St George's House,
Northern Police Orphanage. 1898-1956  Harrogate, Yorkshire, England.




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Health & Work Duties

Health. Even before a child arrived at St George's House, his or her health was an issue which was given high priority and no child would be accepted without a medical check , prior to arrival.  Questions were asked concerning his/her general physical and mental health, what diseases they may have had (measles, chicken pox, whooping cough etc) and whether or not they had been vaccinated and immunised.
On arrival at St George's the new entrant was allocated a locker and clothes hook, then shown the Wash Room, Toilets, Dining Room and Dormitory.  At this stage the Matron would provide the child with a full set of St George's uniform along with night clothes, towel, wash flannel,  toothbrush and allocated a bed . Within a week the child was fully examined by St George's doctor in the Surgery, with Miss Knocker and Sister Batty present and arrangements made for vaccinations etc, if required.

Once admitted, a detailed record was kept of any substantial illness and treatment which the child had received.
The Specialists and Doctors who looked after the childrens health gave generously of their time. They were, Mr Herbert Franklin, C.D'Oyly Grange, Mr T. Vibert Pierce, Mr A.B.Pavey Smith and Mr T. Gowans. The position of Medical Officer of House for St George's was filled by Dr Crawford Watson from 1898-1939 and later by Dr W. Yeoman, ably supported by Sister Batty.   Dental care was provided by Mr. Winter of Messrs. Wood & Winter of Harrogate.

Sister Batty ran a daily morning surgery for all of the children, when each child would be given a spoonful of Virol, (a sort of malt extract which contained cod liver oil). Any ailments, real or imagined, sore throats, ears, eyes etc were dealt with then and there, temperatures taken and the child either sent to the sick wing or told not to 'sham'. If one was admitted to the sick bay then it was considered to be a real treat, you collected your basket of clothes and moved in. This brought a little luxury because the sick bay had an open fire and it was the only possible time to do some french toast ie: toasting on one side of the bread that was already buttered. 
One of the girls suffered badly from rheumatoid arthritis and no expense was spared in her care. A separate ward was allocated for her use and a type of wheeled box cum chair was specially built so that at the weekends, some of the girls could push her outside and take her for walks and give her a change of scenery.
Every Friday night, Sister Batty visited the childrens playrooms with her trolley, on which she carried bowls of clean water, clean napkins, spoons and the dreaded
bottle of Syrup of Figs. 
Sister Batty in action.
 Children lined up to have a spoonful put into their mouths, noses were held to ensure the elixir was swallowed.  Hair was washed in Derbac soap ( to prevent lice) and then with liquid soap.  Boys had their hair cut in the shower room and on rare occasions visited the barber at his rooms in Harrogate.
The girls were closely monitored by the Senior Girls Matron and all aspects of their health including their 'regularity' recorded, to ensure that there would be no future problems in child bearing . Any child who bit their nails had bitter aloes painted on to the finger nails by Sister Batty. The Gymnasium too was also put to good use very occasionally when it would be used for a 'Sex Show'. All Harrogate Guides Groups, including St George's, of a 'certain age', were subjected to a slide show about reproduction, with a lecture including diagrams,  given by a lady doctor. The only male in the room was the slide projectionist at the back of the Gym !
Minor operations such as tonsils, adenoids removal were carried out at Harrogate General Hospital, Knaresborough Road.

Sister Batty
Sister Doris Batty was born 29 May, 1895 in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, an only child of Walter & Florrie Batty. Her name is recorded in the St George's Annual report of 1937-1938, however she is remembered by some of the old boys and girls as having been Sister in charge of the Sick Wing as early as 1931-1932 and being a very good nurse with a kindly nature.

                                                   Parents of Sister Batty

                                                    Florrie Batty nee Atkinson                 Walter Batty   

One old girl recalls that Sister used to sit with the patients and knit pure sheep wool kneepads for her elderly mother Florrie, who suffered from athritic joints. Yet another recalls that she was strict and sharp, but very caring and loving towards the children.
No one can ever remember her attending morning assemblies or attending church, no doubt due to the nature of her full time responsibilities.  She was well regarded by both Miss Knocker (Lady Superintendent) and also by Dr Yeoman, who rated her skills very highly. Sister Batty always wore a starched white apron over a royal blue nurse's uniform completed by having a Nurse's pendant watch and the State Registered Nurse's badge.

The Sick Wing was situated at the Otley Road end of of the main building and covered two floors. In the 1940's the girls' section was located on the ground floor and the boys were housed on one of the floors above. There were four beds in each of the two "wards" on the ground floor which were separated by wooden folding partitions, leaving a walkthrough space between them which led to the wash rooms and toilets.

Sister Batty had a Sick Wing maid who carried out polishing and general cleaning duties etc. Sister Batty, the maid and patients were fed meals prepared in the main kitchen, although it was not unknown for teacakes to be occasionally toasted on the open fire in the ward.  If, after morning surgery, a child was told to report to the Sick Wing, that child would have to collect their basket of belongings from under their bed in the dormitory, along with dressing gown, pyjamas, towel and toothbrush and report to Sister Batty.

A private room separate from the Ground floor Ward, was allocated for the care of Mildred Elliott, an orphan who had contracted Rheumatoid Athritis whilst at St George's and subsequently spent most of her teenage years there in the care of Sister Batty.

Pearl & Mildred Elliott (Co Durham) admitted 1939

A very close relationship developed between Sister Batty and the other two Elliott sisters, Pearl and June and, after retiring from St George's around 1949, Sister Batty continued to look after Mildred at her home in Skipton St. Mildred passed away aged 31, in 1962. Sister Batty died aged 83 in 1979.                                        

Thomas Gowans FRCS. Ophthalmologist.

We have been contacted by Sue Donlea, who kindly provided the following information and photograph of her great uncle who
was Thomas Gowans FRCS, Honorary Ophthalmic Surgeon to St George's, after she had found his name on our web site.
Checking our copies of St George's Annual Reports we find that Thomas Gowans is mentioned in all of the copies we have from
1936-37 right up to his retirement in 1953. He is not listed in the 1953-54 Annual Report but there is a fuller mention of his services in this Report:

"In recent months a very old link with St George's has been severed by the retirement from practice of Mr Thomas Gowans FRCS,who for the past 28 years has acted as consultant and adviser in his capacity as our Honorary Ophthalmic Surgeon. His kindness will always be remembered by the many who in their St George's days benefited from his careful attention and the Committee would like to record their gratitude and their appreciation of his ever-ready help.
As we wish Mr Gowans well in his retirement, we welcome as his successor in the care of the children's eyes, Dr Edward T.Radford"

It would appear from the dates that Mr Gowans started his work with St George's c 1925.

 Thomas Gowans and his wife Mary Berta Gowans. Photo dated 1912

It is understood that Thomas Gowans was born in South Shields, Co Durham c1877. In 1911 the family was living in
Abbotsford Tce, Newcastle upon Tyne.   Between 1930 and 1946 he was listed as Thomas Gowans, Ophthalmic Surgeon of Lichfield East Parade, Harrogate. Mary Berta Gowans was born about 1875, the daughter of Robert Angus & Jane Stephenson Young of Ladykirk, Ayrshire. The Gowans had three daughters, but no grandchildren. Their daughters were Jean Mary Gowans
(known as Shoona) 1903 - 2004, Cynthia Alice Gowans (known as Alice) 1905 - 1930 and Edith Berta Gowans (known as Berta)
1908 - 2001.                             

Dental Care:
All of the children were inspected twice a year and all necessary treatment carried out. The mouths are clean & healthy and as always there is a very low incidence of dental caries. This is entirely due to the care given to dental cleanliness and a well balanced diet.  Dentist: G. Rodney Winter, LDS. RCS. (Eng)

                                                         The Sanatorium

Work. All of the children had work duties for which they were responsible. The older children would make the beds for the young ones. They in turn would dust all of the bed frames and behind the heating pipes. The older children polished the brass engraved nameplates which were fixed to the bedheads (the beds and cots were often donated by various Police Forces and other benefactors and were identified thus).
Baths, showers, hand basins and toilets were cleaned, as were the linoleum floors (in the wash rooms and corridors), which were also polished.
Some of the flooring was in parquet blocks and these were polished using Ronuk and what the children called a 'plough'. Nowadays there are electrical floor polishers to do the job but in those days, it was all done manually.
Play Rooms, Studies, Common Rooms were all cleaned by the boys and girls who rose at 6.20am (sometimes 6am),  Monday to Saturday, The boys also usually cleaned the Gymnasium the red and white passages and stairs. The chores, once done, were then inspected closely by the respective Matron or Master and if 'passed', breakfast was permitted at 7.30am, if 'failed', work had to be redone, which meant a late breakfast.  We all cleaned our shoes daily (and had 'boot parade' after breakfast), Sunday best, weekday black, school brown, house shoes, Wellington boots and gym shoes.
Sunday being a day of rest, was free of work duties.

      Shoe shine girls                                                 Boot & shoe inspection by Miss Knocker and one of the Boy's Masters


Some of the boys doing their share of lawn mowing duties.

Extreme left: John Newton, Bryan Smith, Peter Park, Mr. Gregor McTavish, aka (Jock),Housemaster, Billy Potts, Bernard Uffindell, Doug Drummond and Reg Bassett.







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