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My dad grew fruit and veg for Prestwood sanatorium

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 08, 2014

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YOUR page on Prestwood Sanatorium in The Bugle (July 17 edition) was very interesting.

My father Charles Wood worked in the Prestwood gardens all his working life, providing fruit and vegetables for the sanatorium.

When he and Mom married in 1928 they moved into a small estate cottage, but a few years later moved into the new house next door as the house went with the job. It was known as Cricketts Bridge Cottage, the canal ran across the side of the garden.

My brother Bob was about five years old at the time we moved and when he left school he went to work in the gardens. I was three, but I remember it well. The house had a lovely bathroom with hot and cold running water and a flush toilet, quite a luxury in those days, as most families would have a tin bath in front of the fire, and a walk up the garden path to the old wooden bench toilets.

Dad worked six full days with extra hours on Sundays when he had to stoke up the greenhouses and open them up and close again at night. Also they had pigs which had to be fed.

They grew all the fruit and vegetables for the sanatorium, some could be stored in the sandstone caves in the side wall of the gardens.

All the garden area was used, no ground was wasted, everything was perfect and so tidy. Apple trees lined every pathway edged with low neatly cut box hedges. The orchard by the brook was full of plum, damson and pear trees.

The produce from the gardens would be ordered from the kitchen each day and was taken across in a wheelbarrow - several journeys I imagine. They had the very best and always fresh.

Waste from the kitchen would come back to feed the pigs, but waste from the patients was burned and always strictly obeyed.

I remember some Sundays when I was little I would walk across the park with my Dad, when he did his Sunday jobs - greenhouse, pigs etc. I would stand and watch, not touching anything but feeling very proud as I waited for Dad to finish.

Our house was on the other side of Prestwood Park, across the top by the cricket pitch down the drive towards the canal and Smestow brook.

Patients from the 'Sani' were not allowed past a certain part of the park, but one man I remember would come down on Sunday afternoons to fish in the canal.

He had a safe secluded spot in the bluebell wood alongside the canal where he kept his fishing rod hidden away. He seemed to keep coming for a long time. Dad should have reported him but did not. We were allowed to speak to him and wave from our garden. I think his name was Richard Henegan. I was fascinated by his Irish accent, he seemed such a nice man and we always looked out for him. But one Sunday he never came nor did he ever again. Some time later we saw Dad burn his rod and line on a bonfire, just to be safe. It was a sad day.

When Dad was 65 he could have retired, but for every year extra he worked it earned him one shilling and sixpence a week on his pension. He passed away two weeks after his 67th birthday - not from TB I must add, it was his heart. He always hoped to retire to a bungalow at Kinver or Enville, but didn't make it. Mum did and lived on another 20 years. Happy memories.

I've tried to remember some of the staff during that time: Doctor Stevens, Mr Hodgetts - plumber, 'Uncle' Eddie Burnell - carpenter - no relation, Mr Philby, Mr Hall - gardens, Mr Meredith - gardens, Mr Hockinhall, Mr Cartwright - kitchens - cook? Plus many more I can't remember.

Finally, something has come to mind. At Christmas the children of the staff, including nursing and cleaning staff, were invited to a party. it was the most wonderful dream party at the big house.

Hope this may be of interest to Bugle readers.

Thank you for The Bugle, long may you continue.

Janet Avery,

20 Charles Road, Stourbridge.

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