A REUNION of nurses who for many years worked at the old St James Hospital in Devizes has brought back memories for people who worked there until its closure in 1990.

Organiser Judy Sheppard, 77, of Brickley Lane, Devizes, enjoys the get-togethers as a chance to remember the hard work and good times that they shared. She also has an archive of photographs that helps her to recall the happy years she spent at the hospital until its closure. They include a shot from the early 1980s when staff won a cup for their entry in Devizes Carnival and the hard work of Mrs Sheppard as an auxilliary nurse struggling with a trolley of dirty washing.

She joined the hospital staff as an auxilliary after her daughter started school. She said: "It was hard work but we had great fun. When we meet up once a year we always have plenty to talk about. It is as if we have never been away.

“We talk about our families but we also remember the funny things that happened. Although we only meet once a year we have remained close. We have lost a few people over the years but there is still quite a big group that meets. We were all night staff and originally worked from 9pm to 8am but then that was shortened to 10pm to 8am. We did a lot of lifting in those days so a lot of us have got bad backs and knees now. The money was quite good in those days."

St James' doctors' surgery now stands on the site of the old hospital but its roots are in the The Union Workhouse. The workhouse was built in 1836 on a site at the north of Devizes. The Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £6,700 on construction of the building which was to accommodate 400 inmates.

It was designed by George Wilkinson who was also the architect of many other workhouses including those for the Malmesbury and Cricklade and Wootton Bassett Unions. His design for Devizes was a variation on the commissioners' model cruciform or square plan published in 1835.

An infirmary block was added parallel to the east side of the workhouse in the late19th century.

From 1904, to protect them from disadvantage in later life, the birth certificates for those born in the workhouse gave its address just as 7 Commercial Road, Devizes.

The institution was renamed St James' Hospital in 1948 and was used as a geriatric hospital until around 1990. It is now totally demolished apart from one small outbuilding. A Red Cross centre and the doctor's surgery now occupy one end of the site.