TB colony is set up Papworth
On February 12, 1918, 17 patients arrived at Papworth Hall, in the village of Papworth Everard.

Many of them were discharged soldiers from the battlefields of France and Belgium. During the First World War, cases of tuberculosis (TB) surged and the chronic infectious disease was killing thousands of people each year. In 1915, more than 41,000 people in the UK died of TB.

The Cambridgeshire Tuberculosis Colony – as the hospital was known then – was founded from Dr Pendrill Varrier-Jones’ experimental scheme to deal with what he described as the “aftercare problem”.

Wisbech Standard: Pendrill Varrier-Jones Pendrill Varrier-Jones (Image: PAPWORTH HOSPITAL)

Originally set up in nearby Bourn, it had been relocated to Papworth Everard following a donation of £5,000 from a wealthy philanthropist.

The move to the Papworth Hall estate enabled Varrier-Jones’ to realise his vision for a long-term approach, and it was here that he developed the concept of a colony which would treat, house and employ patients and their families.


Varrier-Jones had a specific vision for patients, as he believed it was important to treat the disease, but also treat the individual. He also realised the impact the disease would have on that person’s daily life, which meant it was important to deal with the consequences of the disease on the family.

The Papworth settlement was more than just a sanitorium, it was a whole scheme designed for people on a permanent basis and that meant good housing and good jobs as well as medical treatment.

Fresh air and light work were believed to be central to recovery – even in winter - and early photographs shows TB patients’ beds on one of the hospital’s balconies.

Wisbech Standard: Patient's beds were pushed onto the balconies so they could have fresh air.Patient's beds were pushed onto the balconies so they could have fresh air. (Image: Cambridgeshire Community Archives.)

Wooden huts were also built in the grounds and these were used to house patients and aide their recovery. They were basic wooden boxes, with a door and a flap, and the flaps were left open all day and all-year-round and were said to be freezing in winter.

Wisbech Standard: The huts at the TB colony were said to be freezing.The huts at the TB colony were said to be freezing. (Image: PAPWORTH HOSPITAL)

Other early TB treatments involved collapsing the lung, as doctors believed the diseased lobe would heal quicker by resting it. Sometimes the lung was collapsed using ping pong balls which were placed in a cavity under the ribs (plombage), and sometimes by removing ribs from the chest wall (thoracoplasty).

In 1929, the colony was renamed The Papworth Village Settlement, and in 1948 the treatment blocks were passed to the National Health Service and the facility began to expand its services and develop expertise in other areas.


The treatment of TB had attracted some of the best chest and lung surgeons around at that time to come and work at Papworth and it was this expertise that drove innovation and over time led to the foundlings of heart and lung transplantation surgery.

The hospital began to perform UK and world ‘firsts’ at Papworth – such as the first successful heart transplant in the UK in 1979 and the world’s first heart, lung and liver transplant in 1986.

This, in turn, attracted more world-class doctors and the hospital developed specialist services, not just in transplantation, but also the treatment of pulmonary hypertension, cystic fibrosis and sleep disorders.

In August 1979, surgeon Sir Terence English performed the first successful heart transplant in the UK at Papworth Hospital.

The patient, Keith Castle, lived for more than five years following his surgery. In 1984 the first UK heart and lung transplant was carried out at Papworth and in 1994 a team of doctors carried out a revolutionary operation on 62-year-old Arthur Cornhill who received the world’s first permanent battery-operated heart.

In the mid 1980s, Professor John Wallwork, along with Dr David White, and research bio-tech company (Imutran) developed transgenic animals for the use of xenotransplantation in an attempt to alleviate the persistent donor organ shortage. 

Wisbech Standard: Professor John WallworkProfessor John Wallwork (Image: PAPWORTH HOSPITAL)



In 1996 he gave evidence on xenotransplantation both to the Kennedy Committee and to the United States Senate Subcommittee on Public Health and Safety. 

He succeeded Sir Terence English as director of the transplant service at Papworth from 1989 to 2006, chaired the UK Transplant Cardiothoracic Advisory Group from 1994 to 2006 and was medical director of Papworth Hospital from 1997 to 2002. He was also director of research and development at Papworth Hospital until his retirement in 2011.

The hospital remains committed to pioneering new treatments in heart and lung medicine. It is the only UK centre for the innovative pulmonary endarterectomy (PTE) surgery, and successfully pioneered transplants using non-beating hearts, which has increased heart transplantation at the hospital by a third.