Handwritten note and dried flowers from TB patient are part of hospital’s history
- Credit: Archant
Photographs and mementos that show the former Duchess of York (later the Queen Mother) visiting the former TB colony at Papworth have emerged in the wake of plans to decide the future of the iconic site.
A newspaper cutting from The Daily Mirror shows the then duchess visiting the TB hospital in July 1932 and she is pictured handing a TB patient some flowers.
The patient in the photograph was Dorothy Mynott, who contracted TB when she was pregnant with her second child and who died at Papworth on October 21, 1933, aged 34.
It seems that Dorothy was so enthralled to meet a member of the royal family that she kept the flowers and dried them.
Maybe knowing she may not survive the deadly disease, Dorothy wrote handwritten notes to her daughters, Eileen and Jean, and placed some of the dried petals and leaves inside.
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Eileen, who died 18 months ago, passed her note and flowers to daughter Carolyn Roe, from Earith, who decided to share the newspaper clipping and her family story with the Hunts Post after reading about Papworth Hospital's move to Cambridge.
The note reads; "For my darling little Eileen, given to me by the then Duchess on July 8, 1932".
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Despite the intervening years, the flowers have mostly remained intact and are a precious memento for Carolyn who has been tracing her family tree.
She said: "It is sad because my mum never knew her mum as she was only a baby when she died and my auntie Jean was a toddler. But mum obviously knew how her mum died and it must have made an impact on her as when I was at school she was very insistent that I had the TB injection. Who can blame her as her life had been blighted by the disease?"
Carolyn, aged 64, who is a retired carer, admitted she felt sad when she learned the hospital was moving to Cambridge, but says she understands the thinking behind the decision.
She said: "It is very sad because of all the history and the incredible work they went on to do with the transplant programme.
"I wondered how the people who live there feel as the hospital was part of the identity of the village.
"The new building will have more to offer patients in terms of their care, but it still feels sad."
TB was killing large numbers of people at the turn of the last century and on February 12, 1918, 17 patients arrived at Papworth Hall for treatment and recuperation.
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 then known - was founded by Dr Pendrill Varrier-Jones' as an experimental scheme to deal with what he described as the "aftercare problem".
The patients had been relocated to the village of Papworth Everard from nearby Bourn following a donation of £5,000 from a wealthy philanthropist.
The move to the Papworth Hall estate was part of Dr Varrier-Jones' vision for a long-term approach to not only treating the disease, but encouraging people to eat well and exercise and prepare them for life once they had recovered.
It was at Papworth that he developed the concept of a colony which would treat, house and employ patients and their families.
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, although many admitted later that the huts were very small and freezing cold.
Other early TB treatments involved collapsing the lung,as doctors believed the diseased lobe in the lung 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 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 hospital's expertise in lung and heart disease and the transplant programme evolved from Dr Varrier-Jones' early work at Papworth and led to it becoming a leader in the field.