Writing the E Latest Chapter Spital's History of City Hos; A Mental Health Nurse Has Celebrated His Retirement by Writing a Book about the History of the Hospital Where He Devoted So Much of His Life. VICTORIA PAGE Reports

Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), September 21, 2009 | Go to article overview

Writing the E Latest Chapter Spital's History of City Hos; A Mental Health Nurse Has Celebrated His Retirement by Writing a Book about the History of the Hospital Where He Devoted So Much of His Life. VICTORIA PAGE Reports


IT IS a place which has been shrouded in mystery for hundreds of years.

But now some of St Nicholas Hospital's secrets are to be laid bare.

A retired mental health nurse has put pen to paper to record the fascinating history of the vast Victorian complex in Newcastle.

Logan Ewing, 55, from Heaton, worked for the NHS for 33 years and spent much of that time around St Nicholas Hospital.

Now he has published a book about the building to mark his retirement from healthcare.

It is a nine-year labour of love called A History of St Nicholas Hospital, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, 1869-2001.

Located in woody grounds off Salters Road in Gosforth, the imposing building is now the headquarters of one of the largest mental health and disability trusts in the country, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Trust.

Logan said: "I always regard myself as a student. This is not a definitive book about St Nicholas itself or a comment on treatment methods.

"It's a comprehensive, chronological history of the hospital and how it has evolved over the decades.

"It wasn't until the 1845 Lunacy Act that local authorities realised they had a civic responsibility for the mentally ill."

Originally a postman from Glasgow, Logan came to Newcastle in 1977 after becoming pals with a Geordie lad while working in Bremen and Lubeck, in Germany, doing voluntary work with the elderly and in youth hostels.

He arrived on Tyneside with nothing more than a small, battered suitcase and his guitar. The dad-of-two found his first job in the NHS as a nursing assistant at St Nicholas Hospital and he went on to qualify as a psychiatric nurse in 1980.

He said: "Being a mental health nurse, I was interested in the history of the profession.

"It then evolved into a fascination with asylum architecture.

"When I was a student here in the 1970s, I became aware of an unpublished manuscript by a former charge nurse called George Betts, who wrote a book called Hospital Memoirs 1923-1959. I see that as a precursor to what I've done."

In the 1700s, the Pauper Hospital for Lunatics for Newcastle, Northumberland and Durham provided services to about 30 people.

With concerns about crime and the social problems which led to overcrowding, the 50 acres of parkland called Coxlodge, which we now know as St Nicholas Hospital, were put aside for the development of a new hospital.

The Newcastle-upon-Tyne Borough Lunatic Asylum was officially opened in July 1869.

In those days, the asylum grounds were much more extensive than today and included farmland, gardens and even a church.

Male patients would work on the wards or as labourers, upholsterers, joiners or shoemakers, while female patients would work in the laundry or sewing room.

Towards the end of the 18th Century, the complex underwent a number of alterations.

A recreation hall and chapel were added, along with a residence for the medical superintendent, a new entrance lodge and 10 cottages for married attendants.

The work was completed in 1900.

From the 18 sets of plans submitted to the tender committee, the architect chosen was JW Dyson, of Grainger Street, Newcastle. …

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