Pat was patient as L&D opened 75 years ago

Pat and Norman Lawrence
Pat and Norman Lawrence

The 75th anniversary of the Luton & Dunstable Hospital ‘s official opening means more to Pat Lawrence than most former patients.

For Dunstable woman Pat was operated on at the L&D several months before Queen Mary performed the opening ceremony on February 14, 1939..

Pat was 13 and had her tonsils removed during the first week after the hospital opened for business in 1938

In those days there were just six wards, three for men and three for women.

“My doctor was Dr Crarer and I remember Matron Redman, who was very strict but fair,” said Pat.

“She didn’t allow anyone to sit on the edge of the bed and only two visitors were allowed for each patient with visiting times being very strictly observed.”

Pat spent two weeks in the L&D which cost her father two guineas as it was 10 years before the NHS brought free healthcare to the nation.

Pat and her husband Norman, who have been married for 68 years, have vivid memories of the hospital#s early days, including a bird’s eye view of the original buildings under construction.

As a young lad, Norman was a great fan of Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus, which parked on fields at Lewsey, every spring.

People could buy a short trip in a plane as a treat and Norman’s first flight, aged 12, was in a Gypsy Moth at a cost of 2s 6d – or half a crown.

The following year he took a trip in a larger 12-seater plane, this time for 3s 6d, although the additional sixpence for a programme proved too great an expense.

The plane was piloted by Sir Alan Cobham himself and again they soared over the building site that would become the Luton & Dunstable Hospital a year later.

The hospital’s connection with the Cobham family lives on in the Cobham Clinic, which is the private wing of the L&D.

As youngsters, Pat and Normanstood in the crowds to get a glimpse of Queen Mary when she arrived to open the hospital. They can remember her looking very solemn.