In June 2019 the National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded Pegleg Productions £9,900 through a First World War 'Then and Now' grant for 'Searching for the Grey Lady: A Ghost from WW1 at the RNOH'. This project would mark the First World War Centenary at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH), Stanmore, Middlesex, with the RNOH having recently completed the building of a new hospital. In particular, the project sought to consider the founding and evolution of this world-renowned orthopaedic hospital, beginning with the hospital's ghost, known as the 'Grey Lady'. Having previously been a scarlet fever convalescent hospital, the site subsequently became a First World War auxiliary military convalescent hospital, known as the Wardell Auxiliary Hospital or the Wardell Military Hospital. ‘Grey Lady’ ghosts are often associated with military hospitals, so the project wanted to explore First World War-era narratives from the perspective of RNOH clinicians, patients, staff and volunteers, whose lives continue to be shaped by that heritage. Pegleg Productions proposed enabling participant access to archives, heritage research and training for documentation - including documenting surviving First World War-era traces and objects on the Stanmore site, as well as exploring the training of disabled ex-servicemen and civilian patients as technicians for Prosthetics and Orthotics. The project began with over ten RNOH participants engaging with explorations of the site and archives, with many archival treasures being discovered. Pegleg Productions presented two illustrated talks at the hospital: 'Nursing in the First World War' by IWM librarian Sarah Paterson and "Amputation and Prosthetics in the First World War" by historian Julie Anderson, with over one hundred people attending. However, the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that Pegleg Productions had to re-design the project's outputs. In response to ‘Stay At Home’ and ‘Lockdown’ creativity, Pegleg Productions decided to instead re-purpose 'Searching for the Grey Lady' by creating a podcast that shares the RNOH story, through an atmospheric audio narrative that utilises the archives discovered during our initial explorations. In collaboration with RNOH, we invited a spectrum of those involved with the hospital - around twenty staff, clinicians and patients - to contribute by reading excerpts from the archives, recorded at home on their phones. Completed episodes of the podcast series are due to launch in December 2020.
Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore
Focus and Research
Resources used for research
RNOH archives on hospital site; online medical archives including Royal College of Physicians; Royal College of Nursing; British Orthopaedic Association; Wellcome Trust; Science Museum; British Library Newspaper Archives; personal archives of staff, clinicians and volunteers; research conducted by local school history teachers.