‘If the importance of a disease for mankind is measured by the number of fatalities it causes, then tuberculosis must be considered much more important than those most feared infectious diseases, plague, cholera and the like. One in seven of all human beings dies from tuberculosis.’ (Robert Koch, in his address to the Berlin Physiological Society, 24 March 1882).
Fear of this dreadful disease meant that those diagnosed would be whisked away from family and normal life to spend some considerable time in an unfamiliar environment. The treatment regime in a sanatorium was very strict and changed little in about 50 years and an important part of this life was the patients psychological wellbeing.
Sanatoria were like reasonable sized villages, with sporting activities arranged, social evenings, walks, Concert Hall and a cinema. This story explores some of the social and occupational therapy activities at Benenden, that kept patients entertained during their time away from home.
There are artefacts in the hospital museum associated with hospital radio, including gramophones and a huge collection of vinyl records.
The Patients Social Circle was formed in around 1925 to organise patient entertainments and provide various ways of occupying their minds and hands. In 1928 the group started to write a patient magazine and called it ‘Rising Mercury’. The name came from the very regular monitoring of patient temperature with mercury thermometers.
The name of the magazine had no connection with the RM Society which was a group formed for ex patients in around 1951.
Records suggest that a patients Sports Day was held regularly every Bank Holiday Monday including tug-of-war and bowls. Photographs indicate that staff would take part in events including running races.
The Concert Hall
A Concert Hall was built next to the Dining Hall in the early 1950s. The hall was a place of entertainment, with a stage and all the modern equipment to show films. The stage was later blocked up and the room is now the Board and Seminar Room.
An Occupational Health Department was opened in the early 1950s although a service would have been available for some time before this.
Board and card games were a popular way of keeping entertained and some examples have survived till today.