A health worry on the estate

Nursing TB in the early 1970s

Christine Hyatt-Steel remembers her early training

Edith Rann MBE remembers how TB caused the family to move to St. Helier

Photo:Trainees at St. Helier Hospital in the early 1970s

Trainees at St. Helier Hospital in the early 1970s

Christine Hyatt-Steel (née Boddy)

There was “a good deal of tuberculosis on the St. Helier Estate” announced Lady Benn in 1936 at the Standing Conference of Surrey Tuberculosis Care Committees in November 1936. This was inevitable considering that so many residents had moved from very poor housing conditions in London. Indeed, some residents were actually moved to the estate because of such health problems.

The risk of cross infection was high and in 1936 twenty guineas was awarded to the St. Helier Care Committee so that children from infected homes could be boarded out and also to ensure care for children whose mothers resisted a lengthy period in a sanatorium from worrying who would care for the family. Care before the use of antibiotics was a lengthy process, often involving moving the patients some distance away from home.

All my teenage years were taken up – I was at home in bed for eighteen months, then I went away for eighteen months. I went to Milford Sanatorium near Guildford way. I've been fine ever since. They caught it in the early stages but bed rest didn't do the trick so I had to go away to get treatment. They collapsed your lungs and they pushed in air every week to keep the lungs down. Then when I came home I still carried on going up the hospital to have that done. Then they gradually stopped it. So my teenage years weren't like other youngsters'. (Anon)

When St. Helier Hospital was built a special separate ward was built to prevent cross infection. The use of antibiotics made treatment quicker and more successful.

This page was added by Cheryl Bailey on 24/01/2011.
Comments about this page

I'm Alan Dyson, and this page evokes strong memories in me. With my mother Vi and baby sister Tina, I moved to Quarr Road in 1950 just before my 5th birthday. Dad Ernie was not with us as he was in hospital somewhere, in the early stages of the TB he contracted in a Birmingham hospital while being treated for a back injury. It seemed a lifetime before we saw him in our new home but in reality it was probably no more than a year. Sadly, Ernie was not to become a permanent fixture in Quarr Road for several years more as he had to endure a number of long stays in Milford Hospital, recuperating from both the illness and the treatment involving the removal of pretty well all of one lung. This left him permanently debilitated until his death shortly after his 49th birthday in 1968. So our early childhood was hugely affected by TB, and not only by the absence of dad. We got to know St Helier Hospital very well through regular chest X-rays and oversight by the kindly consultant Dr Partington. It was not all bad though, not least because the Mantoux Test revealed an acquired immunity that meant we kids were able to avoid the BCG jab. The St Helier Care Committee were tremendous, particularly the Lady Almoner, Miss Tayler, who seemed like a fairy godmother to Tina and me. I think not a Christmas passed before about 1958 without us being taken to a circus, panto or ice show; there was also a party each year. The summertime did not go unrecognised either, with sufficient funds being guaranteed for a simple annual holiday on the Kent coast, where I now live and Tina not far away in Ashford. Vi also saw her last 25-odd years close to her birthplace in Dover. TB meant that childhood was not exactly cushy. It is difficult though to look back and wish the disease had never blighted us. The experiences made us what we are today, and we are happy with that. Should anyone read this who may have had any involvement with us, I would be delighted to hear from them at morehall@hotmail.com.

By Alan Dyson
On 28/06/2012

Hi Alan, you will not remember me, but I was best friends with Tina at Green Wrythe Lane Infants & Junior School. Our other friend was Susan Smith. We three used to take it in turns at being top of the class. I used to come to your house to play with Tina and your mum's dressing up box. I knew that your Dad had TB so had to be careful about being in your house. I did have the BCG jab when offered. We also played in Poulter Park, and down by the Wandle. I lived at 31 Robertsbridge Green from 1949 (age 3) to 1965 (age 18) when I got married and moved away.

By Lesley M Aitken
On 02/07/2020

We moved to Peterborough Road from London in 1957. My father contracted TB shortly  after until the early 1960s. He was under the care of St Helier Hospital and I remember Miss Tayler very well. She was like a saint to us: she organised holidays to Pevensey Bay and Mudeford, as well as Christmas parties  and the circus. she was always there when my mum needed help, Miss Tayler was a wonderful woman.

By Ann Kelly
On 05/11/2020

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