Elmfield Sanatorium, Harpenden, 1940's

November, 2009




  Elmfield Sanatorium, National Children's Home, Harpenden, Herts

National Children's Home, The Sanatorium, Harpenden

Ernie Hughes (ehughes16 @t cox.net) of  San Diego, California,. USA, writes: I was born in Liverpool 1933, later lived in Stopsley, then Barton Le Cley before moving to USA in 1965. Some time during WW2 I was a TB suspect and was sent to a small hospital in Harpenden. It is Elmsfield school I beleive. I just wondered if any of the records there, were kept. I would just like to know the dates mainly. When I get a yearly physical, I am often asked if I ever had TB.

Trade directories in my possession (1937 and 1949) show that there was a "Sanatorium for Children threatened with Consumption" (the name then given for T.B.) in Ambrose Lane, Harpenden, and a search shows the building was Elmfield. This was one of the buildings that formed the "community village" that was the National Children's Home & Orphanage, Harpenden.

At the time the treatment for consumption was plenty of bracing fresh air in a rural situation, and the Harpenden site would have been considered very suitable, particularly as many of the orphans from the major cities (which suffered from significant air pollution) would have had consumption.

I don't know if any records would have survived - but the fact that you were in a hospital that existed specifically to treat consumption suggests that if records did survive they would indicate that you had TB - or at least were suspected of having TB - as there were no sophisticated clinical diagnostic tests 60 years or so ago. (A modern X-ray that suggests that you had TB as a child is likely at least as reliable than records made by the doctor treating you at the time!

Tracing medical records of this period can be difficult - and in any case they would not be open to public inspection for 100 years, although a proper request from the patient could be acceptable. You may well be lucky that the sanatorium was run by a major charity responsible for the care of orphaned children

The National Children's Home charity was founded in 1869 and still exists. Recently changed its name to "Action for Children" and there is information on its history on its web site - www.actionforchildren.org.uk  The site also includes a form for obtaining information.

March, 2010

Prompted by the recent publicity about TB in the UK, Mrs Yerrill of Swaffham writes: My maiden name was Tyler and I was born in Letchworth in 1937.  My father had TB and was being nursed by my mother at home.  He passed away in 1948 at the age of 39. As I was diagnosed with suspected TB just prior to my 7th birthday on the 25th November, I was taken by my mother to Harpenden on the 26th November 1944.

I remember being confined to bed and sleeping outside on a veranda with a tarpaulin which was pulled down at night emptying its contents of earwigs over the beds.  I seem to remember that there were about five of us on the veranda at this time.  I might add that we were being looked after by some very kind Polish nurses.

After this preliminary treatment, life was much as in a boarding school with the adage of medical check-ups, cod liver oil and fresh air.  One memory that does remain, is that on VE Day we were taken around Harpenden on a trailer, pulled by a tractor, seated on straw bales and waving Union Jacks.

November 2009   Page created
March 2010   New message added
November 2010   Post card of Sanatorium