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Nursing class of 1964 recall 'strict' rules under matron's watch

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A group of nurses who trained together at a “strict” nursing school in Leeds have reunited to mark 55 years since they first met.

Fourteen members of the class of 1964 reconvened at Spire Leeds Hospital to celebrate the milestone on 29 January. 

“It was like entering a different world”

Brenda Knight

They travelled from all over the country to meet back at the place where they carried out their “state registered nurses” training, which was then known as Roundhay Hall.

The nurses, most of them now retired, had lunch in the same building where they shared their first meal together on 29 January, 1964 when they were aged between 18 and 20.

They reminisced about their time at the “preliminary training school” and also at Leeds General Infirmary where they gained their clinical experience.

The reunion coincided with the 30-year anniversary of Spire Leeds Hospital.

The nurses had to live at the school for the first two years and they told how they had to abide by extremely strict rules.

Ann Sharpe, from Wakefield, said one the hardest things they had to deal with was “homesickness” because for many of them it was their first time away from their families.

“It was tough, however we helped each other to get through it and we became friends very quickly,” she added.

“It was tough, however we helped each other to get through it”

Ann Sharpe

Ms Sharpe said the reunion was “very special”, noting that there were originally 31 students in their class and many of them had kept in touch.

Explaining just how strict the school was, Ms Sharpe said they had a 10pm curfew and were not allowed male visitors in their bedrooms, including their fathers.

They were not permitted to call anyone by their first names, even each other.

Ms Sharpe added: “It was strict, however we all look back at our time with very fond memories of great camaraderie as we learned together, and we are extremely grateful for the life-long friendships we forged.”

Brenda Knight, who lives in Ferrybridge, went on to become a sister at Pontefract General Hospital after her training until she retired two years ago.

“It was like entering a different world,” she said about the school. “It was very strict, and we only had one and a half days off a week.”

Ms Knight said the nurses had to abide by a stern uniform policy, which included flat black laced-up shoes and black seamed stockings.

“Patients had longer stays in those days”

Sue Millican

Caps had to measure 11 inches across, and their hems had to be exactly 12 inches from the floor.

“These were measured during spot inspections which could happen at any time and if it was wrong we were sent straight to the sewing room to get another uniform,” said Ms Knight.

Sue Millican, who worked as a sister at Pinderfields Hospital in her hometown of Wakefield before retiring, said the nurses had seen “big changes” over the years in both nursing practice and in treatment.

“Back then we worked on 34 bed wards and patients had longer stays in those days,” Ms Millican said. “They were not in and out like today, so we had time to get to know them.”

leeds reunion two

leeds reunion two

Nurses who trained together in 1964 reunite at Spire Leeds Hospital, formerly called Roundhay Hall

leeds reunion

leeds reunion

Nurses who trained together in 1964 reunite at Spire Leeds Hospital, formerly called Roundhay Hall

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