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Norwich matron dies months after 100th birthday

PUBLISHED: 12:00 04 January 2011

Gwen Owen.

Gwen Owen.

Submitted.

A former matron of Doughty's Hospital, Gwen Bowen, has died five months after celebrating her 100th birthday.

She lived and worked at the hospital on Golden Dog Lane, off St Crispin’s Road, which was founded by a bequest from William Doughty in 1687 and continues as sheltered housing to this day.

One of her abiding memories, when she became a resident for some 28 years, was to be photographed with the Duke of Edinburgh during the Queen’s visit.

When she was appointed as the third matron on April 1, 1962, her salary was £400 a year. And cleaners were paid a florin or two shillings (10p) an hour.

Born in Hockham, near Thetford, on July 28, 1910, she was the eldest daughter of a police inspector. She lived in various police houses from Great Shropham to Downham Market, Snettisham and Sheringham.

She had always wanted to help people and started her working life at Hellesdon Hospital and then began nursing at Bethel Hospital in the 1950s, caring for the elderly. When a post at Doughty’s was advertised, she applied and then spent the next year 18 years as matron.

She lived with her husband Fred in a cottage which was later pulled down with the laundry building and boiler house in the late 1960s to make way for the Magdalen Street flyover.

But when she arrived, a major modernisation had been started by the trustees of Doughty’s Hospital.

The project took 20 years and was finished in 1977 as small bedsits were turned into more comfortable homes – central heating was installed alongside more modern plumbing.

Mrs Bowen, who was always musical and been a keen piano player in her youth, developed a range of activities for fellow residents.

She started a choir and also arranged concerts. For 40 years, she ran the regular coffee mornings, which remain a popular meeting place.

Her husband, Fred, died in 1972. She leaves three children, Michael, David and Jeannine, 10 grandchildren, and 17 great grandchildren.


A funeral service will be held at St Faith’s Crematorium on Wednesday, January 19 at 11.45am.

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