Under headlines such as Arson Attack Suspected At Old Mental Hospital, it was reported that more than 50 firefighters attended the blaze when Little Plumstead Old Hall caught fire at 1.45am on Sunday August 14, 2016. The historic red brick building, erected in 1889 then opened as a mental hospital in 1930, had been unoccupied since the 1990s. Part of the façade crashed down during the blaze and all the internal structures were destroyed.
Brenda Whittaker (Nee Beales) of Postwick Lane, Brundall, was particularly saddened to see it come to such a sorry end as she and her husband worked there when it was a hospital. She wrote in a letter to the Eastern Daily Press that it held many fond memories for her, as she joined the staff in 1954 at the age of 16 and stayed for 42 years.
She well remembers reporting for duty at 9 a.m., on her first morning and waiting outside Matron Smith’s office to receive her uniform and ward allocation. During her years there she met and married her husband who was a cook in the general kitchen. Her mother had also previously worked there for several years.
She wrote:- “The old hall was a beautiful country house with sunny rooms. Upstairs were mainly staff quarters and of course the holy of holies ‘Matron’s flat’. It was lovely and I was privileged to see it just once. It was on the corner of the building above the switchboard/telephone room and training room and was reached by a lovely wide staircase. Matron had her own maid who was one of the residents and nobody was allowed up there unless invited by Matron herself. Downstairs were general offices, finance offices, and the training school run by tutor Mr Jackson, a very kind man. The dining room was beautiful – oak panels with window seats below all the large windows. By the kitchen was the shop which was run by another resident and between the shop and kitchen were back stairs which led to nurses’ rooms. Further along the corridor were cloakrooms, a flat for the senior night sister, Sister Steel, the dreaded Matron’s Office and also an office for the Deputy Matron Miss Blunderfield and Assistant Matron Sister Edrich. At the back of the hall were large tennis courts (much used) and there were often tennis matches with a dance afterwards, parties, presentations and I even remember a wedding reception was held there. Now sadly the hall has gone. What a pity it was not made use of earlier.”
Rosemary adds: Coincidentally, several years ago I was at a birthday celebration for an old friend and at dinner sat next to his nephew. Like my husband and I, he and his wife were married at Little Plumstead church, but he told me they had their reception at the Old Hall. Perhaps this was the occasion Brenda remembers.
AN EERIE EXPLORATION
In 2010 David Baker, a documentary photographer, updated an account of his exploration of the derelict Old Hall at Little Plumstead, where he had taken many striking pictures of the interior. He wrote then: “Overall, the site had been free from urban decay for some time. However that has changed now; all of the sites have been aggressively robbed of any metal that can be resold, the damage done to the buildings is significant. Holes have appeared in roofs where copper has been ripped out of the lofts and water damage is wreaking havoc on the internal structures. Still, the character remains of the entire site – eerily tranquil and deafeningly peaceful.
Read the full story and see his photographs at http://www.talkurbex.com/locations/exploring-little-plumstead-hospital-care-institution-exploration/
When I asked David if I could use a couple of his interior shots of the neglected building on Little Plumstead History, this was his very gracious reply: “The recent news of what happened to the Old Hall is tragic; such a beautiful building with so many years of history gone in less than 48 hours, really terrible. I am more than happy for you to use the pictures – I have lot more detailed images of the Old Hall taken in 2010 and in 2014 and, when time allows, I will make sure you have a copy for your site”. So here are two of his interior shots, which show what a beautiful building it once was, and keep checking for more to come…