes was in charge of this ward. She was very strict, but kind.

When I first went into the Hospital I was not allowed home at all for the first month and either my Mum or Dad would come and see me at weekends. After that I got week-end leave to go home. To get me leave my Mum had to write to Dr Freudenberg the Physician Superintendent.

Wednesdays were free of O.T and when I was in Downs House I made three girl friends and we used to go for long walks round the local countryside. The country round about Netherne is very beautiful, especially in the summer. I became very interested in all the wildflowers that grew so profusely in the hedgerows - stitchwort and campion and the Wayfaring Tree. Favourite places for us to visit was Chaldon and Chipstead with their medieval churches, and also Farthing Down.

When I was in Downs House I used to clean the library in Downs House in the morning. Afternoons I went into the Typing Pool which was situated in the Main Building at the end of a very long corridor.

14.6.1961 - Home with Dad

On 14th June, which was a Wednesday, my Dad came to see me. He saw the doctor and persuaded him to discharge me. So I went home with Dad on that day.

Eleven years later, in November, 1972 I returned to Netherne as a day-patient, but that is another story.


In my last essay I described my year at Netherne as a teen-ager. I left, as I said, on 14th June 1961.

I went to many jobs after that but they were unsuccessful, most of them. I had a very long period of complete unemployment. The long years passed.


Then in January 1971, I got a job at White Tompkins in Reigate. They made fruit essences. I was engaged there as a bottler and labeller. The factory building was very old.

While I was still there my Dad was killed in a car accident, and my brother was badly injured.

I was very , very sad indeed as I had been very, very fond of my Dad. My Dad died on February 21st 1971. My brother recovered and is very well these days.

In April, two months after the demise of my father the boss of White Tompkins decided I was too slow for the job so I got my notice once again. After that I was unemployed for over a year.

Came the early November of 1972. By that time I was gone twenty-nine. I had been a little under 18 when I left Netherne. I used to have to attend the Redhill Labour Exchange once a week to receive my benefits and try to find a job. By that November no job was in sight for me. The Labour Exchange said I had to get some psychiatric treatment or they could not continue paying me my benefits.

So I went to my G.P. Dr Gibbons. He saw me and agreed I needed more psychiatric treatment.

He gave me a letter of referral for Dr Freudenberg at Netherne.

So on the 6th November I went with the letter to Netherne to see Dr Freudenberg.

Dr Freudenberg saw me and admitted me as a day-patient, starting the following Monday.

Duly on Monday I reported myself to Furzefield Villa. This was the admission ward for both men and women.

I was based there. Every day I reported to the nurse on duty there. Then I went to Occupational Therapy. I was in Occupational Therapy all day but I went back to Furzefield for lunch, and for things like seeing the doctor. It was when I was in Furzefield that became a patient of Dr Ekdawi for the first time.

The Occupational Therapy department I went to was in Fairdene South. I did occupational therapy till Christmas.

Woodcote - After Christmas 1972

After Christmas "they" decided I was beyond Fairdene South O.T. and I went on to Woodcote.

Woodcote was in the Main Building and was where the Beehive was during my first period in the hospital.

Woodcote was the Industrial Assessment Unit. I stayed there several weeks and I did light industrial jobs. I also had to do several tests and was assessed as suitable for industrial work.

I left Furzefield and Woodcote and went on to the John Reid Rehabilition Unit in John Reid House

Some of the changes 1961-1972

I said in my last essay that when I came back to the hospital as a day-patient after eleven years away I found many changes. Let me tell you about some of the changes

During my first stay there the main building wards all had numbers - F6 Female 6, F8 Female 8 etc. There was a male corridor where all the male wards were and a separate female corridor where all the female wards were.

When I came back all that was changed. The Main Building wards all had names, Clive, Clare, Disraeli, etc. Except for the geriatric wards most of the wards and villas by that time were mixed.

The nurses no longer wore uniforms. There was no Matron, but a Principal Nursing Officer. We all called the nurses by their Chnstam names, as were the Occupational Therapists.

During my first stay there was only church building, St Lukes. When I came the Roman Catholics had their own little church next to St Lukes, called Our Lady of Lourdes.

The hospital had become more open and free, more normal, in fact.

John Reid Rehabilitation Unit - Febuary 1973

John Reid Rehabilitation Unit was a day-unit, run as separate ward. We were a specialised unit, Dr Ekdawi's rehabilitation "babies" in fact. We were on the lower floor of John Reid House at the back end of the building. We consisted of a workshop, the supervisor's office and a store-room. Our name was soon shortened to "Rehab Group".

I went there in February, 1973, when the Group had just been set up. Mr Slade was the supervisor.

At the Rehab Group we did things like Basic Dressings Packs for Crawley Hospital. We also soldered leads for Phillips colour televisions. Every Thursday afternoon we would all go into a sitting-room along the corridor and we would have a big meeting. We would make tea and there would be biscuits. All the Rehab Group rehabilitees would be there and our team would be there. There would be Dr Ekdawi the consultant, Dr Tsegos the Registrar, Mary Burden the Occupational Therapist, Sister Reynolds the nurse, Miss Atkinson the Social Worker, and Mr Slade the Industrial Supervisor. As I was in the Rehab Group quite some time, over the months the team members changed. Dr Ekdawi himself, however was always there. He wanted us known as "rehabilitees" instead of "patients". At the meetings we used to talk about, among other things, how we would cope with our mental health problems when we went into outside industry. The whole idea of the Unit was to get us into outside industry, when we left the hospital.

During the summer months outings were organised for some Wednesday afternoons. During this time we went to Gatwick Airport one very hot June afternoon to watch the planes take-off and land. We also went one afternoon to Box Hill and another afternoon to Leonardslee Gardens. All the outings were enjoyable.

During this time I was in the Rehab Group I tried two outside jobs. Both were unsuccessful. So back to the Unit I went. In the August of 1974 I was discharged from the Rehab Group and the Hospital. I went on to Wingfield. But that again is another story.


Wingfield - August 1974

In my last essay I wrote about the time when I was a day-patient at Netherne. I was in John Reid Rehabilitation Unit, as I said, and I was discharged from there in August 1974.

From there I went to Wingfield.

In those days one end of Wingfield was run by the Social Services. The other end was run by the Health Service. Both ends were for people from Netherne Hospital.

I was in the Social Services end.

Mrs Smith was in charge of this. The room we used was that room near the railway line where afterwards the Clerical Department came. So we used to watch the trains go up and ,, down the line! We did things like sewing and knitting. There seemed to be lots of old ladies there. I did embroidery. In the February of the following year I felt tired of doing embroidery all day long. So I went to the Labour Exchange and saw the D.R.O , Miss Daniels. She too thought it was wrong that I should be doing embroidery all day long. The upshot of it was she sent me to the I.T.O at Epsom. I.T.O. stood for Industrial Therapy Organization, so we did industrial work. I operated a plastic welding machine, a great change from doing embroidery!

I.T.O was a charity and when I hadd been there for four or five months in July the charity ran out of money. The place closed down and I left there.

After that I went back to Netherne to the Vale each day. Pauline Carpenter was in charge. I soldered television leads for Phillips. I had my lunch in John Reid.

Egham Rehabilitation Centre

In September an opportunity came for me to go to the Egham Rehabilitation Centre to finish the I.T.O. course. So I went to Egham.

I went to Egham every day for a year. It was thirty miles from Woodhatch where I lived with Mum. To get there I took a bus from Woodhatch to Epsom. From Epsom I went by private mini-bus - quite a journey. I enjoyed the journey as we used to pass places like Hampton Court Palace and Garrick's Villa.

The Egham Rehabilitation Centre was run by the Department of Employment. It was a huge place, and had been a country estate. There were still large lovely grounds with Greek temples and statues and things dotted about. Egham took people with all disabilities and most of them lived in. Our group was a special psychiatric workshop and we came there every day. I was there a year as I said, and we did light industrial work. After some time there the supervisor Mr Thomas let me do some typing in the workshop. In September 1976 I left Egham after one year. Back to Wingfield I went.

September 1976

Wingfield had changed a bit since I was there last. I was still in the Social Services end with Mrs Smith. Most of the old ladies who were there before had left, and there were only a few people altogether.

In charge of both ends of Wingfield was Larry Gallagher and Rita Bloomfield, two Irish nurses.

At this time Colebropk Day Centre opened up near Wingfield. This too, was run by the Social Services and was for mentally handicapped adults. After about two months back in Wingfield, in November we were sent there for two days a week This arrangement lasted for about eighteen months, till May 1978 when the Wingfield Social Service numbers dwindled to a total of about ten people in the course of a week. Some days there were just the three of us, Mrs Smith, a man and myself. So we were sent to Colebrook full-time, and Wingfield Social Services closed down.

May 1978 - Colebrook

So my long time in Colebrook began. It was run, as I said by Social Services. All kinds of things went on there. Colebrook was, I as I said, for the mentally handicapped, but we mentally ill were fitted in.

We were all based in workshops, five workshops in all, with an instructor. There we did industrial work. Then from our workshops we were often sent to other departments. There was Further Education and Physical Education, and art and drama and music. We all spent some time in the Social Training Flat where we did cooking and washing and the other domestic arts.

We used to have week-long seaside holidays in places like St Leonards and Lowestoft. We used to go by mini-bus and there would be sixteen of in group, including the staff. Every year in the summer we had big Sports Day. At Christmas there were many activities, including a play which was acted out on the stage in front of the parents in the big main hall.

We had the big main hall as I said. At lunch-time we used to eat in there. It used to get very noisy as over the years there got to be over 100 clients. In the hall too we had frequent discos which were very popular indeed.

Colebrook was for me a bit like going back to school, without all the pain of exams and things!

Mr Hook was the Manager. Then he retired and Mr Howick took over.

August 1986 - Leaving home

I was at Colebrook for eleven years. During this time I moved from living with my mother in Woodhatch to a Mencap Home in Woodlands Road, Redhill - a big change for me. That was in August 1986

June 1987 - Back to Wingfield

In the June of the next year I had a case conference and it was decided that I had been too long at Colebrook and I was sent back to Wingfield.

At Wingfield I was in the Industrial Department. Alf Grover was in charge here.

March 1988

In the March of the next year I was sent to Nestra. It was here I met Patrick Dallison. Soon after we met he proposed! I accepted and he gave me a lovely diamond ring which Im still wearing. In October I went back to Wingfield. In the April of the following year (1989) I went to Libra, In July of that year, sadly my Mum died at the age of eighty-three - a good age.

1990 - Hedgefield Villa, Netherne

In 1990 I left Woodlands Road. I went back to Netherne. I went into Hedgefield Villa I was there a year.

In February 1991 I left Hedgefield. I went to live in Delamere Road, a group home run by Cherchefelle. Delamere Road is near New Causeway where I had lived before in a flat with Mum, so I had come back to my old ground.

March 1995 Netherne Hospital closed

In the March of 1995 Netherne Hospital finally closed. It had been slowly closing down for years past. The whole system went over to "Care in the Community" where we would all be looked after smaller units in the Reigate and Redhill, Merstham and Horley. Instead of the enormous Hospital we would all be in community homes and group homes. The acutely ill would go into Capel Ward at the East Surrey Hospital.

I feel that Care in Community really works for me.

I live in Delamere Road, as I said. I share with three men so there are four of us. We have each got our own room, and we share the use of the front-room and the kitchen. We all do our own cooking and laundry. Lynn and June our care-workers visit us most week-days. I enjoy living at Delamere Road.

Every day I attend Libra Workshop. Chris, Rachael and Darren are in charge here. We do industrial work such as plastic spoons and cocktail sticks and headphones for the airlines.

From Libra two days a week I go into Cito. This is next door to Libra and is office-training. I am learning the word-processor which I find very interesting.

In my spare time I enjoy doing lots of things. I enjoy reading, especially Jean Plaidy and Catherine Cookson.

On Sundays I attend St Peters Church which is near where I live. Here sometimes I read the Lesson which I enjoy doing. Attached to the church is a Ladies Group which I belong to.

Mondays I go to Longmead Adult Education Centre in Redhill where I am learning typing. I am doing well here because I have passed an exam! Every other Wednesday I go to the Wingfield Social where we have a meal and play Scrabble and Trivial Pursuits.

On Sundays after church I go to the Keyhole Club at Centenary House in Redhill. This is a lunch club for the Mental Health users. We have a good three-course lunch. Thursdays is the Swimming Club at Donyings. This too is for the Mental Health users.

Sometimes I attend the Let's Talk meetings. These are held in the Holy Trinity Church Hall. We discuss the Mental Health Service and we have people come to talk to us. Recently one evening we had the members of the Trust Board come to talk to us. The Let's Talk meeting are for Mental Health users.

Another thing I sometimes do is the Blackbourgh Road Club Day Trip to France. We go on the ferry across the Channel. On the other side we go to Calais or Dunkerque. We visit the Hypermarket. They are very pleasant trips.

I am still engaged to Patrick. We have been going together for seven years now. He now lives in Bell House Merstham, an old folks' home. This year we went Butlins Hotel at Brighton, for a week. So that area of my life is going very well!

So that is the end of my story. But I hope I have got plenty of years yet left to me and that at the end of them they'll be yet another story!

Netherne Hospital

This article was written by Moyna Peters in 1995.

Moyna was a participant in the BBC series State of Mind in January 2009.

State of Mind

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