Margaret Anne Aldous, medical photographer in the 1950s at the National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Oral history interview with her daughter, Helen Phillips

Interview by Dr Rosemary Hall, 6th October 2020

Margaret Anne Aldous (née Bennett) was a medical photographer who worked at Stoke Mandeville in the 1950s. In this interview we talk to her daughter Helen Phillips, who has kindly donated Margaret’s photograph collection to the National Paralympic Heritage Trust after we spotted her with it on The Antiques Roadshow. 

Photos of the Stoke Mandeville Games in the 1950s taken by Margaret Anne Aldous, official photographer

Margaret's photograph collection from the 1950s

While working at Stoke Mandeville, Margaret captured many invaluable photographs of the spinal unit and the early Games, and even photographed the Queen. Margaret later moved to Surrey and became heavily involved in fundraising for her local Mencap. As Helen describes below, Guttmann’s philosophy had a profound effect on Margaret’s experience of raising her younger daughter Anne, who was born with Down’s Syndrome and autism.

Below are some of our favourite excerpts; you can also listen to the full interview below or download the transcript

On starting her career at Stoke Mandeville:

My mum developed her interest in photography as a teenager, using a little Kodak reflex camera, a little box camera, and then she went to night school […] After she was 21, she got her first car and she applied to Stoke Mandeville for an apprenticeship as a medical photographer. How she did that with my grandmother has always baffled me because as I say her mum, Florence, was a very Victorian lady, who believed that women should be in the kitchen, and the homemakers, and certainly not have a career of any kind. So how she got away with that, I don't know, she must have worn her down!

First camera owned by Margaret Anne Aldous, medical photographer at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in the 1950s.  First car owned by Margaret Anne Aldous, medical photographer at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in the 1950s.

Margaret's first camera and first car

Hospital exhibition at Aylesbury Town Hall in March 1956  Hospital exhibition at Aylesbury Town Hall in March 1956

Hospital Exhibition at Aylesbury Town Hall, March 1956 ©Margaret Anne Aldous

On Guttmann’s philosophy:

…She had three children, my older brother and myself and then my sister was born with a disability. And she always reflected on her time at Stoke Mandeville and she often talked about Dr Guttmann and the positive attitude around disability. Because before then it was very much, you're an invalid, you will never achieve anything. And although my sister's disability was a learning difficulty, it was very much, you know, that sort of positive attitude around starting, you know, the Stoke Mandeville Games and just the attitude around people with physical disabilities at Stoke Mandeville that had a real lasting impact and actually helped her cope with having a disabled daughter.

Prize Giving at the Stoke Mandeville Games in the 1950s ©Margaret Anne Aldous