Monday, 21 January 2013

Raised Toilets and Commodes in Stoke on Trent

Safe Seats for Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire and Cheshire folk

The term ‘safe seat’ is used in many connotations. With regard to mobility products it could be a riser recliner chair that safely lifts someone to a standing position, or it could be a raised toilet seat or commode with handles to enable one to do ones ablutions in a safer manner. I always prefer to sit in the tail end of an aircraft in the hope that it is going to be safer; after all, should disaster strike it would be furthest away from a mountain!

People with mobility problems often lack confidence and need the reassurance of a safe wheel chair seat or the safe seat on a stair lift when ascending and descending stairs as well.

In the world of politics, a safe seat is the prize for the chosen few who are thought to be destined for high office or to be used to replace those already there. It was reported by James Chapman in the ‘Mail online (January 14th 2013) that such a plot is allegedly afoot.

‘Boris Johnson lined up for safe seat in 2015 to fight Cameron for top job’

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, may be given a safe seat in the next general election as part of what is called a ‘stalking horse’ plot to replace David Cameron. In response, Boris has denied that he has any intention to try to return to Parliament. However, rebel Tory, young Zac Goldsmith, is reported to be intending vacating his safe seat in Richmond, after Boris had a clash with the PM over Heathrow, to make way for Mr Johnson.

The Tory Party is of course not alone in courting safe seats. Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle -under -Lyme are both traditionally Labour strongholds. Once a prosperous industrial area, the world famed pottery manufacturers, Royal Doulton, Minton, Spode, Wedgwood, once household names, are all gone. Together with engineering, iron and steel at Shelton Bar and of course coal mining, the traditional industries no longer exist, resulting in a seriously depressed area.

Other ‘safe seats’ are far more important to all of us. How many people have ever heard of Michael Kaastrup Kjaer, Mike Skovbjerg Vad, Marten Baltzer Kristensen and Rene Nygaard Christensen? No... I hadn’t either. I took a guess at a Scandinavian pop group, or perhaps boy band, following in the tradition of Abba with a new version of ‘Dancing Queen’. These guys are not a part of the glitzy glamour of Abba and pop culture. There is a much less glamorous reason for fame. They follow in the steps of Sir Thomas Harington and one Thomas Crapper. The group were students at Skjern Technical College in Denmark. They invented a lavatory system with a safe seat which closes automatically once the lavatory is flushed. I am not too convinced that this will change the course of history but it did allow them to win a Best Product Award in 2009 for their ‘Intelli Toilet’

Perhaps the invention could have a definite social role to play in ending an age-old row between men and women, thus removing grounds for divorce! I look back with amusement to a time when I had a female boss. Close to her office was a toilet, located adjacent to the photocopiers and IT room. I don’t think it was ever really the case, but she, by ‘tradition’, requisitioned the facility for her own private use. Geographically, the gents’ was quite a way down a long corridor. If, during a long printing run, nature called, it was sometimes used by male members of staff, but only when it was certain that she had gone home. As if endowed with some psychic powers, an irate notice would soon follow, requesting men not to use the holy of holies. I was once naive enough to tread where angels feared and asked her how she knew that such a heinous crime had been committed?
The answer came with the conviction that springs from certainty. “Ladies do not leave the seat up dear!

The history of the toilet

The availability of modern, hygienic toilet systems is taken very much for granted in developed countries. Ancient civilisations, including those of Roman and Egypt, developed toilet systems attached to simple flowing water sewage systems. The 3rd millennium BC has been referred to as ‘The Age of Cleanliness’. Toilets and sewers were invented, some being quite elaborate constructions.
The ancient urban ‘lost city’ of Mohenjo Daro in what is now Pakistan was not by discovered by archaeologists until 1921.It’s origins go back some 4,500 years, prospering from its location in the fertile Indus Valley. “It was the most advanced urban settlement of its time” (National Geographic).

Mohenjo Daro had no palaces or grand arenas, but it did have a large public bath system and, most interestingly to me, it had an advanced toilet system. These were built into the outer walls of the more affluent (or should it be effluent?)  houses. The lavatory was a brick structure, with a wooden ‘safe seat’ mounted over vertical chutes, through which the waste fell into drains or cesspits. (Photo: National Geographic –Google images)
Sir Mortimer Wheeler was the director general of archaeology in India from 1944 to 1948. Speaking of Mohenjo Daro he said “The high quality of the sanitary arrangements could well be envied in many parts of the world today.”

Going for a crapper?
However, in this country, anything resembling modern toilets didn’t really come about until the late nineteenth century. Popular opinion gives the credit for the 1800’s invention of the flush toilet to one Thomas Crapper. He certainly was an early maker of the product, and indeed in the Gladstone Pottery Museum there is an entire display dedicated to the toilet bowl with ornate, white and blue ceramic decorations, (including a genuine Crapper,) but really the crucial component was designed very much earlier in 1596 by Sir John Harrington, a Godson of Queen Elizabeth 1st. Harrington designed a valve which allowed the flush water to be circulated but its application was to wait a long time. From medieval days, bad sanitation was the cause of dreadful disease from contaminated cesspits and excrement being thrown out of windows into the streets and running into drinking water. Since 1825 there have been five cholera outbreaks and pandemics. In 1849, in London alone, 10,000 people died from the disease. John Snow was the physician who first proved that cholera deaths were caused by people drinking water contaminated by sewage.  
The availability of safe sanitation is not yet universal. It is estimated that 40% of the global population, mainly in regions of Africa and Asia, does not have facilities for safe excreta disposal.
(Statistic from The Global Water Supply and Sanitation Assessment (2000) World Health Organisation)

One scheme is to encourage people to dig a hole or pit and install plastic liners, screening the area with sacking. This remains a very primitive solution and far from being a ‘safe seat’ for the user! It has to be said that in some parts of Eastern Europe things are little better. I well recall my first experience of the ‘squat toilet’ – no ‘safe seat’ – just markings to show where to place your feet!  Continental France is not much more advanced having the hole in the floor toilet still featuring in many public conveniences.  There are some surprising advantages to the squat down toilet in that it helps avoid constipation and is good for maintaining hip and knee mobility.  If you or your relatives hip or knee flexibility requires a raised toilet seat in Stoke on Trent in order to more easily use the lavatory then contact Castle Comfort for free advice on 08000 832 797.

Privy to the finest chamber pots

Before the advent of bathrooms and toilets becoming a feature of all houses, and today many expect the en suite, it was not uncommon for the toilet to be an outside ‘privy’ in a back yard or garden. Many terraced houses sacrificed a bedroom to indoor bathroom conversion. 
As our climate does not encourage a trip down the garden in the ‘wee’ small hours, the chamber pot was a necessary, albeit not too pleasant a feature of every bedroom in dwelling houses and even in most hotels. The requisite pots ranged from the very simple to the most lavish of ceramic design in the grand houses of the day. 
The need to relieve the call of nature is common to all, regardless of rank or status, and some fine examples of chamber pots graced the likes of palaces and stately homes such as Chatsworth, Blenheim and no doubt Downton Abbey!

You will see pictured a fine example of a decorated chamber pot designed for the wealthy in the grand houses of England. An item worthy of holding the soup on a grand dining table than part of a commode. 

What is toilet humour?
A man staying in a hotel rang for room service. Expecting a young lady, he enquired of the bell boy “Where’s the chamber maid?”He lifted the pot from a cupboard, holding it high to read the back stamp. “Made in Stoke-on-Trent Sir.”

It is perhaps not surprising after all that such basic needs have resulted not only in ingenuity but in attracting the skills of some master craftsman. One such item was the commode. Whilst accepting that for some unfortunate people, the use of a commode is an unavoidable, clinical living aid, we tend to shy away from such objects and would prefer not to know. The chamber pot was common to all at one time and, for those who could afford, so was the commode.

I was hoping that my research would link the commode to the 18th Roman Emperor, Commodus (the clue in the name perhaps?) but, disappointingly, whatever Commodus may have achieved for the empire, the commode was not attributed to him.

A commode was really far more than a chamber pot. The name applied to any of several pieces of furniture. The name does have a Latin derivation (adjective), commodus. The word found its way into French as commode meaning ‘suitable’ or ‘convenient’ hence we have ‘public convenience’ meaning toilets in modern usage. In Staffordshire, musicians can rehearse at an establishment oddly entitled, The Toilets.

The commode was introduced in French furniture making during the 1700’s. Many were elaborate pieces demanding the skills of a master cabinet-maker to create the veneers and gilding.  Prior to the plumbing advances during the mid 19th century, the commode remained an essential item of furniture.  It took the form of a low cabinet, sometimes with drawers, and a cupboard to house the chamber pot. It was usual for the top to be made of marble, ideally, matched to the fire surround in the bedroom. The chamber pot would be hidden away in a cupboard and only a ceramic water pitcher and bowl would be placed in full view on the top.

The skilled cabinet makers who created the elaborate commode furniture during the 1700 -1800’s are not the only craftsman worthy of mention.
I turn again to the skilled workers, in the now lost pottery industry in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. The City of Stoke-on-Trent, with its six towns, Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton, are still known collectively as ‘The Potteries’. The name of the Premier League football club,‘The Potters’ still echoes the past. Statues of former worthies still stand sentinel. The obligatory Queen Victoria, stands aloof in the Queen’s Gardens in Newcastle-under-Lyme (‘Castle’ folk would not forgive me if I didn’t stress that they are not a part of Stoke-on-Trent!) The Pottery towns are still presided over by the towering figures of Spode and other famed pottery makers, and Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) the best known of all, stands tall, with a Portland Vase in hand, opposite Stoke Station to welcome all to the city. 

There is an aspect of the Stoke-on-Trent pottery industry which is usually overlooked. Amongst the famed creators of fine china to grace the dining tables of opulent palaces, the makers of sanitary ware are the less glamorous examples of the potter’s art. Baths, basins, lavatories and bidets, however essential, just do not have the same appeal! Amongst the names of the Staffordshire potters we should acknowledge Joshua Twyford and family. 

Joshua was born in 1640 and died in 1729, for the period at the amazing old age of 89. It was he who was to establish a factory to make commercial pottery at a site near Shelton Old Hall, in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Oddly enough, I could not find a record of when production ceased at the site. Examples of work by Joshua Twyford can be seen in Stoke-on-Trent Museum in Hanley, in particular an interesting  salt glazed teapot bearing the inscription ‘Sarah Twyford’.

Thomas Twyford was born on September 23rd in Hanover Street, Hanley. He was to build two factories, but not to make teapots or tableware. Thomas saw the need to develop sanitary products and developed the production of washbasin, urinals and lavatory pans. The distribution of these products was, for the period, remarkable, with exports to America, Australia, France Germany and Russia.

The accolade for sanitary ware development must be awarded to Thomas William Twyford (son of Thomas) born in 1885. It was Thomas William who perfected the building of a one-piece, integrated pottery pedestal toilet with both pan and trap, the UNITAS, establishing the way forward to the design used to day.

The Telford family was not without compassionate responsibility for their workers. The Cliff Vale ‘pot bank’, built in 1887, was a model factory. Perhaps not surprisingly, the toilet facilities were innovative, as was the ventilation system with ample opening windows, Factory inspectors treated the new building as the pattern to be emulated throughout Staffordshire; no mean achievement!

The Cliff Vale Factory
Rather sadly, the redundant Cliff Vale site was recently demolished to make way for a canal side housing development. However, the original entrance facade was saved and remains today as part of the local industrial archaeology of Stoke-on-Trent. T W Twyford died in 1921. He is remembered as the leading pioneer of the application of the principles of hygiene in sanitary appliances. The Twyford Bathrooms brand, locally based in Alsager, Cheshire, is still a major player, boasting a Royal warrant, (Ma’am is on the throne!) This is the only bathroom company to do so. The company supply innovative sanitary products worldwide, including a new easy clean rimless pan with the now obligatory self closing safe seat. Innovative ‘Independent Living’ products include easy access baths with stepped levels and easy reach lever taps, adjustable height semi-pedestals with extra height safe seats for close coupled toilets and easy wheel chair access bathrooms. Amongst the famed manufacturers, another son of the Potteries has left his mark on industrial history.

Travel, it is said, is part of a sound education. This may well be true, but it can be a lonely, insecure  experience. Some fifty years ago, I travelled to the old Soviet Union. This was not the Russia of today. It was the time of cold war fear and suspicion and western travellers were certainly followed and watched at every move. It was a fascinating visit and left me with lasting memories. I recall the gilded opulence of Katherine’s Winter Palace with room after room of priceless works of art.

There were the Hermitage, with its collection of the Tsar’s coronation jewels and countless priceless treasures. The bizarre St. Basil’s Cathedral looking something akin to a gingerbread castle in Disneyland, and, of course, there were the Kremlin Cathedrals and Red Square. Tourists were allowed to jump the long queues at Lenin’s mausoleum. Outside, the goose-stepping guards of honour kept vigil. Chillingly each pair seemed like identical twins selected for the task! Inside, one descended down and down a stone stair case into the chilled air and, not being allowed to stand still, filed past the glass coffin to see the body of Lenin, bathed in orange light. I recall that I felt sick.

It was in Moscow that I had the most frightening experience of being alone. I managed to get lost. I say lonely only because albeit I was surrounded by hundreds of people in the rush hour, unlike me, they spoke Russian! The unfamiliar cyrillic alphabet allowed not even a feeble attempt at translation
And even if I could have made anyone understand angliyskiy, I didn’t know the name of my hotel. No number of do svidaniyas was going to help and yes, I was scared. Even the old English adage of ‘ask a policeman’ was no help and each attempt made the salt mines of Siberia seem a real possibility. It is too long a story, but it ended happily. As the night came on, I needed to relieve myself, but where was I to find the loo? I resorted to take the risk and entered an official looking building via an open side door. Trying to look as though I had every right to be there, I checked a number of doors as my bladder was nearly at bursting point, with no time left to worry about what that would entail.  One more door awaited; this was an only too real game of ‘Russian Roulette’. A lavatory pan, extravagantly decorated in Wedgwood blue jasper style, came before me not a moment too soon.

As I aimed at the bowl with an involuntary audible cry of relief, I was transported back home. I was urinating over a very familiar name: ‘Twyford’ was clearly visible in the wet glaze! All my fears left me as I walked quickly back into the Soviet night, strangely comforted by the fact that two lads from Stoke had been united in an alien land. I had found a safe seat in Moscow.

If you have enjoyed this article please feel free to leave a comment below.  Also if you wish to find out more information about any daily living aids that you would like us to research then do get in touch.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Mobility Products Cheshire

Mobility Products Shops in Cheshire

This feature (like its sister mobility blog) has had the most amazing response in our history of our Internet bulletins.

In just over three weeks, we have had more mobility products enquiries than ever - with folk searching for help and advice on home aids from lots of towns and villages. Read on to find out just how many have found us.
As expected, most of them come from Stoke on Trent as that is where our mobility products showroom is located.
Take a look below to see how near we are to those making the short journey from south Cheshire.

(In fact there have been over 180 as we write)  ... almost 100 from Newcastle under Lyme and a total of 125 enquiries from some of Cheshire's main towns: Including Wilmslow, Congleton,Alderley Edge, Macclesfield and Sandbach with a handful of contacts from residents of small villages and hamlets that, we confess,  we have never even heard of!
mobility products shops in cheshire
Acton Bridge, Cheshire rings a bell, but some places with strange names really puzzled us - for example - Antrobus, Bruera, Soss Moss, (near Macclesfield, and famous we now learn, for a 16th century hall and a hospital.  Then we have obscure place names such as  Prior's Heys, Wimbold's Trafford, Saughall and Tilston.  Bucklow Hill is a touch more familiar, but the hamlet Dawpool is previously unheard of.
However, we are informed by a recently acquired customer of Castle Comfort Mobility , a Mr Ernest Greenun, that - Coole Pilate  is indeed famous. At least it will be to to many 2nd world war veterans, as this parish (of just 60 residents now) was where a Home Guard platoon was based.
Finally,Capenhurst (home of a 50 metre communications tower controlled by the American communications giant Urenco ) certainly had the staff at Castle Comfort practising on their sat navs to locate these places.
Brochures were posted out for a huge variety of home help aids to all who contacted us, and it is expected that soon home visits and deliveries of products will soon be made along some of the lesser-known country lanes in the delightful county of Cheshire. And as this comment section was being compiled, a telephone call came in from the bizarrely titled hamlet of Golborne Bellow and another enquiry from the web landed  from Ince village - near Ellesmere Port.   
A noteable conclusion to these comments... and we thought this enquiry was a wind-up, was from a retired farmer in Cheshire seeking some mobility socks for his incapacitated wife. HE GAVE HIS ADDRESS AS STOKE IN CHESHIRE!!  There is a Stoke in Cheshire which is in fact a hamlet near Nantwich with a population of about 20. The name Stoke incidentally, means "hamlet", from the Anglo-Saxon meaning place - a fact that few Stoke on Trent residents are aware of.
It is quite a fascinating experience discovering the existence of these places in Cheshire, so us Stokies, (though we don´t like this description of us)  or Castleblacks - consulted our our old friend Wikipedia, for a comprehensive list. Here it is.
So if you live in Cheshire, and we (or Wiki in their article) have missed off your place please tell us. Here's our main list to add to the list of smaller places already mentioned.

Alderley Edge, Cheshire
Betley, Cheshire
Broadbottom, Cheshire
Cheadle, Cheshire
Chester, Cheshire
Congleton, Cheshire
Crewe, Cheshire
Ellesmere Port, Cheshire
Frodsham, Cheshire
Hollingworth, Cheshire
Knutsford, Cheshire
Lymm, Cheshire
Macclesfield, Cheshire
Madeley Heath, Cheshire
Malpas, Cheshire
Middlewich, Cheshire
Nantwich, Cheshire
Neston, Cheshire
Northwich, Cheshire
Onneley, Cheshire
Runcorn, Cheshire
Sandbach, Cheshire
Stockport, Cheshire
Tarporley, Cheshire
Warrington, Cheshire
Widnes, Cheshire
Wilmslow, Cheshire
Winsford, Cheshire
Woore, Cheshire
Wrinehill, Cheshire

Our sister mobility products blog will soon have it's own study of lesser known places in Staffordshire, that enquiries for mobility aids has come from. So any comments or requested for contributions will be received with thanks.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Disability and Independent Living Aids Stoke

Disability and Independent Living Aids – a history
Physical disability and the ensuing problems with mobility and the need for help when striving to achieve something approaching a normal way of life is nothing new. Cures for many conditions have been associated with the healing powers of water, but getting to the water is not always easy.

‘Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool with five porches. A large crowd of sick people were lying in the porches – the blind, the lame and the paralysed. A man there had been ill for thirty eight years. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

The sick man answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first.”

Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was well, picked up his mat and walked.’
(St John’s Gospel - 5 v 1-9)
Whilst life expectancy in the developed world increases so do the problems of mobility. However, partial loss of mobility is not the prerogative of the elderly. Victims of accidents and combat troops in the armed forces also have needs to be addressed. Also many children are in need of help.
We have had at Christmas, showing at the famous Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, the traditional dramatisation of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. Dickens and Christmas are almost inseparable and I, being a person not over fond of the ‘festive season’, often can be heard quoting the miserly Scrooge –“Bah, Humbug.”It has been claimed that Dickens was the first English novelist to write with a social conscience. Certainly much of his writing highlights the inequalities and suffering of much of the less fortunate of his fellow beings. In ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843) he chooses the image of a disabled child to convince Scrooge to change his miserable non-philanthropic ways.

Timothy Cratchit or ‘Tiny Tim’ is the child of Scrooge’s nephew Bob. Tiny Tim is disabled and has to use a crutch or be carried about by his father. Tiny Tim may well have been suffering from rickets and tuberculosis as a result of poor diet and lack of vitamin B. The solution in the 1840’s would have been leg braces, similar to those used by victims of polio.

Bob cannot afford to pay for medical treatment but of course his uncle could well afford to help. Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley, weighed down by chains, padlocks and cash boxes warns Scrooge to change his ways if he is not to share the same eternal torture. Scrooge was to be visited by three other ghosts; Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come, who whisk him off into those ghostly dimensions in an attempt to bring Scrooge to a clear vision of himself.

The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge a glimpse of Tiny Tim. He is told that Tim is ill and will die if the family cannot raise the money to save him. When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come allows Scrooge one last vision, only a crutch is seen; Tiny Tim had died as a result of poverty depriving him of treatment. Albeit that Tiny Tim is a minor character, it is his fate that transforms Scrooge into an unrecognisable, smiling and laughing philanthropist, thus avoiding the fate of Jacob Marley.

It is interesting to trace the historical development of mobility products. We just take it for granted that stair lifts, walking aids, bathing aids and so on are common place, but is there any surprising history behind them? My research resulted in some unexpected answers.

Perhaps the oldest image is that found on an ancient Chinese stone slate. It appears to show a person seated in a wheeled chair. A 16th century Greek frieze shows an image of what looks like a wheeled bed, perhaps for a child. Did you know that the humble wheel barrow was invented by the Chinese? It was a dual purpose tool, not only for transporting material but also people.

 From our history lessons, we are well aware of King Henry VIII and his string of doomed wives. We may even associate him with the reformation, schism with the Pope and the beginnings of the Church of England. Few would know (and neither did the writer) that he actually possessed and used a stair lift!

As a young man, Henry was slim, tall, athletic and very handsome.  In his later years, he was obese. His armour dimensions record a height of 6’1” with a 53” chest and a waist of a massive 52”. Henry jousted. Our Royals play polo, and, like Prince Charles, he was known to take a few tumbles from his horse. Henry sustained a jousting injury which together with his other pursuits resulted in mobility problems in his latter years. From research carried out by the historian David Starkey, amongst his possessions in Whitehall Palace was a stair lift. It was a chair of wooden construction which was moved by a system of ropes. Servants hauled on them and the ailing giant of a king was transported up and down the stairs, in stately manner, on his chair lift throne! Keith Simpson, managing director of Castle Comfort Centre, with its head office in Wolstanton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, can no longer claim the title of ‘Stair Lift King’ it seems. Henry beat him to the accolade!
What possible connection could there be between mobility products and the Spanish Armada?
There is in fact another Royal link in the person of King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598)
Philip married Mary Tudor in the old capital of England, Winchester, on the 25th July 1554, just two days after they met.  Philip used a wheel chair at the service. It was designed by one Jeham Lehermite.  (shown in a sketch from 1595).The chair was made from iron with small wheels on each of the four legs, a foot rest and an adjustable back. With the marriage, he became King of England and Ireland. Mary was a Catholic, and her marriage to the Catholic King of Spain was a move to ensure that England once again became a seat of the Roman Faith. Mary died of cancer in 1558 and was succeeded by her sister, Elizabeth 1st, daughter of Henry VIII, and a protestant.

On the death of Mary Tudor, Philip lost his claim to the English throne and had to resort to battle to defeat the English Protestants. The Spanish launched a sea battle which was known as the Spanish Armada. Neither the Spanish King nor the Pope could control the English climate. The adverse weather forced the Spanish fleet to flee for shelter and the battle was lost. King Philip, addressing the survivors, expressed his exasperation at the defeat:

‘I sent you to fight with men, not the weather.’

Here we see an image from 1680 of the renowned Chinese philosopher Confucius being grandly transported along in what resembles the later concept of a wheel chair.

(Source: Wikipedia)

It is arguable that the history of the wheel chair as a specific walking aid dates back to 1655. Stephen Farfler, a young disabled watchmaker, set about solving his own mobility problems. He built a wheel chair. Earlier vehicles needed other people to pull or push them along, but Stephen wanted independence. His design was a box-like structure supported by three wheels. He cleverly attached a lever to the front wheel that could be turned to propel the chair along.

The next significant period of wheel chair development was not to be seen until the 18th Century.
What became known as a Bath Chair, was built by one John Dawson in 1783.  I always associated the name with a bathing aid. In fact the origin of the name is the City of Bath, the inventor’s home town. Dawson’s chair was of a three wheeled design, with a reclined seat in basket weave. Bath Chairs can often be seen in stately homes whose wealthy occupants could afford such an aid to mobility and of course had someone from ‘below stairs’ to push them around the estate.

It was to be a long time before a light weight wheel chair, more akin to those of today, was invented.
There is a difference between a transport chair and a wheel chair. A transport chair, often used in hospitals, has to be pushed. A wheel chair is self-propelled by the user, usually by means of a frame around the large side wheels.

The first lightweight, folding wheel chair was probably the 1933 invention of an engineer, Henry Jennings. He designed the chair for the use of a friend, Herbert Everest, a paraplegic. The road to mass production was to follow when the two men founded a manufacturing company of Everest and Jennings.

It is the case that trade names can become a generic name for a particular product. You don’t vacuum cleaner the carpet, you hoover it, (using a Dyson or Electrolux probably) You don’t ask to borrow a bic or a parker, you ask for a biro. No doubt when facing the tiresome task of wrapping Christmas parcels you look for the cello tape, not a roll of transparent sticky tape perhaps really called Scotch Tape.

A few years ago, a teacher friend of mine took up an exchange post in a junior school in Australia. He expected a change of culture of course, but he was taken aback when a squabble broke out between two young boys, barely eight years of age.

What is this all about?” he asked as he parted the warring parties.
Charlie started it Sir, he’s pinched my Durex.”

He understood that kids grew up quickly on a good diet and warm Australian sunshine, but such a level of child development came as a shock. He voiced his concern to a colleague only to be assured that Durex was a generic Australian name for sticky tape!

Such product names becoming generic also applies to walking aids. People refer to a Zimmer, regardless of manufacturer. 

The Zimmer Frame was probably the idea of the idea of one Andrejz Muiza, a Latvian who moved to the United States after World war Two. In the UK a walking frame was first filed at the Patent Office in August 1949.

In the USA in the 1950’s, a patent was filed by William Cribbs Robb who hailed from Stretford in Manchester UK. This was followed in 1970 by a later design from Alfred A Smith. The design was taken up by the Zimmer Corporation in Warsaw Indiana. The company was created in 1927 by Alfred O Zimmer. In 2009, the corporation reported a staggering turnover of $4.095 billion. It employs 8,200 people, 49000 being in the United States, and 3,300 mainly in Europe and Japan and now specialises in orthopedic joint replacements.

The evolution of disability living aids has a long and varied history of helping to overcome physical difficulties and improving the quality of life for millions of people world - wide. The 2012 Paralympics displayed not only the courage and tenacity of disabled people, but was also a showcase and testament to mobility aids technology.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

West End Village Stoke Xmas Hamper Presentation

On Monday at West End Village Stoke Castle Comfort Centre's Keith Simpson and Dr. Neil Stirling were presenting the winners, Brian and Phyllis, who are residents of West End Village Stoke with their Christmas Hamper.

Representatives from Blackfriars School, Donna Louise Trust and the Salvation Army were on hand to be awarded cheques which were the proceeds raised from selling the raffle tickets in local Sainsburys and Morrisons supermarkets.

Many thanks to Jan from West End Village who enabled the presentation to be filmed in the main foyer just before the childrens choir made their entrance.

The video is below click in the middle to watch it.

West End Village is an extracare over 55's housing development that won Best of British design awards when built in 2011.  It has 100 apartments available from Staffordshire Housing Association on a shared ownership basis.  A 2 bedroom flat is approximately £95,000.

The development has a gym, hairdressing salon and restaurant and there is an amazing lifelike painting in the grounds of a narrowboat from Stoke artist +Rob Pointon

The most often purchased products from our mobility aids showroom are riser recliner chairs, adjustable beds and walking sticks.  We have a number of West End Village residents as customers and provide free delivery to any local address.

Some lovely thank-you notes have been received, for our Christmas charity donations.  Firstly from the Blackfriars and Coppice Federation which is below.

The next one we have is the Donna Louise Hospice Trust.

And thirdly we have had a note from the Salvation Army in Chesterton who have been able to donate gifts to over 5000 families in North Staffordshire.

Whatever the time of year if you need to be more comfortable with sitting, standing, walking around or sleeping then one or more of our mobility products can help you there.  See our website to find out more.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Mobility Aids in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire plus Cheshire, Derbyshire & Shropshire

Mobility Aids Stoke on Trent Staffordshire Cheshire
There are tens of thousands of them. What! mobility products? (Also known as daily living aids) Yes, there are a lot of those. Too many to count. But also, tens of thousands in fact hundreds of thousands of people in the counties of Staffordshire, Cheshire, Shropshire and Shropshire (aka Salop) who need them.

Nobody knows  more than the staff at mobility products specialists CASTLE COMFORT CENTRE, of Newcastle under Lyme, who have been involved in the supply of daily living aids since 1998. Their speciality flagship products are STAIRLIFTS, RISER RECLINER CHAIRS AND ELECTRIC BEDS, (see some of their clients here happily being filmed) but over the years a very special free service has evolved which helps you locate and purchase any of the many gadgets and aids that are needed for disabled people (or those folk simply getting on a little.)

Of the latter - there are simply millions - and members of the sector who may be  fit and healthy for their ages - but maybe in need of a little assistance (just as an older car or machine may need a bit of extra servicing and attention) we affectionately call  THE GREY MARKET.

Back to the grey market shortly (or indeed the 'Silver Surfers') but the disabled sector is a little more defined and accounted for in terms of  statistics.

Disability and employment - some stats for those interested ...

  1. There are currently 1.3 million disabled people in the UK who are available for and want to work.
  2. Only half of disabled people of working age are in work (50%), compared with 80% of non disabled people.
  3. 23% of disabled people have no qualifications compared to 9% of non disabled people.
  4. Nearly 1 in 5 people of working age (7 million, or 18.6%) in Great Britain have a disability.

The ageing population

    Riser Recliner Chairs Refurbished
Over the last 25 years the percentage of the population aged 65 and over increased from 15 per cent in 1983 to 16 per cent in 2008, an increase of 1.5 million people in this age group. Over the same period, the percentage of the population aged 16 and under decreased from 21 per cent to 19 per cent. This trend is projected to continue. By 2033, 23 per cent of the population will be aged 65 and over compared to 18 per cent aged 16 or younger.
The fastest population increase has been in the number of those aged 85 and over. In 1983, there were just over 600,000 people in the UK aged 85 and over. Since then the numbers have more than doubled reaching 1.3 million in 2008. By 2033 the number of people aged 85 and over is projected to more than double again to reach 3.2 million, and to account for 5 per cent of the total population. Source:DLF

The Disability equipment market

The total UK disability equipment market has been estimated at £1.46 billion for 2008 compared with £1.34 billion the previous year. Sales of disabled equipment in the UK have increased by 92.6% over the last 10 years and the total market size increased by 9.2% last year.  Castle Comfort Group since 1997 have been and important player UK-wide in the supply of products to the 'gray market' and the disability sectors. However the policy of the company has always been to focus on their major flagship products, namely stairlifts, riser recliner chairs and adjustable beds


Castle Comfort's experience means that a quick call to any of their help lines, or a visit to the showrooms will result in details being given where these other smaller products can be found ...


Usually all that is needed is a freephone call by the customer direct to the supplier with the description and reference.

The goods will be delivered by courier, usually without charge in just a day or two. 

Payment can be made on delivery in many cases, or by plastic card on ordering. 

Buyers are also covered by what is know as 'distance selling regulations' which means that the product can be returned to the supplier without any obligation or cost. 

So apart from getting any of the following items cheaper (as a mobility shop is not involved making a necessary profit) - you can return them if you wish - and THAT is something you may not be able to do on the High Street.

Retail shops only have to make a refund if the goods are faulty or otherwise  'not fit for their purpose'  Many people are surprised at this as the policies of retailers like Marks and Spencer "bring it back if you wish for your money back" - are not a legal right at all - they just choose to offer it as a sales gimmick.

So here, as promised, is the beginning of  what may be a long long list of things that YOU - or your family need.

just contact Castle Comfort on 0800 007 6959
up to 11pm any evening - 7 days per week.

A commode (small or large commodes)

Zimmer frame  (or Zimmer frames on wheels)
Slippers for problematic feet
Can opener for arthritis sufferers
Phone with large buttons (including mobile telephones with large buttons)
Cot side inc single or double cot sides

GRAB HANDLES which may a grab handle for anywhere in the house.  Also known as GRAB BARS  (Source Wikipedia)

Wheelchair hire
Wheelchair cushions
Stool for the shower - and even stools for the bath
Seat cushions
Pingaba braces
Walking without wheels frames
Scooter covers
Scooter cushions
Table for bed or chair (often known as over beds tables)
Remote control lamp
Sensitive or sensitivity lamps / lights
Slippers for the disabled
Socks for the disabled

Dog Alarm
Shoes for the disabled
Hand vice
Booster cushion
Radar Keys
Raised toilet seats
Extra-wide easy fasten slippers
Back scratchers (don't forget to look at this!)

An interlude on Backscratchers in Stoke on Trent.

Back Scratchers.
In 1999, Keith, the founder of Castle Comfort, asked Christine Morgan (his former school friend Christine Evans, of the Edward Orme School Newcastle under Lyme, the following  - "Where can a long handled back scratcher be found for one of our customers?"
Christine was at at Disability Solutions, Hanley, Stoke on Trent at the time. She told me to get a long handle shoe horn. It proved to be good advice and we have since helped cure many itching backs!  They work a treat and cost a lot less than designated products with labels as ´back scratchers´to be sold in mobility shops.   These can be obtained from many 'pound shops' and other places often run by the Chinese community, often for less that a pound. "Thanks for the tip Christine,"  said Keith. "I have learnt a lot since I left school!"

For an alternative backscratcher, and if you can get near enough, try one of the following! These 'super dooper' back scrathchers were spotted in action at The Great Orme near Llandudno North Wales. The cashmiri goats put on an amazing show for passers-by when they have an itch, scratching away.  Did you know  that these goats  were a gift to Queen Victoria from the Shah of Persia?

More of the products we find useful as we get older:-

Holder for car disabled passes
Blue Badge holders (click on 'blue' for info on this subject)
..and read here how some people are treated badly in this respect

Indoor walkers with trays
Tunstall emergency call buttons
Outdoor key boxes
Key guard box
Folding walking sticks
Bath steps
Easy reach grabbers
Canvas cushions
Foldable walking sticks
Pill organiser
Automatic pill organisers
Pull ring can opener
Shower easy
Wheelchair ramps
Tiller bags
Padded leg rest
Swivel cushion
Memory foam cushions

Whatever your need we can help you. Call us on 08000 832797 or call in to our Stoke on Trent showooms today.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Mobility Products Shop Stoke on Trent

Castle Comfort  is the region's favourite mobility products shop offering a range of daily living aids to suit every budget. Established in 1997, Castle Comfort is a great help for many people in the Staffordshire, Cheshire, Derbyshire and Shropshire (Salop) areas, as it is so easy to get to, and offers free parking right by the door - which is pretty rare these days with town centres being difficult to get your car anywhere near -and parking charges being far to high.

If you are in need of a mobility aid to help with your independence at home you don't want to have to tackle pavements or have to walk far in order to have a good look round.

For local people we even offer a door to door pickup service by our friendly staff, and can also arrange for an in-home demonstration of a riser recliner chair or stairlift if you would like us to arrange that.

Please call us on 08000 832 797 to enquire about how we can help you.

Our mobility shop sells top branded quality mobility aids like walking sticks, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, riser recliner chairs, adjustable beds, bathing aids and stairlifts. For a detailed account of which mobility products we can help with go here-  We also offer an advisory service for other daily living aids like raised toilet seats and commodes, grab handles, wide fit slippers, zimmer frames and other assorted items and equipment including those required for incontinence.

Here is some info on the zimmer frame, if you are looking for one in Stoke on trent.

Zimmer frames
At Comfort Centre Mobility Products in Newcastle under Lyme,  we are always delighted when  folks come to see us and leave with a smile on their faces. Sometimes they leave laughing their socks off (even disabled socks.) Why? Because we share the same building as one of the principle doctors´practices in Wolstanton Village. Often, after visiting the doctor, and maybe being given further medicine or a reminder that they are ´not as young as they used to be' people pop in to see what we have on offer.

Regular visitors to Stoke on Trent´s most well-known mobility products store, know that at least they get a cuppa!  But ... does a cuppa alone make them laugh? No - WE DO..  see this ............

Amusement is especially guaranteed if  our beloved and highly respected Doctor Stirling is around.  Please see Dr S's life story here, to refresh memories up with a few of the remarkable things that have gone on in his  86 years. Many of his former patients are unaware of some of the facts about the life of this very special medic. 
Also, a  take  a quick our cartoon website, then you´ll believe Dr S´s claim  100%  that indeed...  'laughter is the best medicine.'
If further evidence of humour being a vital ingredient of a happy old age, then just look at this photo here ..

Do you know about blow up Zimmer frames! One was brought in to our Staffordshire mobility showroom by one of our clients some years ago,  a lady who herself uses a walking frame.  A touch tired of her grandchildren begging for a 'quick go' of Nan´s 'aid to safe transport' - she bought one for them to amuse themselves with. 

THE MANUFACTURERS DO STRESS, HOWEVER,  THAT AN INFLATABLE ZIMMER FRAME IS A NOVELTY ITEM AND NOT FOR USE AS A TOY.  At Wolstanton we intend to keep one on show, but they are a little hard to get, and amused visitors buy them from us at cost price (a modest three pounds each) as fast as we can get them.
The instructions curiously advise -  'Ideal for the decrepit and all washed up. Please drive carefully.'
But whilst most in need of  Zimmer frames may not feel too amused about the subject, we hope a little chuckle may boost the spirits.

Please call us for fast and courteous help whatever your personal requirements. We are always glad to help.

Below are a couple of testimonial videos's from past repeat customers of Castle Comfort who have both decided that we are the firm to deal with when it comes to buying different daily living aids in Stoke on Trent.