THERE have been many changes to the way people with learning disabilities are perceived and cared for over the years.

In the 19th century, it wasn't uncommon to be admitted to a lunatic asylum or prison. However, as times moved on, terminology has changed and the majority of people now live in the community, with support.

A group of Cumbrian nurses are using the NHS anniversary to look back at their time working at Dovenby Hall - a mansion which was converted into a hospital for those with learning disabilities.

The site, near Cockermouth, is now home to the M-Sport World Rally base. However it was a hospital for over 60 years, opening 1930.

Among those to train there were Peter Fairlamb, Mark Wood and Shaun Cavanagh, who together have almost 80 years experience.

They have now shared their memories to coincide with NHS 70.

Mark lived in the local area and did think about joining the fire brigade, but had a change of heart and instead became a nurse.

“The training school was in Dovenby Hall. We learned hands on from great role models, providing clinical and holistic care for both male and female residents," he said.

"I completed my training and remained at Dovenby until it was closed in 1996. I moved out with last residents, who were transferred to places provided by the private sector.

"The future was unknown at this stage as the older residents had lived in Dovenby all their lives. We had never seen bed closures on this scale; there was approximately 260 residents at this time.

"The most challenging patients were left to last and we were notified by letter where they would be moving to. Things are very different now but I loved every minute of it."

Peter said his introduction to those with learning disabilities was initially as a volunteer, but it soon became a career.

"I was working for BT and decided I wanted to do something more fulfilling. I came to Cumbria in the 1990s and my first impression of Dovenby Hall was that it wasn't for me," he said.

"I met with the staff and got on well with everyone, and realised they made so much difference to people’s lives with limited resources. Staff were providing really good care, often in a difficult set of circumstances. In 1990, community care was the direction of travel and I left Dovenby, worked in other areas, then came back to Cumbria."

A book about the history of Dovenby Hall, called Dovenby Days, was published by a group of retired nurses in 2012.