Secrets of Pinewood sanatorium uncoveredBy Julie Spencer
August 09, 2012
A Memento Day is the latest event organised by Wokingham Without Parish Council in its quest to set up a museum at Pinewood. JULIE SPENCER finds out more
Last summer an ambitious plan to discover the history of the site of the former Pinewood tuberculosis sanatorium was launched by a small group of volunteers.
The Heritage Committee, working with Wokingham Without Parish Council, set themselves the task of collating photographs, documents and personal memories of the many medical staff, patients and families who passed through the site during the first half of the last century.
Like any volunteer-led project, progress is slow but steady and the historians were hampered from the start by a lack of any official documentation about the sanatorium that was opened in 1901.
Nevertheless, appeals did produce fascinating glimpses of what life was like for the families who lived and worked on site, treating the TB patients who were housed in pre-fabricated dormitories in the grounds of Pinewood – the best preserved of which is now home to the 2nd Crowthorne Scout Group.
Now Judith Moore, parish clerk, and members of the Heritage Committee have organised a Memento Day – an Antiques Roadshow-type event where anyone can come along to share memories or artefacts associated with the site.
Mrs Moore explains: “We are asking members of the public to come along with anything that they think is of historical interest.
“The committee will be there to take photographs, scan documents and record what they have to say.”
The event ties in with the national Heritage Weekend where historic sites and buildings, many of them privately owned, throw their doors open to the public.
And Mrs Moore needs help from the public in identifying a photograph of the Queen Mother visiting Pinewood during the Second World War.
She was filmed arriving in a car, the model of which has baffled all who have seen the photograph.
She adds: “We don’t know what kind of vehicle this is – perhaps it was custom built – so we hope the public may be able to help us.”
The photograph will be on show at the Memento Day at St Sebastian’s Memorial Hall as will other glimpses of vehicles from a bygone age, courtesy of Buckler Cars of Crowthorne.
Other historical groups, including one investigating the history of the Bigshotte School, are expected to attend the Memento Day.
Meanwhile, on-site investigations continue at Pinewood.
Last year, workers installing a pond-dipping platform dredged up glass medicine bottles and in the past few months, the area of land across the road from the site which housed nurses’ accommodation has been cleared.
A window frame from a dormitory was discovered lying on the ground and has been taken away to be preserved for any future museum.
Exactly where a museum would be housed is still being investigated by the Heritage Committee.
A Nissen Hut at Pinewood was the favoured location, but that has virtually been ruled out.
Mrs Moore explains: “We have had a quotation for converting the Nissen Hut, but at £30,000 it will be too expensive.
“We are looking at other sites but nothing has been decided yet.
“In the meantime we hope people will still keep sending us their memories of Pinewood and come to our Memento Day.”
*Memento Day is at St Sebastian’s Memorial Hall, Nine Mile Ride, on Sunday, September 9 between 11am and 4pm with refreshments provided by the Women’s Institute.
Anyone with details or pictures of the sanatorium should call the Heritage Committee at Wokingham Without Parish Council on 01344 771 425 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.