The Royal Albert, as with similar institutions, had its own farm, gardens and an orchard. Although supplies were bought as well, in its earlier years home-grown produce was an important part of the diet of those living in the institution. This was the state of affairs from the Royal Albert’s opening as a charitable institution in 1870, but started to change when it became part of the new NHS in 1948.
Memories of those who lived at the Royal Albert in the first half of the last century often include references to the farm, gardens and the orchard. These sometimes touch upon the ways in which residents were willing to try private enterprise…
Frank: Where the gym is now it used to be a big orchard. There was apples, pears, plums. And we give ‘em plums all right!
James: Aye we did.
Frank: We’ve been copped a few times.
NI: What used to happen? What used to happen Frank when you got caught?
Frank: Oh we got a belting… Pillow cases, we used to fill pillow cases.
Frank: Oh aye, enough to last us.
NI: So how did you hide them Frank? … A pillow case full of fruit is a bit difficult to hide. Where did you hide the fruit?
Frank: Oh all over. Sometimes Winmarleigh* bushes… Oh we’ve been beggars you know.
James: Aye we have.
NI: When we went to Winmarleigh you talked about having mushrooms up there as well didn’t you?
Frank: Aye used to grow mushrooms at back of the garage there. Know where garage is? There’s a bit of a garage there at back
James: Where they keep van.
Frank: Where they keep van and that, fire carts.
James: Fire carts – they keep fire carts in there. Near the steps isn’t it?
NI: … This fruit that you’d taken did, did you share that with other people or –
Frank: Share it round – wards. Go round w — (laughs)
NI: Did you used to go round wards with it?!…… Was it given away or sold?
Frank: Tuppence an apple. A penny a pear! (Laughs)
*Winmarleigh refers to Winmarleigh Hall, the main centre for dances, cinema and events in the Royal Albert