The Heavy Workshop

The heavy workshop - date unknown
Private collection
'Men at work'
Private collection
Wooden fruit bowl made by a patient
Private collection


The Heavy Workshop was just one of the elements of the Occupational Therapy Dept at Harlow Wood Hospital.


The history of the unit was that injured men with the injuries associated with World War 2 were rehabilitated on their return from active service.

This was carried on as the Orthopaedic Service developed and catered for injured miners, road traffic accidents, cold surgery and various industrial injuries after surgery.


An Occupational Therapist would assess the patient and a programme was arranged as part of their rehabilitation which incidentally also included gym work and hydrotherapy sessions in the pool as part of the physiotherapy aspect of the patient’s treatment.

Generally the patients were split into 2 groups – early and late stage and these again were categorised as lower limb, upper limb and back patients and their programmes reflected this.


The workshop

Most patients on their first visits to the workshop had an image of a school woodwork room in mind but nothing could be further from the truth. All or most of the work activity and machinery was done or powered by their affected or injured limbs i.e. treadle lathes and electronic cycles that powered a fret saw or sanding disc.

So, they were actually making a project, which required these activities to achieve the turned wooden fruit bowl or wood carving for instance, These activities were carried out in quite a competitive atmosphere, which was only natural amongst a group of chaps who were together all week socially as they largely catered for themselves on the infamous Ward 10.


Aids & adaptions

Other services provided by the Heavy Workshop were one off aids and adaptations for the patients or hospital as required and also assessments for patients prior to return to work.


Improvement & closure

As improvements to surgical techniques, road safety awareness and amalgamation of services were carried out the Heavy Workshop really had the same fate of the dinosaurs and wholesale closure of the service was inevitable.

In it’s day the service provided what was exactly needed – namely a bridge from hospital ward to full time work for the patients affected   and it succeeded in doing just that with the odd fruit bowl made along the way in what was an unorthodox self-powered way!  


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