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