Memories of St Andrew's Hospital

... and it's ghosts!
By Janet Saunders

I moved to Billericay in 1962 and this is the fifth residence I have had since being here.

In the 60’s my two children were born in Saint Andrew’s Hospital. After the first one, a kind auxiliary nurse asked me what I had had, it was after dinner and I replied ‘fish and chips’, she looked surprised.

In the 70’s my friends and I held coffee mornings to raise a little money for the new Burns Unit.

In the 80’s I took a trolley round the wards with books from the hospital library.

In the 90’s I worked at the histopathology laboratory retiring when that moved to Basildon Hospital.

In the 20’s I moved to part of Charles House, this was in 2008, just after the famous Strawberry Tree was felled. My living room is the Board Room of the Workhouse, the rest of the apartment once housed some of the male inmates. It is now part of Grey Lady Place. I have not seen this lady. I wonder if she sits in the roof area as there is a window from outside with no access from within.

Previous residents nearby felt other presences, one was thought to be the ghost of a tramp, they often briefly lodged in the Union, it seemed he would warm himself at the fireplace sitting on the coffee table which explained why items on it were disturbed. A young girl’s was sometimes seen at the foot of their bed.

The hospital was a friendly place; pantomimes were put on in the now demolished nurses’ recreation hall.  Carol services were held at Christmas in the Chapel where the stained glass windows remain. The grounds where Workhouse inmates toiled in the vegetable plots are now pleasant lawns and hedges thankfully maintained by others.

In Down and Out in Paris and London George Orwell comments that he was advised by tramps to steer clear of Billericay Spike but this grey lady likes it here.

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  • My mother worked on nights for 20 years and also worked on Out Patients & Maternity, Mrs Rolfe was my mum. She worked with Sister Brabna and Sister Caterway, Dr Gilbert, Dr Winston and many others. My dad was head gardener, Clive Rolfe, who is still here at the age of 93, sadly Mother died 16 years ago. Her best friend was Doreen Westcott who also worked on out patients.

    By Kim Rolfe (28/06/2021)
  • I did my training at St Andrew’s between 1965 and 68 .
    I have very fond memories of my time there and remember Matron, Miss Jackson , Sisters Kennedy and Cartwright in particular on Churchill and Nightingale wards respectively .
    I’ve sadly lost touch of all my fellow student nurses from that time .
    Mary Curtis nee Murphy .

    By Mary Murphy (10/03/2021)
  • I was born in St Andrew’s Hospital in August 1969, and apart from travelling abroad have lived in Billericay ever since, would love to know what part of the building today was the then Maternity Ward

    By Paul Butterworth (25/07/2020)
  • I went to St Andrew’s hospital in 1954 for 2years, working on Sister Kennedy’s ward, and Mr. Archibald’s. I then left to have 4 daughters, returning in 1972. Went to see Miss Queenie Jackson who asked me to return, any hours!!! I enjoyed going back for 20 hours a week on Villerica ward, Mr Hackett, Mr Wallace, Mr Summerlad, Mr Harvey-Kemble, to name a few Surgeons. Brenda Lamb became Senior Nursing Officer when the Hospital became a Reconstruction Plastic Surgery Centre and Burns Unit. I took over the Outpatients Dept. for nearly 10 years, very enjoyable, challenging but very happy years. All the staff were amazing working together. Living in North Lancashire now and family live in house next door. Kept well occupied by large family, large garden, 2 large greenhouses, various meetings to go to and Church every week. 90 years old this year,but what a wonderful life I have had!!!

    By Margaret Baker (17/07/2020)
  • I was born in this hospital. I then was back in due to not feeding properly for 3 weeks and nick-named the Smiler by the nurses, so I have been told.

    By Eileen Birchmore (06/07/2020)
  • I was a pre-nursing student in 1957-58. I remember taking part in the pantomimes. Also had my appendix removed during that time. Went on to join the QARANC.

    By Patricia Horsman-Tanski (18/04/2020)
  • I had tonsils/the adenoids year 1957, would like the names of the childrens wards. I remember some of it like the mash and mince, then icecream. I remember too watching my parents, out of the barred windows waiting to get a bus to basildon, that was upsetting. On this ward was a nursery.

    By Janice Grindy (16/04/2020)
  • I was born here in 1955. My nanna died here in 1970. I was in hospital for an op and was allowed to visit across the corridor. She died the next day. Both of us had fantastic staff.

    By Ms A C Long (MUNN) (05/03/2020)
  • I did my general training here, from 1958-to 1961, and left in 1962 to further my education in the nursing field. It was the best four years of my working life. Miss Hannah Mason was the matron when I started, and Miss Queenie Jackson was there when I left. I knew every brick and bush in that place, and so wish that it still was in operation (excuse the pun) and yes, it definitely was haunted, though not by anything scary. Once when on Simpson ward at night, all three staff were in the labour ward, working with a difficult delivery, one of the girls was sent up to check on the upstairs nursery. By then, the babies should have been crying for their feeds. She unlocked the nursery door to find that all the canvas cots were rocking gently, as if someone was going around doing this, and not one baby was awake. I still feel goose pimples whenever I think about this, after all these years.
    I really wish those times could be recreated. Loads of Irish and Carribean nurses, and we all got on so well together.

    By Mary Saunderson (nee Luton) (26/02/2020)
  • Hi John may I ask who your mum was? I was in there in May 1987 (the burns unit), I had a 25000 volt shock on the railway.
    Would be lovely if any of the nurses could get in touch so I can say thank you.

    By Shaun Wells (26/09/2019)
  • Had my appendix out in the 60s, dad worked in theatres and later myself and my 2 sisters nursed there. Janet Saunders did you live in Ganley Close anytime?

    By Lesley Williams (21/05/2019)
  • I was a young (16yo) Welsh boy in Brooks Ward 1962 – there for several months with rheumatic fever. I remember an Irish staff nurse from Arklow called Elizabeth Sheridan, and an Egyptian doctor called Dr. Attia. Nurses were brilliant. Looking back, I’m amazed to remember that people were allowed to smoke in the ward!

    By Mike Jeffreys (20/04/2018)
  • I too was in Billericay Hospital during the last war, me and my sister having our tonsils out. I had left the Hospital and my sister was still in there when a German fighter machine gunned the ward. The nurses put the children under the beds they could, then laid on top of the children still in their beds. My sister was all right,

    By bobcroot (24/10/2016)
  • I was born in this hospital on Saturday, August 9th 1952. In 1965 I got to revisit St Andrews with a burst appendix. There was no room in the kids ward so I was placed in the adults ward. My memories of that visit are a lot of pain and some of the best nursing a 13 year old could ever wish for. I recall on my release, not wishing to go home. Haven’t lived in England now for some 45 years but it’s still real shame that some of these old places were not preserved.

    By Roy Footer (21/09/2016)
  • I was washing dishes in my kitchen directly opposite the strawberry tree in Grey Lady Place when I first heard the tremendous crack the saw the huge branch come away from the historic tree, directly leading to it being felled. 

    As for the Grey Lady, the storey goes that a ghostly figure would be seen from outside through the many windows moving across the building long after solid brick walls had been built completely dividing old wards into offices and storerooms. 

    By Tony Stafford (23/01/2015)
  • I had two stays in St Andrews children’s ward. Firstly when I was 5, in 1959 to have my adenoids out and again when I was 7 for Tonsils. I can remember the long nights lying awake and watching the single light over the Nurses desk in the middle of the ward and her occasionally getting up to see to a patient. Rarely was it me. I remember the operating theatres were not in the same building as the children’s ward and we were taken across the front of the hospital to a single story building for the operations and the horrible rubber mask they put on your face. On recovering from tonsils you had a horrible sore throat but this was cured by regular portions of ice cream (really) – yum.

    By Trevor Savage (22/05/2014)
  • My Mum was a night nurse on the Burns Unit and she witnessed some very strange things there. John U

    By John Hill (19/05/2014)

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