Joyce Roberts developed a problem with her wrist which surgery was unable to correct. In about 1980 she became a patient at the Pump Rooms.
What were your first impressions of the place when you went inside?
Run down, peeling paint, scruffy. It hadn’t had – everything at the Pump Room when I got there, everything worked but it had all been botched up if you know what I mean, it hadn’t been stripped out and renewed. It was all, you know, electric plugs, you’d have umpteen adaptors in and bits of flex nailed on the wall everywhere, you know, it was very scruffy. The pool itself was. But as I say, nobody complained about that because we didn’t go to look at the paintwork...There was a piece of a room or a bit of corridor I suppose with, like a hospital ward would be, with curtain partitions and curtains across the front. And the bed was more like a stretcher, more like an ambulance bed, you know. They didn’t have mattresses or anything, they were like the beds you had in air-raid shelters, camp bed sort of thing, like that. And they weren’t, treatment rooms weren’t sort of rooms as such, they were cubicles, curtained off cubicles
I knew nothing about the treatment at all and I was staggered and surprised, but it’s really very simple. They treated me – when you arrive you took your clothes off and they put you into a cubicle and they packed round your area to be treated, or even all of you really, with what they called hot packs, which were bags full of fuller’s earth, which they had in an ordinary domestic wash boiler, boiled them up, picked them up with washing tongs, wrapped them in towels and packed them around you. And this was quite… if it was too hot you put another towel on and by the time you were all packed round with hot packs you were all wet and sleepy, which made you very relaxed, I suppose, simple. And then when they reckoned the time was right after you’d been resting there for about half an hour covered in fuller’s earth, they came along, you put your bathing costume on and you got taken into the pool, which was good blood heat, very, very comfortable with spa water in as well, and you had your treatment in the pool. Usually some sort of – I think the theory is that underwater your limbs are pretty weightless so it’s much easier to exercise them and probably relieve your problem. Each of us got treated in turn and then they would allow you to have a little swim for about three or four minutes. It wasn’t a very big pool so you couldn’t swim very far, but – and then you came out but you weren’t allowed to get out yourself, you had to wait for someone to lift you out, who wrapped you in the biggest bath sheet in the world and they’d say take your cozzie off and leave it behind you and you went and laid in another cubicle on a bed like a stretcher really, it was no mattress or anything, it was just a stretched… wrapped in this towel, which also made you sort of warm and relaxed, and then either you, when they told you to you could get dressed and go home or if you had any manipulative therapy to be done it was done then.
Did the treatment seem up-to-date when you were there?
No, they weren’t up-to-date. They were sort of, the sort of thing that my grandmother or even her mother would have done I suppose. If it hurts there, heat it, heat it up with all these sacks of wet, hot fuller’s earth. It’s very crude but it works. I think the whole reason it works is that it completely relaxes your muscles and you and it makes it able to be manipulated or whatever. And I think half the pain is due to tension isn’t it, when you’re tensed up - ooh it hurts and it hurts more because you tense up. At least that’s the theory I think. Yeah, it does work. But there’s nothing hi-tech about it at all.