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Doctors and Nurses

Cottages auction poster, 1872

Poster for auction of staff cottages,1872 (D/H10/B2/1)


Most of Victorian Fair Mile’s staff lived on site or in purpose-built cottages nearby. In addition to their wages they received cooked meals, uniforms, board and lodgings, or an allowance of farm produce to take home.  This paternalistic approach was not entirely selfless: their proximity allowed nursing staff to work from 6am to 8pm, six days a week, and from 6am to 6pm on Sundays. They had one day off a month from 10am, and were granted just one week’s annual holiday, on reduced pay.

Staff recruitment and retention was a continuous problem for the hospital, especially because of the long hours and demanding nature of the work.  It was also expected that female staff would leave employment upon their marriage. Initially nursing staff did not need any qualifications, and there was no formal training scheme in place until the 20th century. During World War 2, the hospital began to recruit a large proportion of its nursing staff from abroad, either from Europe or from Commonwealth countries, a national trend in nursing that continues to this day.

Male attendants

Photograph of male attendants (courtesy of Judy & Stuart Dewey of Pie Powder Press)

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5 response(s) so far…

My parents Sidney and Eileen Patrick
Posted on the : 3 Sep 2011

the above both worked at Fair Mile hospital for many years and I lived in Cholsey for 22 years

Valerie Harrison
Posted on the : 1 Jun 2012

In the 1901 census, my paternal grandfather, Herbert Arthur Harper was a 26-year-old hall porter at the asylum. I believe that it may have been there that he met my grandmother, who was a nurse.

Alan Smith
Posted on the : 13 May 2016

In the "1939 Register" (a sort of pre-war census) states that my wife's uncle, Arthur Lloyd Harris was a Male Mental Nurse at the Berkshire Mental Hospital Wallingford.

Posted on the : 16 May 2016

Dear Alan Smith Cholsey, where Fair Mile was located, is just south of Wallingford so chances are this is the place referred to in connection with your wife's uncle. There are some staff records from Fair Mile if you wanted to find out if we have anything that mentions him. If you would like to undertake research, please send us an email via the online Contact Us form (located on the left of the web page; or by post if you refer, again details are on the left of the web page). We can then communicate privately, rather than publically via these comment boxes on the website. Regards, BRO.

Ian Horsgood
Posted on the : 24 Apr 2018

Was a pacient @ faremile in the new wing 25 years ago for 3 weeks can still remember the layout and dorms


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