Keeping Us in Mind – Epsom’s Communities

Exhibition panel 4

The most diverse town in the world

Grimsby to Galicia and beyond. Over the years the hospitals attracted staff from all over the country, and later the world, creating an astonishingly diverse community.

Staff training, West Park Hospital.<br /> Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

Staff training, West Park Hospital.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

Tim Cole, who grew up in Epsom, told the story of a neighbour who walked to the town from Norfolk in the 1920s to get work.

Eileen Dann’s parents were from Grimsby and Bristol, and met at West Park, where they were both nurses. They were married in 1933, but had to keep their marriage a secret or her mother would have lost her job.

Juan Aguiar Galan was a fisherman in Galicia in Spain. In 1958 he came to work as a cleaner at St Ebbas. Eventually nine members of his family were working in the cluster. The patients helped him to learn English.

They would hold you by the hand and take you and show you what they wanted.

He met his wife Beryl, originally from Newcastle, at work:

Epsom must have been the most diverse town in the world.” Beryl Aguiar Galan

From the 1960s and 1970s, hospitals all over the country recruited nurses from many parts of the world.

Jacky Oliver was Deputy Director at Long Grove:

“I had staff from at least a dozen countries including China, Malaysia, Iran, Barbados and the Philippines. A brilliant group of staff.”

Most staff welcomed the diversity, but some elderly patients were resistant to being nursed by people of different nationalities.

Our interviewees told us that there were areas in Epsom, that still exist today, where groups of staff from Italy and Spain lived in Hook Road, Horton Hill and Temple Road.

North Lanarkshire to Long Grove: John’s journey

John Lavery

John Lavery

In March 1985 John Lavery came from Scotland to work at Long Grove, with no previous nursing experience but drawn by the prospect of three years training:

I was in the building trade. I worked as a painter and decorator. I worked in places like tyre-fitting, steelworks.

He left Long Grove, John went on to a career in psychiatric nursing.

John estimates that 60 per cent of his colleagues were Irish. He also recalls the importance of:

The international language of food. The Mauritian nurses liked the sices that went into our haggis!

Views of Long Grove from John’s photo album. Harvey Ward (above) was his first placement.

Views of Long Grove from John’s photo album. Harvey Ward (above) was his first placement.

As many as 40,000 to 50,000 nurses came from Mauritius to the UK’s hospitals, among them Raj and Therese, who met at The Manor. Raj came to Epsom in 1970, working first at Horton and then The Manor where he met Therese in 1972.

My first impression was goodness me, it was in the woods! It was so vast.” Therese

First impressions of the Epsom cluster.

Arriving at the hospitals could be a disorientating experience for both staff and patients.

Beryl Aguiar Galan came to work at St Ebba’s in the 1970s, following her sister and her cousin. They had never worked with people with a mental illness or a learning disability, and had little idea what to expect.

Sheila was a patient at Horton hospital twice during the 1960s. Here she describes her first admission.

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If you would like to record an interview, please email: [email protected]

Read more about the Epsom Cluster.

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