Memories of Birch Hill

Memories of Birch Hill Hospital

Birch Hill Hospital has stood at the foot of the West Pennines, overlooking Dearnley and Rochdale, since 1877. Originally opened on 1 November 1877 as a Workhouse by Rochdale Union, it later became a hospital. In 1902 the Workhouse was expanded with a hospital block. In 1931 it gained a Children’s Ward and a Maternity Home. In 1948, they all became a part of the newly formed National Health Service.

Personal Memories

My earliest memories of the hospital are of my first stay as an in-patient, aged about 7 years of age. At the time, we lived on Kirkholt housing estate. I suffered terribly as a child with sinus problems and tonsillitis. In the end, I had two operations and so was an in-patient on the children’s ward. It was not a pleasant experience, to say the least!

The next time I was at Birch Hill was to commence my General Nurse (SRN) training in 1982. I was a trained Psychiatric Nurse (RMN) having trained at Oldham and District General Hospital. By then, I was back living in Royton (where I was born). Due to the fact that I was a qualified Psychiatric Nurse already, I was only required to do a further 18 months training to gain my SRN qualification.

Due to the fact that my training was shorter than that of others studying to become SRNs, I didn’t stick with the same group throughout my training. In fact, only one other nurse (also a trained Psychiatric Nurse) called Bill, was on the same learning path I was. Sadly, as Bill lived in Leeds, he found the travel costs too high and eventually dropped out, returning to a post in Leeds on the Psychiatric Unit.

This was not only sad for him personally, but a loss to the profession, at least on the General side. Bill had a very dry sense of humour and I have happy recollections of many a humorous moment both on and off the wards. Our time on the maternity side of things was particularly funny, especially when Bill had to give a demonstration of breastfeeding in the class to myself and other students. It truly was a moment worthy of the Edinburgh fringe or ‘Live London Palladium!’

After qualifying, I gained a post on the medical wards, working mainly on Healey Ward and later on, the Coronary Care Unit. I really enjoyed my time as a nurse at Birch Hill. Despite the poor pay and hard work (we hand-wrote our reports in those days, as computers weren’t so pervasive), we had lots of laughs. Looking at the posts on Facebook, it seems others feel the same too. 

After trying to get a place on a post-graduate course in Coronary Care Nursing (competition was high) in Barnsley, Yorkshire, I decided the time was right to move on. So, in 1985 I moved to the ‘Big Smoke’ to a job at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London on the Coronary Care Unit. After a farewell dinner with my colleagues on the CCU and one to say goodbye to all my friends in Royton & Rochdale, I left the North West for an adventure that would keep me away for the next 37 years!

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