Wednesday, 27 May 2020

The Caversham Heights Society

THE Caversham Heights Society was only able to arrange two events during March.

This means that the last three lectures of the season will now hopefully be rearranged for next season, which should begin in September.

Also, sadly, John Dudley, who had successfully organised the mini-holiday over the last four years, felt that he had no option but to cancel this year’s holiday to Kent in May.

The two events that did take place were a lecture and a visit.

On March 4, Richard Havelock, chairman of trustees of the Royal Berkshire Hospital Medical Museum, found himself, at relatively short notice because our expected speaker was ill, talking about the history of the museum.

He was interesting and informative, though not always easy to hear.

The hospital opened in 1839, at the height of a cholera epidemic, and the museum was opened in the old laundry in 1881. It is still located there. The museum was originally meant to house the archives of the hospital, which it still does, but it shows much more than that since it traces the history of developments in medicine over almost 200 years.

In the early years patients were bled by using leeches, some of which are still on display, since it was believed that they sucked out different poisons and other infections.

Richard showed us different gadgets and equipment, some of which looked pretty gruesome, that were used for carrying out operations and different types of anaesthetic for sedation through to modern keyhole surgery, much of which has been pioneered by staff at the Royal Berks.

We were shown how prosthetic limbs have changed from rather crude appliances that were developed to help victims of the First World War to modern ones which are now unbelievably realistic.

The museum also shows how operating theatres, the doctors’ and nurses’ clothing, medicines and pills and pharmacies have all changed over the years.

One of the most intriguing exhibits is an iron lung that was developed by William Morris, Lord Nuffield, to help victims of poliomyelitis. Lord Nuffield developed quite strong links with the hospital and even paid for several consultancy appointments and chairs in different fields of medicine.

Richard ended his talk by saying that the museum is open to visitors on the first and third Sunday of the month from 2pm to 4.30pm (in normal circumstances).

His talk was both illuminating and inspiring and we are grateful to him for speaking to the society at very short notice.

The second event was a visit to the British Motor Museum at Gaydon in Warwickshire on March 11.

This proved to be a fascinating tour down memory lane for many members of the society because it showed the development of the British motor car over the years, but the highlight for many was the talk on the history of the Mini, entitled “Wizardry on wheels”.

The Mini has been described as the most successful car of the last century and the fact that it is still being produced and driven is testament to its durability.

Sadly, there will be no more meetings or events until further notice, depending on the outcome of the coronavirus pandemic.

Keith Watson

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