Strict rules for King Edward VII tuberculosis patients a hundred years ago

The year was 1910 and at the ground breaking King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst, patients waited hopefully to be cured of tuberculosis.

Monday, 3rd April 2017, 5:52 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:02 pm

The hospital had been opened four years earlier by the king himself who had been inspired by treatment he had witnessed on a trip to a sanatorium in Falkenstein, Germany.

It was an age when TB was one of the UK’s biggest health problems, spitting was banned and antibiotics were not yet available. Doctors promoted the value of fresh air and sunshine rather than cooping up patients in prison-like wards and the new King Edward VII Sanatorium was literally a breath of the freshest air available.

However, a hospital rulebook, discovered by specialist restoration developers City & Country who are converting the listed sanitorium into luxury apartments, has revealed that the regime was more ‘Carry On’ than ‘Cutting Edge’.

A patient's bedroom and balcony

The day began with a bang on a gong at 7.30am and the instruction: ‘Patients take their temperatures and get up’.

The gong controlled a day in which meetings between men and women patients were strictly controlled; pens and ink were banned from rooms and a visit to Midhurst could only be taken with the express permission of the medical superintendent.

Smoking, however, was allowed as long as the doctor said so.

The rulebook reveals that at 8.15am ‘First breakfast Gong’ sounded and at 8.30am ‘Breakfast Gong’.

The dining room at KEVII pictured shortly after it was opened

Then there was half an hour before it sounded again at 9.30am with the order: “All patients must go direct to their rooms or to that part of the balcony immediately outside their rooms and rest on their chairs until they have been seen by their medical officers.”

From 10am-12 noon patients rested or exercised until the gong sounded again and “All patients must go direct to their rooms.” They rested until 1pm when two more gongs announced lunch.

There was more rest and exercise in the afternoon and a recreation hour before the gong sounded at 6pm - the signal for all patients to return to their rooms for more rest. Two more gongs heralded dinner and at 9.30pm patients were sent back to their rooms for lights out at 10pm.

There were strict rules separating men and women patients who were not allowed to take their walking exercise together. “Patients breaking this regulation render themselves liable to dismissal,” says the book.

A patient's bedroom and balcony

It added: “Social intercourse between men and women patients is only allowed during the hours of recreation within the sanatorium garden and in the sanatorium Hall.”

Patients were expected to ‘keep punctually’ to the times of the daily routine and warned ‘loitering about the sanatorium is particularly undesirable’.

They were allowed ‘a limited number of photographs’ but were forbidden to have ink in pots or fountain pens in their rooms.

Rules also stated: “Card playing and other games such as croquet are not allowed on Sundays.”

The dining room at KEVII pictured shortly after it was opened

Midhurst was ‘strictly out of bounds’ without leave from the medical superintendent. But with permission, patients could take tea at Redford Coffee Tavern, Fernhurst Coffee Tavern or Stedham Mill.”

Smoking was only allowed ‘with the consent of the medical officers’.

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