Highfields Remembered top bar showing extracts from some of the images in the database - click to skip navigation

Health

Roger Cave came to live in Highfields in 1940, the year he was born.
Extract
My name is Roger John Cave and I was born in Leicester on 2nd March 1940.

Do you know where you were born?

Yes, I was actually born at Westcotes Nursing Home on the Narborough Road area of the city.

Can you tell me a bit about your family background?

Yes, my mother and father were both born in Highfields. Infact my father was born in Twycross Street just over the road from where we lived. After he got married (he was one of five brothers) the brothers gradually dispersed, one went to live in Carlisle, the others remained in Leicester. His mother and father carried on living in Twycross Street in Highfields until their deaths. My grandmother died in 1963 and my grandfather died in 1968. My mother's parents also lived in Highfields in Connaught Street. They lived there until they died. My grandfather died in 1955 and my grandmother died in 1973, I think she was about 89 when she died. Although my own mother died in 1946, (she was only 32) she died of Tuberculosis which was quite common in those days. From what my father has said she worked in an solicitor's office, but I believe it went bankrupt. She then worked in the hosiery trade until I was born. My father worked in a factory, I think he worked for a firm called Dalmers which made plasters for first aid treatment. During the war, he was in the Home Guard as he failed the medical to be taken into the regular army.

Extract
Groby Road Hospital which in those days was used as a sanitarium. It was situated on the edge of town, I think it has just recently been closed down, but that was used for people with TB. I think it was built for that purpose really,

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

Helen Edwards interviewing Sandy Coleman for Highfields Remembered.
Extract
I had problems at school because I had a speech impediment. In those days they didn't quite know what to do with me, so I was a bit of a burden to whichever teacher had got me at the time. Really I was left to play or do what I wanted while the rest of the class got on with their work. Because I couldn't talk very well, the teachers couldn't understand me, so if they had difficulty in communicating with me they fetched my sister from her class, and she would translate. My sister and my mum were the only two that could understand me.

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

Mr Boleslaw Dobski came to Highfields in 1947/48.
Extract
There were more than six or eight doctors here in Leicester of Polish origin, some of them had been already medical students and they come here to England after France collapsed. There was a Polish section at the medical school in Edinburgh, they finished their studies there.

Were many of those eight settled in Highfields?

Those doctors were not necessarily in Highfields. No, I don't think so. Dr Redish was in Queens Road. Dr Mukah in a hospital, Dr Danek in a hospital. It would take too long to mention all of them but they each had a private practice. Dr Turk was near the prison. There were three Polish dentists. All army demobbed. Lucky enough because at that time you see, National Health Service was introduced in England in 1948, or something like that and there were not enough doctors here in England so any doctor of any description got a job, otherwise they wouldn't get it. Solicitors or any other things they didn't have any chance like that to get a job, but doctors, thanks to the National Health introduction, they got a job and they have been happy ever after!

Read the full interview

Dr Stuart Fraser lived in Highfields from 1946 the year he was born.
Extract
My mother in fact was born in a nursing home on Severn Street in 1922 there were quite a number of small nursing homes scattered around just off the London Road there that is a part of Highfields. I don't know what it looked like and I don't know much about it because in fact I think it was destroyed when the sticker bombs went through Highfields in the second world war.

Extract
Highfields was basically where the practice was, where the work was, where the patients lived, the majority of the patients were panel patients on the polio medical service to my grandfather and there was a fair number of patients who were railway workers as the area around Beale Street and Upper Kent Street had a number of workers there, and my grandfather was a medical officer for the railway sickness society.

Extract
Right, can I just ask you as a Doctor today, how would you react to a child of five walking the streets of Highfields today and what would your reactions be and your concerns?

I must admit as a child walking back and I can remember at dusk times and it used to get a bit dark at times, I would be a little alarmed and I would even consider I would talk to social services about it! (Laughs).

That's what I was thinking, I can't imagine my seven year old son walking through Highfields.

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

Dr Stuart Fraser has lived in Highfields from 1946, the year he was born.
Extract
tangible evidence of health provision in the Highfields area would of course be seen in the Workhouse – the Union Workhouse which was built in about 1844. This was the union of all Leicestershire – the Leicester City parishes – twelve in all I think – and provided provision for all those poor, able bodies and sick people from that date. It must have been quite a daunting reminder to the people of the locality seeing this large building surrounded by brick walls, and knowing that if they fell upon hard times through no misfortune of their own maybe, or through ill-health, that that was where they would end up. The sick were provided for, the sick poor were provided for in this building until 1903 and entry of course had many implications for people, and many families were brought up with the threat of the workhouse hanging over them.

Extract
From 1911 to 1946. There was now provision for the poorer working class men, where they received medical attention if their income was below a certain level. However, there was no provision for their wives, for maternity care or for their children and this is where the Provident Dispensary came into its own. Members could continue to pay money into these organisations, and that would provide medical cover for them. In Leicester, the Provident Dispensary turned itself into the Public Medical Service, and with the other sick clubs in Leicester provided something like cover for a third of the population of the city.

Extract
The Poor Law, in the form of Hillcrest of the Union Workhouse of course, the sick provision was handed over to the local authority in the 1920s, the Crown Hills Infirmary became the General Hospital, and the workhouse then provided care for those frailer and often elderly sick people.

Extract
Hillcrest, as it was known, was used up until the 1970s as a hospital when it was eventually closed and demolished, and is now the site of the Moat Boys' School. I think there could be many memories of Hillcrest and the Union Workhouse hidden in some older peoples' memories and thoughts, but of course I think they may stay locked there due to the implications of the poor law and all its provisions.

Extract
I have had discussions with an elderly surgeon of the city, who, when first appointed as a young resident to the Infirmary in the early 1920s – tells me how he came to assist a surgeon at one of these private nursing homes in the Severn Street or Tichborne Street area, and he describes how they operated in a room with a coal fire in the corner to keep them warm. The surgeon kept his overcoat in the room and took it off to operate, rolled up his sleeves, and once the operation was finished, the assistant plus the porter carried the still unconscious patient on a chair downstairs and back into one of the rooms where the patient was allowed to recover, and then would be subsequently nursed until he was considered fit to go home.

Extract
With the coming of the NHS in 1946, a system of primary care was instituted covering all people. Provision of district nurses, midwives, the pattern of care in the Highfields area would have been that the doctors' surgeries were based on the old 19th century buildings which they occupied. The PMS system, the dispensary system was closed down and the sites were obviously sold off. Nurses covering the area would again have lived in their own houses and certainly midwives covered sort of localities. During the 1960s there was development and re-siting of some surgeries, as the older properties in Charnwood and St Peter's Estate were knocked down, and the doctors' surgeries had to be re-sited. And this was the era of the health centres being built of which there were two in the locality. Here the doctors moved into buildings provided for by the Health Authority to provide health care.

These health centres would also act as centres for district nurses and health visitors. Midwives continued to be based in the big hospitals such as the General Hospital and the Royal Infirmary.

Extract
I would say that they tended to escape from any major epidemic illnesses as it was on a high area, free from the crowded medieval site of the city and the frequent flooding from the Soar and the Mausey, as I believe the brook was called down on East Park Road. It would have been well known amongst people of the city to avoid buying houses in that sort of an area as they tended to be damp accommodation and subject to frequent flooding.

Extract
After the second world war, I would have thought that the Highfields area would have suffered in as many areas from having a population of people in boarding accommodation and lodgings, displaced people from Europe settling there. Some of the illnesses like Tuberculosis might have been more common.

Extract
During the 1960s, Highfields became a very cosmopolitan area, with arrivals from the Caribbean and then subsequently Africa, Bangladesh and India, so that the imported diseases like Malaria and the tropical diseases would become more frequently seen, although they were not a major problem. But it became a very heavily populated area with many young families and a somewhat mobile population so that the social issues of this very mixed population would present additional challenges to the health provision of the city.

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

Mr Abdul Haq came to live in Highfields in 1963.
Extract
Who was your doctor?

Dr Saeed, he came here in 1964-1965. He opened a surgery in Evington Street then he moved to East Park Road. Now there are quite a few Asian doctors in Mere Road.

Read the full interview

Miss Alma Knight was born in Highfields in 1923.
Extract
there were some very poor people in those days. I hadn't started school, I was only about 3. The front room downstairs was a waiting room and these poor dear people used to come in with their coughs and colds, of course there was a lot of fog in those days. They used to sit there with the little card like that for the prescription. But of course my mother and my grandma, they had to look after it you see. They were up at the crack of dawn, cleaning the floor and cleaning everywhere out, and of course it was all under lock and key. My mother used to say the dispenser was a very nice lady, she'd unlock the door and my mother would go in with a cup of coffee for her. I was allowed to go in you know, I sat on this high stool.

Where did they get their prescriptions from then?

They all went to a special doctor.

I know you had to actually pay the doctor, didn't you?

Yes, you did but as I say, through these little health schemes. Of course, you see, I can remember up to 1948 it was still that scheme up to then.

Were you covered by a scheme yourself?

It was the Health Service then, W/I did have to go in the infirmary during the war, now I really can't think how that would be paid for.....I had a nose and throat operation, and I was in a week. I had to take my gas mask and ration book, if the sirens went they pushed all the beds to the middle of the ward and brought you an extra blanket, you know! Of course, as it was my throat I couldn't eat much, so they had one weeks rations for nothing!

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

Marjorie Marston was born in Highfields in 1942.
Extract
I remember when I first started to school I caught whooping cough so I ended up with bronchitis and double pneumonia. I didn't go back to school again for another year but I used to love school. I went to St Peter's Junior School, St Peter's Infants first then Junior. I made a lot of friends there and we had a really happy time.

Extract
And were the nurses and midwives fairly co-operative at that time?

Oh I think so yes, the midwife used to be like a real friend. They used to come around and the mums used to know the midwifes and the doctors too, they used to be real friends.
Our doctors used to be on the corner of Highfields Street.

Can you remember his name?

Dr Casey or Dr Shein, Dr Shein came later. Dr Casey was the older one and I think he moved down to Sparkenhoe Street eventually.

Now does that differ from today, the midwifes visiting the new mothers and has it all changed?

Midwifes go in and I'm sure they probably do try to be very, very friendly but at that time, you saw one doctor and one midwife all the way through, but nowadays of course you go to hospitals and you see lots of different people. Even when you come to the doctors although you try to see the same one, it isn't always possible. I don't know whether you get the same close relationship or not. I mean when I was pregnant we had a similar sort of pattern, you saw the same doctor practically all the time and the midwife used to come home and I saw her all the time and that's quite a nice pattern I think, yes, you get quite friendly.

Extract
I remember being in Hospital, the Leicester General Hospital. I must have been about five I think. My mother and father used to come and look at me through the oxygen tent. I took a blue rag doll and I thought this was wonderful but they wouldn't let me bring it out with me and that really upset me. They said it was something to do with germs. Of course they might have had a policy then of not bringing toys out of hospital then, I don't know, but I seem to remember it was left behind for some reason or another. I didn't go back to school for a year then.

Extract
the doctor was really like a family friend. They knew everything about you, I mean my doctor delivered me he was just like a family friend. You could go to him, talk to him and I remember when my mum was ill we used to ring him up at all sorts of times and he would be there, they were really good. There were no receptionists, you used to go in and sit in the waiting room and he used to come out and call you.

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

Brett Pruce was born in Highfields in 1955.
Extract
At the end, up at Highfields we just you know, we daren't go out. But I mean, you can't take away the fact that we had twenty odd fabulous years up there and five or six horrible ones.

But your memories are basically fairly good?

Oh, very good, yeah. I mean, especially the people. And the community. I really, really miss that. I remember my mam being poorly, very poorly. People were bringing you dinners in because they knew my mum weren't fit to cook and my dad still had to go to work. Somebody would come in with two plates. "Here you are, get that down your neck!" and things like that. I mean, I'd love to think that that could happen again, I'm not sure that we've not turned ourselves into too selfish a bunch. But I really miss that.

Read the full interview

Mary Thornley came to live in Highfields in 1912.
Extract
Tell me something else. Did you ever have to go to see a doctor?

Yes, we went to the doctor on Evington Road. Later there was one that came to live more in the Stoneygate area but it was Dr Shira in Evington Road, Shira, MacNorton and somebody else.

Did they make house calls?

Yes, yes definitely.

Was he nice?

Yes I think so, yes.

Read the full interview
Listen to the full interview

Mrs Dorothy Woodford was born in Highfields in 1921.
Extract
Apart from the usual childhood ailments – Measles, Chicken Pox, etc. we were rarely ill. All good parents made sure their children were 'regular' with a weekly dose of syrup of figs. In spring we had a course of sulphur tablets later followed by brimstone and treacle (a gorgeous concoction) to clear the blood! In the winter we had a daily dose of cod-liver oil and malt, or Scotts Emulsion which was in a fascinating bottle with a label portraying a man carrying a fish over his shoulder almost as big as himself. If we seemed a bit below par mother would buy a bottle of Parish's Food, said to be full of iron, and therefore disastrous to teeth if not cleaned immediately after taking a dose.

Read the full interview

Mrs Joan Hands came to live in Highfields in 1940.
Extract
We had our weekly bath in a big, battered, tin bath in front of this same fire. The water was heated in the copper in the scullery and carried in a jug at a time to fill it up. It was after such a bath, whilst sitting on my Nanís knee having my hair towelled dry, that I fell onto the metal fender, (I do not recall if it was brass, copper or some other cheaper metal). Blood gushed from the cut and I had to be rushed down to the Doctorís surgery that night on Melbourne Road, at least half a mile away, holding a basin under my head for the blood. I think I had to have stitches, but my memory is of an altogether unpleasant episode in my life.

Read the full interview


De Montfort University