primary 2

District Nurse Marshall

Doris Griffiths, nee Marshall 1900-1989

Mrs Gwyneth Ambrose, nee Griffiths, provided several photos and a lined booklet with a handwritten account of her mother Doris Marshall’s life after qualifying as a District Nurse which also brought her to Rowlands Castle (copy held in archive). The account is interesting since it describes the role of district nurse in the days of the 1920s, and also an account of an early visit to a local patient stricken with an illness more typical of those times.

Doris’ handwritten narrative starts with her return from studies in Southampton:

“Feeling like a burst balloon at arriving home and to be with mother again next the question of what to do next just wait and see which was soon realized. There was a vacancy for a District Nurse at Roselands a place I’d never heard of but it was near a railway and not many miles from the sea.  Not many days later came a letter from the Secretary of the Nursing Association, these were ladies of a Committee, who interested themselves in the running of the same.

The advice given me was to present myself for an interview on such and such a day and here comes the foretelling which my uncle had spoken to me of that I would go by water to this appointment and then on by rail. The Secretary advised me to do, which would make an enjoyable journey.

Having arrived and seen by others of the Nursing Committee and duly accepted, I was taken to the quarter I would occupy, was a bit taken back it was as far as seen the Coachman’s quarters of an earlier time but quite private the entrance opened into what was once the Harness Room. A table stood in the middle, a sink in one corner and cooking stove in another. There was a short flight of stairs which led to two rooms above, one evidently a sitting room and one a bedroom, fairly comfortable, the ceilings sloped in each room but the height did not bother me, as I was not very tall.  Mother of course was with me, and felt concerned that I would be very much on my own. However, there was a large house a little away from the domicile, which contained an Elderly Gentleman. I was therefore on his property and the window of the Sitting Room looked out onto a Village Green and people about continually.

My duties, which would start the following week, as no nurse was in residence. From my house, I would serve the village and north about 4 miles which was furthest I would travel on a bicycle. Of course, it was a tiny village consisting of a few houses around a farm and a quaint old Village Church, also the inevitable Public House which was also very old.

Back at my village there were further houses to the East, South and West.  I was presented with the Books and the Register which records the names of mothers who have their babies.  One is paid a visit by the higher authority about every three months when they would accompany me on my rounds, and inspect my books.  Nurses would be invited to lectures, if able, at Head Office.  It was very welcome as this was often the only chance one saw of one’s colleagues to chat and compare notes. If a District Nurse on a nearby District, one would be conveyed in a bar, which was much more convenient than finding one’s way alone.

After these Lectures which were much appreciated by all nurses, time permitting, questions could be asked which in some cases were very enlightening and one would discover that it wasn’t only yourself had problems.

On taking up my duties as District I soon found out that one was looked on as a public body and in some ways rather in awe of, but I’d always liked meeting people and it soon got to my ears that they’d accepted me as their nurse.

My first patient was a young man just across the green where I lived so my first visit was paid that evening.  On presenting myself at the door which was opened by an elderly woman I inquired if it was her Son who I was to visit. “Oh yes, do come in, he’s upstairs”. I was taken to flight which led upward and led into a back bedroom which did not look very congenial to say the least and lying in the bed was a very pale young man. Asking questions about his past and present condition I learned he had an operation on his hip, which I was beginning to think had been long overdue. “Why aren’t you up” said I, the reply was “Dr said remain in bed”. He appeared to be in some pain. Leaving later, I really was concerned about him, his meals were taken up to him, no visitors, and a room which left something to be desired. My thoughts were something has got to happen there.”

Mrs Ambrose provided a postscript describing the outcome for Doris of the young man at No 22 The Green. Ted was the son of Chris Griffiths who was station master at Rowlands Castle railway station. Doris was successful in obtaining admission of Chris to a sanatorium in Southampton where he spent two years recovering from tuberculosis.

So it was that in 1930 Doris, who previously  lived in the flat adjacent to the current ‘Londis’ stores, married Ted (Edward) Griffiths whom she first met in Rowlands Castle during her first job as a nurse following qualification in Southampton. Ted lived nearly opposite in no 22 The Green. They had one daughter – Gwyneth Ambrose, nee Griffiths – who has always lived locally.

AD 21-08-2017