Psychiatry, 34ft wells and ’60s hairstyles: Tales from the Local Archive

I was back in the West Sussex Record Office archives today, hunting for all the interesting stories to come out of Chichester, Bognor Regis, Midhurst and Petworth during the year of 1964. I thought I’d put together a list of some of my favourite odd little stories I’d stumbled across. So, without further ado, this week in Tales from the Local Archive (1964 edition):

‘One of the shortest ever prizegivings’

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This story caught my attention firstly because of it’s relevance to contemporary psychology and psychiatry, which is an underlying theme of my PhD research. Upon further inspection, I realised that the awards presentation took place at Graylingwell Hospital in Chichester. This particular hospital was the focus of a heritage research project I took part in last year (more information about which can be found here – graylingwellheritage.co.uk). Graylingwell Hospital was also home to The Wishing Well magazine, the patient publication on which I wrote in the project’s book, Beneath The Water Tower. The Wishing Well was the creative work which inspired me to begin this PhD project, and is a publication which will feature significantly in my research. More on this later!

I have no idea what the Minnahurt Memorial Prize is, and a quick internet search for answers isn’t heralding any results. Anyone heard of this before?

However, it’s the bizarre nature of the article that’s the real gold here. The text that accompanies this story reads: “What must have been one of the shortest ever prizegivings took place at Graylingwell Hospital, Chichester, last week. Nurses were presented with prizes, certificates, and badges by Alderman Mrs A F Eastland, acting chairman of Graylingwell Hospital Management Committee – and the whole event was over in 15 minutes. Mrs Eastland gave an extremely short address in which she said that she had consented to present the prizes on the condition that there would be no speech-making.”

I’m assuming that Mrs Eastland was not one destined for the stage.

Stuff of nightmares

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This is just a weird one. A certain Mr P M Hunt of Hunters Lodge Hotel, Lavant, was looking under the bed in one of the rooms when he found that part of what appeared to be a solid floor over-layed with tiles had collapsed. Below it, there was a 34ft well, complete with a pump.

The article reads: “It appears that when piped water appeared in Lavant the old well was sealed over, coated with pitch, and tiles laid. At last the damp has caused the wooden cover to rot, and the tiles had sagged and cracked.

“With Mr Hunt in the picture is his daughter Fiona (10), who was quite excited about the find. A less excited Mr Hunt said that it was going to be sealed up again, and this time with concrete.”

I’m with Fiona on this one.

‘New styles for 1964’

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There’s a lot to find amusing or interesting in this article, but specifically, I’m interested in the references to this cutting-edge new hairstyle called the ‘Helter Skelter’ which “concentrates on enhancing feminity […] the name for the new line was chosen because each wave flows into the next in a swirling “helter skelter” movement. From high on one side of the crown the wave movements cascade diagonally down to ear level on the other side.”

I’ve never heard of the ‘helter skelter’ haircut, although it’s not surprising, given the ominous tone the term took on a few years later.

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