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Miscellaneous Entertainments

Whilst pantomimes and sports activities are undoubtedly the most memorable forms of entertainment in the Devon County Mental Hospital, there were many other activities staff and patients could engage in.

The Hospital had, for example, its own orchestra, which contributed to many events and theatrical performances. In the 1960s, this was added to by a musical ward entertainment group that would visit patients. The same decade also saw the donation of an electrical organ to entertain elderly patients on the wards.

One former member of staff recalls the importance of the orchestra: ‘All hospitals had a good orchestra. Lots of what they then called Attendants were ex-Army men and many of those were Kneller Hall trained musicians, and in fact, it was not unknown to see an advertisement in the local paper: “such and such an Asylum require Attendants, preference given to clarinet or cornet players”

There was also the Hospital's social club. Accessible exclusively to staff, it provided a welcome escape from the daily hospital routine and at the same time, as many former staff remember, the social club played a major role in making the Hospital into a community, almost a family, as 'everyone knew everyone'. People remember that the social club was a place where young girls, who would never have entered a local pub on their own, felt safe to go. At the same time, it would have been impossible to drink underage, as 'everyone knew who you were and how old you were'.

At a time of staff shortages, the social club was even used to advertise the Hospital and one former member of staff recalls that at the Hospital 'the pay was good, the social life was brilliant'.

For patients and staff alike was the Hospital magazine 'Outlook'. The brain child of former nurse and later administrator Ken Beer, 'Outlook' took a somewhat tongue in cheek view of work and life at the Hospital. This monthly magazine was for three years the winning magazine nationally in the King's Fund Competition.