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Lottery funding for The Children of Craig-y-nos

6 May 2008

Carole Reves and Alan Sheil

Outreach historian Dr Carole Reeves (Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL) and artist and writer Ann Shaw have received a grant of £5,000 from the ‘Awards for All Wales’ National Lottery scheme to create a book based on the experiences of children in a tuberculosis (TB) sanatorium.

The dramatic Craig-y-nos Castle, set in the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, was the estate of the world-famous opera singer Adelina Patti, until her death in 1919. It was then transformed into the Adelina Patti Hospital, and for nearly 40 years served as a TB sanatorium for children and young women in a region where TB incidence was the highest in Britain.

The project was initiated by Ann, who was a patient at the hospital from the ages of 9 to 13. On a return visit to Craig-y-nos in 2006, she was amazed to find some of the wards still intact. So far, the project has collected more than a thousand photographs, memorabilia and 75 oral history interviews.

There have been two photographic exhibitions, with a third planned for the Swansea Museum from 1 July to 31 August 2008.

120 people attended a patient and staff reunion held at the castle in September 2007, and information pours in on a daily basis, which is uploaded to the extensive Craig-y-nos blog, which now has over 600 pages of text, images, podcasts and videos.

The print-on-demand book, which will also be made available as a free download, will be the first-ever collective history of patient and staff experiences in a TB sanatorium. It is not only reuniting people who shared their formative years in the sanatorium, but is opening a community dialogue about the impact of tuberculosis on families in the Swansea Valley, and establishing an important educational and heritage resource created by the people who experienced it.

Dr Reeves said: “We are thrilled that ‘Awards for All Wales’ has recognised the importance of this community project. The book will be a permanent memorial to ‘The Children of Craig-y-nos’ and an important medical and social history of tuberculosis in the area. Because the sanatorium records have been destroyed, we are re-constructing 40 missing years of Welsh history.”

To find out more, use the links at top of this article.

Image: Dr Reeves and Mr Alan Shiel, Chief Administrative Officer, with the Awards for All Wales cheque