"They used to throw food at one another" Highvolume Play Pause Stop

De Vitre Hall, the Royal Albert as it was in 2006, when the former institution had been an Islamic college for 10 years. This photograph is facing west towards doors leading on to the Main Corridor of the former institution. The hall’s entrance was almost exactly in the middle of the Main Building of the Royal Albert, at the point where for most of its existence it divided the female and male sides. Former residents recall men or boys coming in the dining hall from the left, and women or girls coming from the right. Recollections of former staff and residents recall that the first floor balcony in the photograph was near to the Board Room which hosted meetings for the Royal Albert’s Central Committee. During their visit, members would observe the residents having their meal,
Mandy Cody
Recorded on October 16th 1987 at the Adult Education College in Lancaster. Frank Cochrane, Harry Oldham and Peggy Palmer talk about meal times at the Royal Albert.

Former residents (Frank Cochrane, Harry Oldham, Peggy Palmer) remember the meals in De Vitre Hall at the Royal Albert in the 1930s, 40s and 50s. In this recording they recall the testing of food, the location of the dining hall, the throwing of food and how meal times were announced.

This is the first part of a conversation which continues in, “We used to get blackclock soup!”  and, “Even if you wanted to see your friend, you couldn’t”.


Harry: The Medical (Superintendent) came round, Doctor, Doctor I don’t know who it was, anyhow one of the doctors, came into the dining hall to test the food, put the dinner spoon in the can of soup, just tasted it and spit it out again. Isn’t that right?

Frank: Yes.

Harry: He just spit it out again.

SC: What did he spit it into? Where did he spit it?

Harry: Oh anywhere. Just spit it out.

SC: And did he do this often Harry? Did the doctor, the medical person do this often?

Harry: … to taste it, to test it you see, see what it taste like. There were some give up.

NI: The doctor, the doctor came round every mealtime.

Frank: Yeah. Especially dinnertime and he’d get a spoon and taste it and go out on corridor –

NI: So that was every mealtime.

Frank: Every mealtime yes.

SC: So did you have one dining hall in those days…

Harry: One great big dining hall.…

SC: … Where was it in the hospital?

Peggy: On the main corridor.

Frank: On the Main Corridor… As you went through the Front Entrance and through the Fire Doors and it was facing you.

SC: Right that is what is now the De Vitre Centre isn’t it.… So how many people were eating there at any one time?

Harry: Quite a few.

Frank: There was boys and girls. Boys at one side and girls at the other side.

Peggy: Used to have big tables when I first come…

Frank: They used to throw food at one another…

Harry: There used to be a patient…  used to come round and er you know with pot trolley, pots and one thing and another on. And what was left over, what we couldn’t eat, went over to girls’ side for them to eat, wasn’t it?

SC: Charming… Do you remember that Peg?

Peggy: … It was the 1950s when I first come. I was only fifteen.

SC: Were they still eating in the dining hall when you first came?

Peggy: Yeah… I did have my meals in there when I first come. I do remember we used to go down to it…

SC: … And how did they tell you it was dinner time? How did you know when it was dinner time?

Harry: They used to have a gong didn’t they?… To let us know when it was meal time didn’t they have a gong?

Frank: A gong. Yes.

Harry: A great big brass –

Frank: – Right on the basement…

Harry: gong… They used to bang on it. That’s how we knew.

NI: It was on the basement?

Frank: Yes. On the basement. You could hear it where-ever you were. Even if you was outside you could hear it. The lad that used to bang it he banged it that hard, you see…


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