Memories from Michael Toby Reynard

Back in February 2016, a rather beautiful bell was put on the auction site, ebay. It was from Netley hospital and I asked the seller if he could tell me anything more about it.

THIS AUCTION IS FOR AN ELECTRIC DOORBELL WHICH ONCE WAS SITUATED AT THE ROYAL VICTORIA MILITARY HOSPITAL AT NETLEY IN SOUTHAMPTON.

MY MOTHER BEING A NURSE IN THE LATE FIFTIES WAS POSTED TO THIS HOSPITAL BUILDING FOR THREE AND A HALF YEARS.

THIS BELL MOTHER TOLD ME WAS ONE OF THREE THAT WERE ON THE WALL ALONG A CORRIDOR INSIDE THE BUILDING WHERE SHE WAS. THEY HAD DIFFERING SOUNDS AND I THINK WERE TO REPRESENT THE DIFFERENT TRADESMEN THAT CALLED.

MY FATHER USED TO DRIVE UP TO THE HOSPITAL AFTER WORK TO PICK UP MUM ON HIS MOTORCYCLE. WHEN HE ARRIVED AT THE DOOR AT THE REAR HE KNEW TO RING THIS BELL AS THIS WOULD BE THE ONE TO LET MUM KNOW HE WAS THERE. I SUPPOSE AT A CERTAIN TIME AND IT'S DISTINCT TONE YOU GET TO KNOW AND EXPECT.

ANYHOW , WHEN THE HOSPITAL WAS TORN DOWN IN THE EARLY SIXTIES MY FATHER WAS ON THE DEMOLITION GANG ON THIS PARTICULAR JOB AND HE AQUIRED THIS BELL FOR THE MEMORIES IT HELD AND IT PROUDLY ANNOUNCED VISITORS TO MY PARENTS HOME FOR MANY YEARS AFTER.

 

 

Michael then explained that he had many memories of Netley and proceeded to email them to me. I looked forward to reading each one and I cannot thank Michael enough for taking the time to write them all down.

 

Good evening Julie,
Can I say what a wonderful website about the hospital, I am hooked.
Wow it brings back so many memories for me not just for what my dad told me about his younger days but I too have been involved over the years. When I look back and think of the hospital and the park and the amount of time I spent in and around in my youth I feel rather pleased to have done so. It is such a wonderful place.
My first proper taste of employment came with a youth opportunities scheme back in the early eighties at vikky park. I was employed by Eastleigh council under the park rangers and we were based out of the small brick building next to the power house. ( That had the machinery/tools in. ) Our first task was the making of the Boule area, which is now the sensory garden. All the car parks were down to us as was also the cutting of the railway through the embankments from the top gate through to the railway station. I suppose over the years it must have been partly filled in. Anyway it took a bulldozer to shift it. Whilst on this, down at the chapel that afternoon there was a rather important memorial service and coaches/veichles were turning up all day with religious folk on board. Well just before kick off, the bulldozer cut through the electricity cables so panic ensued for a while. The chapel was defunct. Us as nippers, we thought this great fun.
A funny thing happened to us that morning, me and Ronnie Hill and Pete something or other from Sholing, were on the roller flattening out part of the car park by the toilets end of the Y.M.C.A. and this curious chap dressed in a long grey cloth cloak, long grey unkempt beard and long staff just appeared rather close to us heading our way. I noticed this chap and turned and alerted my mates for a giggle. He passed us a few feet away and then just disappeared ... absolutely just faded away not twenty feet away. We all three saw it and it was hot stuff for the rest of the day.

The thing I remember most vividly maybe putting a dampner on the story was that under his arm he was carrying an Adidas bag.


Another ghostly story I could share is that I also had a job as a bricklayers " Hoddy " for a while up the back at the police training college which as I am sure you know was the asylum. Then it was Albert house. Anyway it was winter I suppose, I remember it was dark about half past four in the afternoon. Word got round that something was happening in the main building. I was in the Major's house at the edge of the site, which is now the drugs squad house.What had been happening was that on the top floor on the left of the building after rewiring the whole floor in this one room they could not get the lighting to work. Obviously the sparkies had tried various thing but to no avail. In that building on the ground floor there was two flights of stairs. One for going up and one down. I should imagine this building to have been extremely busy in its heyday. Anyhow someone started up on the left hand stairs from the bottom up and looked up as he ascended . To his amazement at the top ready to come down was a chap dressed in the old blue with red trim uniform that the staff at the hospital used to wear. He turned and ran back down, across the floor and straight back up the other flight..... When he got there and looked about there was nobody or nothing. Then or pretty much then hey presto the electrics in that certain room were ok. Obviously it was talk of the town and stories were being told but I do remember talk of contacting the Daily Echo. Maybe there is something in it.
In my lunch break I would head off into the woods and dig up relics from the hospital. Old bottles, clay pipes in the shape of skulls, cap badges and military buttons by the score. This prompted me to begin this as a hobby and I have dug holes all round the hospital grounds over the years. The items that have come out of the ground are amazing.

A lot of the things were heat scorched or partly melted ( Glass especially) which shows they would burn the rubbish in these pits to deter rats. Most of the badges , buckles and buttons just crumbled into dust. There were great pottery water filters almost as new, bits of bedframes and hundreds of plates, cups bowls etc. I think they had the hospital named I am not sure. A lot of things were from the Army/navy stores. Sometimes old tin cans would come to light with the blob of solder on. All mixed in with burned coke.


I remember looking at the cellswhich had cream material padding inside. No window. Done like a settee with the button pulled I, just like a chesterfield.
There was strange feeling being there. I remember it being a sunny day. I remember the warmth of the sun. I was on my own. There was a row of about five cells in a small corridor. From the end of the building I entered the cells were along the right hand side .The windows were high up in the wall on the left. They walls were painted gloss cream. Glass was strewn about the floor as was lots of other rubble/wood I recall. I peered into one of the padded cells, the door was ajar. I had this foreboding feeling, I remember my stomach turning. Anyhow I managed to pull myself together and went into this cell and pulled the door to. To show my bravery I suppose. I felt instantly sad/alone and scared. I told my mates what a brave soul I was but in reality I was only In there for less than a moment. Funny though I can still remember that day vividly right down to climbing the cast iron steps on the end of the block to go in the door .
Anyhow when I was at school I used to knock around with a boy called Michael Wallnough from Barnfied. His grandfather used to run the picture house in the asylum when the army had it prior to it closing for good. We would race down to the building after school up some steps and into a darkened room to watch films.

 

It was a proper cinema . It had the projector in a separate room with the hole in the wall where the film shone through on to the screen at the front. It had the cloth flip down seats. I do not remember many squaddies being in there at the same time as me and my mate. The only film I can remember was called the Red Baron even though I went down many times. I do remember thinking it was great fun putting a small piece of chewing gum onto the glass in the projector room hole and seeing a blob on the film.
On the walk back you had to walk along past the old red cross buildings to get out of the grounds. They were single story buildings brick and painted white windows/doors. They were set back from the road maybe twenty/thirty feet  In front of these buildings were concrete water tanks set into the ground. They must have been twenty feet of so across and came out of the ground only a couple of feet. I remember it was a treat to kneel at the edge and look over at the huge goldfish swimming around. The tanks were covered with thick steel mesh. They seemed to me the largest goldfish I had ever seen. They must have been there for years to grow to that size. I remember the grass was always immaculate with flowers in the beds and trailing roses running up the buildings. It was a lovely atmosphere. Also as you walked along this road you could peer in through the open doors of the stores. You could see inside at the shelves of everything imaginable stacked high. Items of uniform/boots etc. I remember i liked the way it was always stacked so neatly. Further along there was a small brick building which was the fire station and right down the bottom was the same sort of lean to where the ambulance was kept.
I think it absolutely amazing at how easily the memories come flooding back.
I trust my ramblings have not bored you, I have many more if you are interested. I am also pleased to say that I also worked a couple of years on the officers mess when it was made into flats.

Sorry it has been a while since I last jotted some stuff down. Always busy.

Anyhow last time I think we ended with tales of my time working on the now police training college. One job I had was to take newly mixed up cement over to the bricklayers in a small dumper truck down to the dog handlers unit. It used to be in the time of the hospital the commanding officers residence and is situated over the high wall in amongst the trees. You had to drive right across the site in front of Albert House. In the mornings the new recruits would be lined up in front waiting to be inspected or to answer roll I suppose. Being a young nipper I would drive past and inspect them in turn mentioning a button here or a hat not on straight there looking down from the seat of the dumper. We all had a few laughs .

Another thing from there happened one day that may prove interesting. One morning coming into work on foot . As I neared the park through the top gates I started to notice the odd policeman dotted around. Not recruits but working ones. As I got right into the site they were dotted everywhere around the college, even dotted around the actual building site. Anyhow, strange as it was as the morning progressed things started to happen around and about. Large blue vans ( unmarked ) were parking up. Looking in through the rear windows you could see what appeared to be false interiors. One was kitted out with tools etc hanging up . From these vans were erected tall masts , each guarded by a chap with a semi automatic rifle. Over on the football pitch just opposite Albert House small black boxes joined together with electrical wires were set out enclosing a large circular area. Dotted around were more men in uniforms, again with these rifles. It was all very exciting. As we continued ourselves in the distance we heard a helicopter and booming down came a very large twin engined green army helicopter.

After it landed we were told to keep out of sight by the nearest chap so could not really see who it was who had exited the helicopter. After around maybe two hours out they came with a blanket covering the head and shoulders surrounded by chaps in uniform . Into the helicopter and away. That was it, all over. The vans/masts etc were gone in minutes. Who it was or what it was about.... Who knows. One of the local beat bobbys brought in to guard a corner ( I knew him from around the beat where I lived ) told me the visitor was an I.R.A. supergrass. He was probably joking with me but you never know. P.C. Plessey was his title. Nice chap. He got his fifteen minutes of fame when he was chasing after somebody in a car and ended up right in the middle of a cabbage field at the top of Hound road at the junction to Hamble lane. I remember the front page headline in the Echo with a picture of the police car stuck in the mud..... " Cabbage patch Cop".
My next story comes from when I worked on the officers mess in the park. It had been boarded up for many years with a barbed wire fence round it. One day when I was in the park work had obviously started on renovating this magnificent building. In those days only being a nipper getting work was easy. I flitted all over the place. In those days you were paid in cash, usually on a Thurs. All you had to do was to show up on a Friday morning looking and manly you were in. A lot of labourers would have got paid the day before, had a few and never turned in for Friday. The foreman was an old boy called George and his right hand man was a young chap called Tim. When I think back I can still picture old George in his blue jacket and trousers. His site office was an old static caravan with a log burner and when the colder weather began you had a job to get him to come out. Right out the front with the compound on the right. The whole job was done in three phases from left to right. Phase one was well under way by the time I got there.

The building was owned by a famous footballers brother and it was only after racking my brains remembered who it was. I remembered it was Terry Venables brother although I also remember an expensive car turned up on site on day with the registration " VEN ONE" ????.
I remember to the right of the main doors ,facing on the ground floor one room must have been the main dining room. The fireplace was very large and ornate and carved from white marble. They removed this item and then had a company of stonemasons to replicate/replace another. The one that is there today. It must have been worth a few quid to go to all that trouble. All the rooms being mid Victorian had ever such high ceilings all I remember had beautiful plaster cornices and ceiling roses. All this is still there. We put up lower false ceilings. I often wonder whether the renovated flats get overly dusty as the loft spaces which were left untouched were inches thick with it. Up in the lofts, under the floorboards and in a multitude of places we often found many bits and bobs. Many many woodbine cigarette packets, some like new. Old coke bottles from the 1920's. I even found under floorboards from the veranda running along the back of the mess ( maybe the dining hall) and the kitchen block several invitations to dances. I remember to pass into this hall/room there were two really tall red leather covered doors. Being out the back of the mess now there was just piles of brick rubble. All the old stock rooms/outbuildings were gone. I remember on the left looking at the building there was a magnificent cast iron staircase going up to all floors. We used this but it was deemed unsafe and was taken down. All the building rubble/plaster etc was dumped out at the back and was piled into large dumper trucks and taken across and down into the woods where it was dumped/levelled to make the pathway which runs from the back right along through the woods down to the entrance to the park and the duck pond.

Many many truckloads. Back in the kitchen block they made it into separate flats with a central hallway if I remember. Concrete was wheeled in in barrows for seven hours from the back of the lorry. My back ached that day. The large windows in this block when taken out allowed the brick arches to collapse and were in need of reconstructing. This task fell to a chap from woolston called Ian. He was what is called an improver. A novice bricklayer . Once his handy work had set everyone on site came to see if it would hold when the former was taken away. It turned in to a ceremony . It did hold and everybody was cheering and patting him on the back. He was well chuffed. It meant him moving along. Over where the garages are now, in front of them a fire burned all day every day. We would here spend our tea breaks. A lot of the labour was taken by older fellers working to make up their national insurance contributions. One chap, Mick was his name, from Ticondaroga Gdns in Woolston. He set up a line and would get the squirrels to perform tricks for bacon fat and peanuts. So many good times and things learned from these old boys.
There was a man called George from Netley. He elected to have the task of knocking up the cement for the whole job. He was situated round the corner on the end of the building. Everything was fine until they started getting sand brought in in twenty odd ton loads. One day he was there, the next only his shovel was sticking out of the pile. Twenty odd years later I still use old Georges shovel. Back in the building the two towers were originally water towers but have been turned into viewing rooms or whatever. I remember in the winter time before knocking off time going up and sitting in these in the dark hearing the rain beating on the windows while the thunder seemed to shake the building and the lightening lighting up the whole sky. Amazing memories.

 
 

 

Thank you Michael, hope there will be more to read soon........


 

Print Print | Sitemap Recommend this page Recommend this page
© Julie Green

This website was created using 1&1 MyWebsite.