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Widecombe History Group Talks
Didworthy Hospital on Dartmoor
Paul Kemp has produced a film, on the history of Didworthy, with particular reference to the period from the early 1900's when it was turned into a Sanatorium for Tuberculosis Patients.
Paul's wife Kathy came to our meeting and showed to film to our members and we were pleased to welcome that evening some visitors whose father had worked there in the 1950s.
The authorities at Plymouth decided that a Sanatorium out on Dartmoor, where the air would be cleaner, would be ideal place to help with the cure of patients with chest complaints especially T. B. - consumption as it was then often referred to as being. Didworthy fitted the bill, situated in the hamlet of Didworthy between South Brent and Shipley Bridge - a fine building constructed in the early 1800s. T. B. was a particularly virulent complaint and in c1935 up to 2 million died each year from it. The cause was not helped by poor housing and sanitation. By 1943 this figure had been reduced to about 22 thousand. Good clean fresh air was considered a vital aid to patients making a satisfactory cure. It began with 15 beds and the 'ward' was open to the elements. Doors wide open and patients often wheeled out on to a 'veranda' where they were open to the elements even when it was snowing and raining. There were also wooden 'chalets' in the garden where patients, as they improved, were housed individually for up to 3 months, by which time many had made considerable progress and were then allowed home. Originally patients were from the Plymouth area but there is a record that Okehampton Board of Guardians sent two patients at the cost to the local Poor Law Union of £37 10shillings each for a three month treatment. Patients were encouraged to do 'light work' as part of their rehabilitation as they improved.
As medical treatment improved and the rate of successful cures increased the hospital closed in1971 and is now a family home.
There is also a good article about Didworthy in editions of The Dartmoor News issue 132 which is well worth reading.
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