Oldest ever Stepping Hill staff photo discovered

The family members of a hospital boiler worker at Stepping Hill Hospital have discovered the earliest ever group photo taken of the hospital’s staff.

James Walter Hammond, born in 1886, worked as a stoker in the boiler room at the hospital when it first opened in 1905. Walter worked at the hospital all his life until he retired, and died in 1973.

His daughter Mrs Brenda Whitnall, now 96, and her own daughter Mrs Maureen Wilkinson discovered the perfectly preserved and framed photograph of Walter and his fellow staff members on top of a wardrobe when they were clearing up Brenda’s house in Hazel Grove. The photo had lain unnoticed for decades.

The photo, taken in 1906, shows a smart and handsome looking Walter on the back row amid other male members of staff, while most on the picture are lady nurses in the starched uniforms of the time. The group are standing outside wards at the front entrance, which still stands as the hospital’s main headquarters.

The discovery brought back fond memories for Maureen and Brenda of a much-loved father and grandfather, but they have kindly donated the photograph to the hospital where it will be displayed for posterity.

Chief Executive Ann Barnes said “This is a marvellous photograph, and a real piece of history which goes to show that Stepping Hill Hospital has been caring for local people for over a century. It’s amazing that Brenda and Maureen were able to rediscover it after all this time, and I’d like to thank them for their generous donation of this part of our heritage.”