‘The Fight Against Tuberculosis’ is a Wellcome Trust funded project, which has set out to catalogue records held at the Royal London Hospital Archives relating to the treatment of tuberculosis throughout the twentieth century. This archive includes materials from the London Chest, Royal Brompton, Frimley Sanatorium and Harefield Hospitals.

This blog will chronicle some of the themes and treatments found in the archive as work goes on to catalogue these fascinating records, which illustrate the progression of the treatment of this disease throughout the twentieth century.


4 thoughts on “About

  1. I read your blog with interest. I have been researching my mother’s fight with tuberculosis over a period of many years. She was a patient at the Royal British Legion Sanatorium at Nayland in Suffolk in the late 1940s and stayed for a period of 4 years. She tolerated many horrific treatments in her quest to beat the disease that had taken her away from her new husband and baby son. These included ‘phrenic crush’, ap,pp and the inevitable bed rest that went on for months. She became a patient at Preston Hall when a thoracoplasty was the last chance for recovery and was operated on by Bill Cleland of the Brompton Hospital in 1950. He considered her to be a very poor risk indeed and not able to cope with the normal 3-stage thoracoplasty. He eventually consented to perform the procedure in one operation and by this time the Lucite balls had been introduced as a means of filling the gap. It was a success and following a period of convalescence at both Preston Hall and Nayland plus a course of Streptomycin she was finally discharged in 1951 aged 28.
    If any of this is of interest to you, the story doesn’t end there.


    • Susan,

      Thank you for your fascinating comment. I’m sorry to hear of your mother’s struggle with tuberculosis; four years in a sanatorium subject to those surgical interventions must have been deeply unpleasant. I’m glad to read that the final treatment was a success, though since you say there’s more to the story, I’m a bit nervous that it wasn’t! Please do share more, it is always interesting to hear about people’s experiences of tuberculosis.



  2. Rebecca,
    I was touched at your interest in my story.

    My mother’s contact with Bill Cleland did not cease upon her discharge from Nayland in 1951. He took an interest in her case and requested she make annual visits to the Brompton Hospital so he could monitor her progress.
    So she returned home to Buckinghamshire and was reunited with her husband and 4 year old son David who had not seen her for some three and a half years. Upon leaving Nayland the girls were warned against further pregnancies however my mother was desperate for more children and my brother arrived in 1953 and I followed in 1961.

    In December 1961 we were involved in a road accident where my father’s Morris Minor skidded on black ice and overturned leaving the vehicle resting on its roof. We were all in the car, I was 6 weeks old and cradled in my mother’s arms in the front seat. Miraculously and in the absence of seat belts it appeared that the family had all escaped without injury, however my mother was left with a severe pain in her neck. She was seen by Bill Cleland and an x-ray revealed that the jolt of the accident had dislodged the lucite balls inserted during her thoracoplasty some 11 years earlier and left them resting in her neck. An operation to remove them was undertaken at the Brompton by Mr Cleland. I suspect this may be the only instance where a thoracoplasty procedure has been reversed. The operation was a success and after recovering in the Brompton she came home to us.

    She was regulary monitored thereafter with annual chest x-rays. They were always an interesting experience as each new radiographer pointed out a mysterious object beside her lung. My mother would explain that it was the tip of a needle that had broken off once whilst an artificial pneumothorax (A.P.) procedure was undertaken during her stay at Nayland.
    She went on to have a very full family life, she indulged us 3, her 5 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.
    Her time at Nayland was rarely spoken of however, when it was mentioned, she spoke of the wonderful camaraderie and great friendships that were formed. Whilst it was clear to all of us that it was a dreadful period in her life during which many friends were lost, there were a handful of survivors that lived all over the country and became precious lifelong friends that were known as ‘Aunts’ by us children.

    She died in November 2009, aged 86. The lucite balls were still in her bedside drawer.


    • Thank you so much for sharing the rest of your story – it really is very interesting, and it sounds like your mother went through an awful lot as a result of the tuberculosis treatment! I’m glad to hear it didn’t adversely affect her life too much, and I think its great that she was able to keep in touch with other survivors.

      In our Almoner’s Letters from Brompton Hospital Sanatorium, which were written by former patients to report on their condition, there are some cases of patients reporting on the health of other patients as they have kept in touch since the sanatorium days. There are also letters asking about other patients with whom they have lost touch, which shows some of the camaraderie there must have been among patients who were all undergoing similar treatments. Your mother’s story is another illustration of that, thank you so much for taking the time to share it with us.



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