Meet the Local Associations

4: Somerset Association by A. H. Edwards (Hon. Secretary) work VOLUNTARY health has been

in mental tradition in Somerset for over half a century. The Somerset Association for Mental Welfare was actually formed in 1914, but had been in existence since 1911 as a branch of the South Western Counties' Association for the permanent care of the feeble-minded. a

First 50 years For the first few years from 1911, the main objects of the Association were the gathering together of reliable statistics of the number of mental defectives in Somerset and the collection of a fund to begin a farm colony for the feeble-minded. At the end of the first two years 1,933 patients had been visited; four of whom were subsequently placed under guardianship and 43 referred to the Local Authority under the Mental Deficiency In the meantime 25 Act 1913. patients had been sent to institutions. Some 21 years later, while the Association were carrying out many of the functions which would normally be within the province of the Local

a report indicated that there were 2,504 cases on the Association's books. The work was carried out by its Secretary with the assistance both being of a Nurse Visitor; employed directly by the Association. The idea of beginning a farm colony was made possible through the generosity of the late Mr. H. H. Wills who offered in 1913 to purchase a suitable site if ?14,000 could be raised by voluntary effort. This colony was to be for the higher grade mental defectives?known as feeble-minded?and children only were to be admitted, with the intention that they should remain there as long as they could be legally detained. Ultimately more than half the sum required was raised, and in 1914 Mr. Wills offered the site to the County Council and his offer was accepted together with a donation of over ?7,000 from the Association. It was not until 1925, however, that the farm colony (now part of Sandhill Park Hospital), could be started. In 1919 the Association itself raised funds and purchased Yatton Hall as a home for imbecile children and later



a puppet St. Margaret's home for handimentally capped and spastic children.



at at

this was handed over to the County Council. The premises have since been enlarged and improved, and are now a branch of Sandhill Park Hospital. In 1935 the Association celebrated its coming of age as an independent voluntary body working in close touch with the Somerset County Council. In the 21st Annual Report it was Association the recorded that employed a Secretary, a Nurse Visitor and an Organising Instructress with six Assistant Instructresses, who were responsible for occupation centres which had been established in the towns of Frome, Bridgwater,

Taunton, Street, Weston-super-Mare and Yeovil. In addition there were 286 voluntary visitors?the backbone of the Association. At that time these voluntary workers undertook the visiting of 1,035 patients living in their own homes and supplied information relating to patients who might otherwise be unnoticed and possibly neglected. At the date of this Report it was the view of the Council of the Association that a number of patients living in their own homes were urgently in need of some simple teaching of handicrafts, and their relatives required advice on how their children could be trained in good habits and within their simple occupation

limited capacity.

The formation of the Association abundantly justified, but in 1935, i.e., after the passing of the Mental Treatment Act, 1930, the magnitude of the problem of the mentally unfit was more generally recognised, and it was realised that its solution was still far away. was thus

Somerset's founder No record of the Association would a reference to its founder, Mrs. Norah Lilian Cooke Hurle, LL.D., M.A., J.P., who died on the 2nd June 1960 in her 90th year. Mrs. Hurle acted initially as the Association's Honorary Secretary, and

be complete without

latterly as Treasurer, holding office until her death just before the


completion of the first voluntary service.


years of


Santa Clans at a at St. party Margaret's Home for mentally handicapped and spastic children.



Extracted below are a few words which were prepared by a former Vice-President of the Association, the Mr. late Vivian-Neal, from the obituary of Mrs. Cooke Hurle which he wrote for the Association's Annual Report for 1960. "She was always a pioneer, but almost unique among pioneers in that she never relinquished her interest in any movement with which she had at any time been concerned. She possessed the power of organising a social service with wide vision and yet indefatigable in attention to detail. She was quick to give the credit for any scheme she initiated to those who assisted in carrying it out. Her memory for people in all walks of life and their affairs and circumstances, which remained unimpaired until the end, would alone, without her other qualities, have given her power and prestige Her humour, which had more in common with the humour of Fielding than with current that in the generally twentieth century, was essential to her a was She character. redoubtable .



and against antagonist prejudice ignorance, and very skilful in contest. Her generosity of mind gave her a sympathy (very unusual in one so able)

for those less gifted than herself, and her generosity in act and in money, often skilfully concealed even from the recipients themselves, reflected her interpretation of the true meaning of


Recognising the changing pattern in voluntary social work, Mrs. Hurle urged the Council of the Association

to consider ways in which


be given in the Hospital and Local Health Authority Services when the Mental Health Act came into operation. In the Association's view

help might

one urgent capital project remained unfulfilled, that of a hostel and short stay care home for mentally handicapped children. It was recognised that the parents and guardians of mentally

handicapped children were deprived of holidays because of the burden of the care of their handicapped children.

Sympathy and support and support of The sympathy branches of the Societies for Mentally Handicapped Children in Somerset was enlisted and St. Margaret's, 6

Queen's Road, Weston-super-Mare, furnished and was purchased, equipped by the Association and the

and District for Mentally Handicapped and Children at a cost of ?8,000. This short-term care and holiday home now has accommodation for up to 24 mentally handicapped and spastic children between the ages of 5-16 years. The house was chosen because it is substantially built, is situated on high ground and is within easy reach of the sea. When the purchase was completed the property was vested in Trustees and administered by a Joint Management Committee nominated by those Associations in a voluntary nonprofit making venture. The Vice-President of the Association, Dr. W. E. W. Bridger, has held office as Chairman of the Joint Management Committee since its formation. The Council of the Association felt that much of the Association's pioneering work had been successful. The Mental Health Act, 1959 had


Society Spastic

unequivocally upon Local Health Authorities the responsibility for organising social work in mental health, such hostels, training centres and other facilities, as might be needed in the County. Through the years the major part of the work of the Association had been concerned with mental subnormality, and the Association had been closely integrated with the Local Authority. This voluntary work was both useful and appreciated. The Association became gradually more concerned with mental illness and now, particularly since the Mental Health Act, 1959, greater emphasis is made on returning the patient from the hospital to the community and therefore there is a greater need for after-care. The Local Authority has increased the number of Mental Welfare Officers and, correspondingly, the voluntary work has decreased. The Council of the Association considered in what ways voluntary helpers could assist in after-care and it was felt that this could best be achieved by their working closely with and through the Mental Welfare Officers. Consequently four Mental Welfare Officers were invited to become members of the Council of the Association and it was hoped that they would increasingly placed


voluntary help.

Much still remains to be done in the field of public relations. Educational and public information has now become an important role in the Association's affairs. This is being tackled by a panel of speakers consisting of professional people who give their services to the Association. Meetings and lecture courses are sponsored, and are a regular feature of the Association's work.

Social clubs In 1960

Social Club for psychiatric innovated at Yeovil. The work was initiated by one of the Mental Welfare Officers, and the club was sponsored by the League of Friends of the local general hospital whose Honorary Secretary helped





greatly with the preparatory work. Similarly, Social Clubs have been sponsored by voluntary workers helped by the Mental Welfare Officers at Taunton, Bridgwater and Minehead. Each club is now functioning satisfactorily and their activities have become firmly based upon local voluntary effort. Until these projects are firmly afoot,

the parentthe rent expenses until the club can support itself. In its turn the Association has been helped and encouraged by grants from the County Council and the psychiatric hospitals to meet the costs involved. The Council recently considered its relationship with the National Association for Mental Health, and after hearing Mrs. Morgan, the Local Associations' Organiser of the N.A.M.H., it was decided to recommend to the 1962 Annual General Meeting of the that to Somerset Association, strengthen the Association's affiliation, and to secure the benefits which such affiliation offers, it would be necessary to change the constitution to bring it into line with the standard constituthe


organisation, and running




tion. Now that the Association has done it appears appropriate to the Council that it might attempt to coordinate by means of a central committee a forum for some of the


activities of other voluntary bodies in Somerset interested in mental health. At the same time, the educational and propaganda work the Association is has undertaken to continue vigorously, and their firmly-established interest in the social clubs and in St. Margaret's home for handicapped children will not diminish.

Ivor House The Association is fortunate in havits present headquarters at Ivor House, a social centre established 12 months ago by the Tone Vale Hospital Management Committee. In addition to the general advantages of meeting in such a pleasant setting, the Association is now able to build up a library for the use of social workers and students. In the opinion of Dr. K. C. Bailey, who is Chairman of the Council of the Association as well as a member of the N.A.M.H. Council, the importance which has been given to voluntary work by the Minister of Health means that there is no doubt that the Association will look forward to as active a part in Somerset in the future as has ever been recorded in the past. If you live in Somerset and would like to consider joining this Association, please write for further information to: Mr. A. H. Edwards, Secretary, Association Somerset for Mental Welfare, Ivor House, Taunton.


Meet the Local Associations: 4. Somerset Association.

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