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Some Memories Of Child Welfare In Chipperfield

1st of December 2009

The news that on Tuesday 10 November the Child Welfare Clinic was to be held in the Village Hall for the last time made me look back to see how this provision for Chipperfield’s children had changed over the years.
The Parish Magazine dated June 1926 indicated that there were concerns about infant welfare in the village. This was possibly when the Welfare Clinic began with the arrival of Nurse Maggie Smith in that year. Could it be that the clinic has been operating in the Village Hall for 83 years? In February 1943 the Parish Magazine reported that a very pleasant party had been held in the Village Hall the previous month. The Chipperfield and Sarratt Nursing Association had arranged the occasion in order to farewell Nurse Smith after 17 years service in the district. The Vicar, Canon Jefferies, said how widespread the appreciation was of her work and personality and Mrs Rivington of Little Callipers presented a cheque on behalf of the Nursing Association.
Joan Brown recalls that in 1936 after the birth of her brother Harry, her mother took him to the baby clinic in the Village Hall. Nurse Maggie Smith had attended the home birth at Rosecot (near Pill Pond). Joan remembers that Nurse Smith, who was known as the ‘nit nurse’, visited the village school to check the children’s hair for lice. She also inspected the children’s teeth and accompanied those needing dental treatment to the dental clinic in a charabanc. Joan clearly remembers the enamel basin that the nurse carried!
Ivy Pratt recalls that her baby sister Kath, born in September 1938, was taken to the clinic in 1939 and fitted with a large gas mask in which the baby was enclosed. This was where the Red Cross Nurse Jennie Kynaston of Windmill Cottage would have been trained to assist Nurse Maggie Smith. Ivy remembers that Nurse Kynaston was a tall, slim lady, who rode round the village on a bike. Members of the WVS were also trained to assist the nurse during the Second World War and carried on helping in the post-war years.
In 1941 Daisy Hart and her 5 year old son came to Chipperfield as evacuees. They went to live with Nurse Smith at the Nurse’s Cottage in Kings Lane (now Old Cottage). In exchange for free accommodation, Daisy became housekeeper for Maggie who was finding it hard to cope with her increased workload of additional births and extra clinics brought about by the arrival of so many evacuees in Chipperfield.. Daisy described Maggie as an effusive Scottish lady with a heart of gold beneath a stern exterior who travelled round the village by bicycle or motor bike.
After Nurse Smith retired to Grove Cottages (Whippendell Hill) in 1943 it could be that Nurse Vaughan took her place, but by November 1945 she was reported to have gone to a new post in Hemel Hempstead.
Ivy Pratt still has her weight record card issued by the Child Welfare Services when she took her baby daughter Susan to be weighed fortnightly at the Village Hall Clinic in 1960. The card clearly indicates that the object of the centre was to give advice about infant feeding and general healthcare and not to give medical treatment. It is interesting that there are 19 other Child Welfare Clinics listed on the back of the card.
Usually a doctor was also in attendance at the clinic and saw patients in the kitchen. In the 1960s it was Doctor Brown. Sylvia Oliver recalls that she was visited by Nurse Snell in 1959 when she was expecting Martin. Nurse Snell also lived in the Kings Lane Nurse’s Cottage and retired from ill health around 1960.
Many people will remember Kitty Bunyan, choir mistress and organist, and Mrs Sharpin (The Tile House), who used to weigh the babies in the large pan scales with weights in the Baby Clinic on Tuesday afternoons. Sylvia Oliver reminds us that Gladys Taaffe used to sell products for infants there such as gripe water, rusks, Marmite, and orange juice and other volunteers served cups of tea to mothers who chatted round tables in front of the stage.
In the 1960’s a new nurse’s house was built opposite Garden Scene but was sold within a few years because it was no longer necessary for the nurse to live locally due to the provision of a car allowance. By the 1970s the majority of people had access to a telephone and were able to contact the surgery where the Health Visitors, who had responsibility for child care, were based. New mothers and babies are visited at home as a matter of course. Gone are the days when a baby was weighed as a matter of routine! Mary Nobbs

This page is edited by Tony

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