Welcome to the Brierley Village Web site

Pronounced as "bry"-"early"

Introducing the work of Brierley and its people in photographs (Baipip)

Brierley is a small village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire England

This web site is kindly hosted by me-too. net and is intended for your enjoyment. However if you find any article offensive please email and it will be removed at once

Please email your comments on this web site and any requests to Gary (see email link below)

Introduction to this website

View the statistics for this website

Your contribution

 Local links

Old newspaper cuttings

Search the Brierley Village website

Email this website

Local news stories

Home page
Ask Richard
Facts about Brierley
Photographs on line
Index to the Baipip photograph archives
Your Email
People Search
Where R U Now
Local Services
Local Organisations
Local History Archives



of Brierley


JOYCE STEELE nee Spencer

Memories of my time working as a nurse at the Isolation Hospital


Back to MEMORIES index page


Joyce Steele (nee Spencer) was born  on the 28th March 1933 in White City Grimethorpe. She came to live at Regina Crescent Brierley in 1961when she married John Steele (who also writes his memories of living in Brierley). Joyce worked as a nurse at the Isolation hospital on Brierley common for 19 years, and before she sadly died on the 7th June 2003, she wrote her memories of her time spent there. The following story is in Joyce’s own words and they are reproduced with the kind permission of her widower John:


     I was in my mid-teens shortly after the Second World War when I started work at what was then known as Brierley Isolation Hospital. Having been in hospital several times during the last fifteen or so years, one can’t help but compare the conditions and routines of fifty years ago. It is not intended to criticise present hospital methods, that would be useless and unfair, but rather to relate nursing methods then in existence.

     Why then was it called an isolation hospital? Even today there are still infectious diseases in this country that are notifiable by law, and although they are on a very small scale compared to those of fifty or so years ago, they must be treated to prevent them spreading. Vaccination is the modern day method of prevention, but vaccine is not available for all infectious diseases. Therefore the cure is by one of the many drugs available without hospitalisation. The hospital was erected in 1894 and consisted of the admin block, nurse’s bedrooms, maid’s bedrooms, dining room, sitting room, kitchens and office. Just before the outbreak of the second world war the hospital consisted of the lodge just inside the main gate adjacent to the visitors room, three wards - Diphtheria, Scarlet and Enteric to which was added new ward and a cubicle block. At the crossroads was the TB sanatorium (now the Robin Hood) and the smallpox hospital in Dunsley Lane (then a private house).


1950 Christmas present to baby patient. Nurse Joyce Spencer (later Steele) and Father Christmas John Butterworth. Baby unknown 


Nurse Joyce Spencer June 1956

     After being interviewed for the nursing vacancy by the matron, Miss Gardner, she informed me that I had been successful, told me about the work and handed me over to Miss Hopkinson who measured me for my uniform and said that it would be ready for my first day at work, which it was. In those days all staff lived in and as there was no room in the main building I was allocated a room across at the sanatorium until such time as a room was available. This was three years later. We had to walk over the common to and from work every day unless the hospital ambulance was available for the afternoon staff at 10pm. Matron took me to one of the wards on my first day where I met the sister and staff and began my training.

     The dress pattern of the day was a white apron over a dress, a stiff belt, stiff collar and cuffs, black stockings and shoes and to complete the ensemble, a black cape with a bright red lining for outdoor use. “Barrier nursing” was the term used at Brierley, which meant that no one entered an infectious area without the coat appropriate to that disease and that included Dr Gardner. There must be no cross infection and that was the criteria by which we were judged and worked. The majority of the patients were babies and children which meant bed making and changing, feeding and changing, sluicing up dirty linen, bed pan cleaning and sterilising, damp dusting, making feeds for babies, sterilising the bottles, giving treatment and 1001 other jobs during a shift. There was no familiarity at work everyone was known by his or her surname e.g. nurse Jones, sister Smith, Mr Bloggs, Mrs Bloggs and mufti was the rule when off duty, uniforms must not be worn. On some occasions we had adult patients but these were few and far between and probably took more looking after than the young children.

   At Brierley we dealt with diseases such as scarlet fever, rubella, diphtheria, typhoid, measles, meningitis, dysentery and doubtful rashes etc but most of these problems were being slowly eradicated as technology progressed. A few tears before I worked there it was normal to keep a patient in bed for several weeks and then he or she had to learn to walk again. Visitors were confined to a hut, which was situated inside the main gate where they were given a bulletin about their child and relieved of any toys or sweets for their child by the sister or nurse on duty. Visiting was Saturday or Sunday and as children began to recover from their illness they were brought up to line to see parents they hardly remembered waving to them from behind iron railings. When his practise ended, visitors were allowed to see the patients through the closed windows of each ward and gave any gifts to the staff at the door. Originally the area covered was known as Hemsworth and Wombwell but with the closure of Akton hospital the area was changed to Pontefract and Castleford in the early 1950s.

   Originally, because all staff lived in, we began the day shift at 6am and worked until 2pm when the afternoon staff came on duty, their shift finished at 10pm. Night duty was different in as much that we worked on nights for three months every year continuous whereas the day and afternoon staff alternated their shifts weekly. Night staff hours were 10pm to 6am but there was no respite after settling the patients down and giving the prescribed treatment, there were ward gowns to repair, tapes to stitch on, buttons to replace, ward names to sew on to linen towels, storage cupboards to check plus any other tasks which sister had said should be done. We had meal break on all the shifts, which lasted half an hour unless there was an emergency. In late 1951 we were allowed to live at home if we so desired and as a result of this our working hours had to be changed to conform to local transport times. As I decided to live at home, two miles away, I bought a bicycle so I didn’t have to rely upon the buses to and from work. Quite often, usually when it snowed, it was unfit to cycle and a bus wasn’t available so I had to walk all the way without any qualms. It was quite safe to do this even on the dark winter mornings.

   About this time it was decided that all nursing staff should be fully qualified and given a title or status so a school was started at Southmoor and official training between Southmoor, Ward Aldham and Brierley commenced. I was in the fifth school along with staff from the other two hospitals. The idea was to spend time at each hospital and also to attend the school for written work and eventually written and practical examinations before being classed as a state enrolled nurse. This took two years, and then I returned to Brierley, which was my permanent base where I worked for a further fifteen years. During this time I married and lived in Brierley. Around 1966 infectious diseases were quickly being eradicated with new knowledge and the intake of patients began to diminish with one ward only in use. I left in 1967 and another chapter in the life of the hospital ended with its closure in the early 1970s.

     Why did I work there for nineteen years, six full days a week, and in the beginning £1.00 a week salary after deductions? The answer is that it was my vocation not just a job – it was the same for all the other nurses and sisters and if I was asked, “Would I change anything”? The answer would be no.

Back to MEMORIES index page