Old photos showing treatment of TB at Papworth have been released to mark hospital’s centenary

PUBLISHED: 15:00 23 February 2018

Nurses at Papworth in 1925, including Dolly Landon

Nurses at Papworth in 1925, including Dolly Landon


A series of captivating black and white photographs have been released to mark the centenary of what is now known as the Royal Papworth Hospital.

The wooden huts used by TB patients (c 1932) The wooden huts used by TB patients (c 1932)

Over the last century, the tiny village of Papworth Everard has been home to a TB colony, which pushed the visionary work of Dr Pendrill Varrier-Jones into the spotlight, and a world-renowned centre for pioneering heart and lung transplantation.

The Hunts Post takes a look back at the last 100 years...

February 12 this year, marked 100 years of the hospital’s history and comes in the lead-up to its move to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in September.

This photograph is believed to have been taken in 1932 This photograph is believed to have been taken in 1932

Over the last century, Papworth Hospital has developed a reputation as one of the leading cardiothoracic hospital’s in Europe. It is famous for pioneering a series of ‘firsts’ in heart and lung medicine – from the UK’s first successful heart transplant in 1979 to the world’s first successful heart, lung and liver transplant in 1986.

Stephen Posey, chief executive of the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The same pioneering spirit with which Pendrill Varrier-Jones established the hospital 100 years ago continues to inspire breakthroughs in patient care and treatment today.

“Royal Papworth Hospital has grown from a Cambridgeshire TB colony into a globally-recognised heart and lung centre that is now preparing to move to a new purpose-built site in Cambridge later this year - the next chapter in our compelling story.”

The new hospital was designed with the help of clinicians and with Royal Papworth Hospital’s patients in mind.

Papworth's information technology hub Papworth's information technology hub

In addition to 240 inpatient beds in single, en-suite rooms, there are 46 beds in critical care and a separate day case facility. There will be five state-of-the-art theatres, five laboratories and two hybrid theatres.

There will be a range of Papworth 100 events and activities to celebrate the centenary, including a summer fete, and an appearance at the Cambridge Science Festival, as well as screenings of a new film which explores the hospital’s history.

Royal Papworth Hospital received £88,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Papworth 100 project.

Papworth Hall (circa 1918) Papworth Hall (circa 1918)


On February 12, 1918, 17 patients arrived at Papworth Hall, many of them were discharged soldiers from the battlefields of France and Belgium.

During the First World War, cases of tuberculosis surged and the chronic infectious disease was killing thousands of people each year. In 1915, more than 41,000 people in the UK died of TB.

The Cambridgeshire Tuberculosis Colony – as the hospital was known then – was founded from Dr Pendrill Varrier-Jones’ experimental scheme to deal with what he described as the “aftercare problem” and had been relocated to the village of Papworth Everard from nearby Bourn following a donation of £5,000 from a wealthy philanthropist.

Ben Milstein performing surgery in 1960 Ben Milstein performing surgery in 1960

The move to the Papworth Hall estate realised Varrier-Jones’ vision for a long-term approach and it was here that he developed the concept of a colony which would treat, house and employ patients and their families.

Papworth’s heritage officer, Becky Proctor, said: “Varrier-Jones was the mastermind behind the Papworth TB colony and he had a very specific vision for patients as he believe you were not just treating the disease you were treating the individual. He also realised the impact the disease would have on that person’s family, which meant it was also important to treat the consequences for that family. The Papworth settlement was more than just a sanitorium, it was a whole scheme designed for people to come here permanently and that meant good housing and good jobs as well as treatment.”

Fresh air and light work were believed to be central to recovery – even in winter - and one of the early photographs shows TB patients’ beds on one of the hospital’s balconies. Wooden huts were also built in the grounds and these were used to house patients and aide their recovery.

Former TB patient, David Coles, now aged 86, spent time convalescing in one of the huts, and he said: “They were basically wooden boxes with a door and flaps. They had the doors and the flaps open all day long – no matter what time of year. It was very cold and there was nothing to do unless you had your own wireless with you.”

Cardiothoraic transplant surgeon John Dunning. Cardiothoraic transplant surgeon John Dunning.

Mr Coles was diagnosed with TB at the age of 19 during his National Service medical examination in 1948. After antibiotics cured the disease, he underwent lobectomy surgery operations to treat the damage it had caused. The tops of both his lungs were removed.

Other early TB treatments involved collapsing the lung,as doctors believed the diseased lobe would heal quicker by resting it. Sometimes the lung was collapsed using ping pong balls placed in a cavity under the ribs (plombage), and sometimes by removing ribs from the chest wall (thoracoplasty).

In 1929, the colony was renamed the Papworth Village Settlement, and in 1948 the treatment blocks were passed to the National Health Service and the facility began to expand its services and develop expertise in other areas.

The treatment of TB had attracted some of the best chest and lung surgeons around at that time to come and work at Papworth and it was this expertise that drove innovation and over time led to the foundlings of heart and lung transplantation surgery.

Professor John Wallwork is chairman of the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Professor John Wallwork is chairman of the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust


* Prior to the First World War, tuberculosis was claiming the lives of up to 75,000 men and women each year and the disease was considered to be “a threat to national efficiency”.

* Sir George Newman, who was the chief medical officer in 1919, described it as “one of the most formidable enemies of the race”.

* In 1915, Pendrill Varrier-Jones, was appointed tuberculosis officer for Cambridgeshire.

* In 1916 the Cambridgeshire Tuberculosis Colony was set up in the village of Bourn, and in 1918, further expansion took place at Papworth Hall.

* Patients came for treatment and rehabilitation and were provided with financial support and paid work to facilitate long-term treatment and recovery from the disease.

* Varrier-Jones went on to develop the Papworth Industries to provide employment for patients.

* The principle of supporting people into independent living was extended to a broader range of disabilities in later years and led to the creation of The Papworth Trust.


The early days of treating people with TB and the pioneering work of Dr Pendril Varrier-Jones laid the groundwork for the hospital to become a centre of world excellence for pioneering heart and lung transplant surgery.

Over the years, the hospital has established an international reputation for excellence in research and innovation.

Professor John Wallwork, chairman of the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As surgery started to be used as a treatment for TB, hospitals like Papworth attracted chest surgeons to come and work here, and over time they moved into other types of heart and lung surgery, for example transplantation.”

He continued: “Once we started performing UK and world ‘firsts’ at Papworth – like the first successful heart transplant in the UK in 1979 and the world’s first heart, lung and liver transplant in 1986 – we became known all over the world. This helped us to attract more world-class doctors and develop specialist services, not just in transplantation, but also the treatment of pulmonary hypertension, cystic fibrosis and sleep disorders.”

In August 1979, surgeon Terence English performed the first successful heart transplant in the UK at Papworth Hospital. The patient, Keith Castle, lived for more than five years following his surgery. In 1984 the first UK heart and lung transplant was carried out at Papworth and in 1994 a team of doctors carried out a revolutionary operation on 62-year-old Arthur Cornhill who received the world’s first permanent battery-operated heart.

Papworth’s heritage officer, Becky Proctor, said: “The transplant programme at Papworth is very important in our history. Lots of people knew about the hospital’s connection with the treatment of TB, but when we performed the first successful heart transplant, it really put Papworth on the map, nationally and internationally. Keith Castle was such a wonderful advert for what we were doing. He was a great celebrity and did lots of television shows and advertising for us and went on to live for another five-and-a-half years.”

The hospital remains committed to pioneering new treatments in heart and lung medicine. It is the only UK centre for the innovative pulmonary endarterectomy (PTE) surgery, and successfully pioneered transplants using non-beating hearts, which has increased heart transplantation at the hospital by a third.


Papworth Hall was the original site of the hospital and is currently used to house its information technology hub.

The hall was built between 1810 and 1813 for Charles Madryll Cheere and incorporates influences of Cheere’s travels, including elements from temples on the Acropolis, in Athens.

The grounds consist of three broad avenues that radiate from the hall. One leads to the Italian garden, which is bounded by a moat with a lead statue as a centrepiece. At one time there was an icehouse nearby, and cages for rare birds between the Italian and kitchen gardens. A breed of exotic pheasant was named after Cheere.

In 1896, the estate was bought by E.T. Hooley who made a new driveway, lined with lime trees, which gave access from Ermine Street.

In 1909 Hooley was bankrupted, and the estate became the Cambridgeshire Tuberculosis Colony in 1918. In 1927, Papworth Village Settlement was established and the hall is now owned by the Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Trust.

On February 12, 1918, 17 patients arrived at Papworth Hall, mainly discharged First World War soldiers from the battlefields of France and Belgium. During the First World War cases of tuberculosis surged and the chronic infectious disease killed thousands of people each year

In the earliest news story on record about the Papworth TB colony, The Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal, a journalist recounted: “I made my first acquaintance with a patient, an unfortunate who voluntarily enlisted at the outbreak of the war and had broken down in training with tuberculosis. His open-air bedroom looked almost cosy, although the thermometer was at freezing point.”

The new £165 million-pound hospital will open on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in September and there are plans to recreate the famous duck pond.

The pond is said to have aided patient’s rehabilitation in the early days of treating TB, patients were asked to walk around the pond to measure their lung function and fitness.

After transplant operations progress was measured as: day one: sitting up in bed; day two: siting in a chair; day three: walking to the toilet; day four: walk up and down the corridor; day five: walk round the pond.

PHOTOS: Courtesy of the Royal Papworth Hospital and the Cambridgeshire Archives.

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