Diphtheria in Brighton – 1932

Gordon Dinnis (my father) spent some time in the Borough Sanatorium, Bear Road, Brighton suffering from diphtheria.  I have his discharge letter, dated February 16th 1932, Gordon would have been 8 years of age.  Diphtheria was a serious and infectious disease, especially dangerous to children.  In 1937-38 diphtheria was second only to pneumonia among all causes of death in children, with an annual death rate of 32 per 100,000 in children younger than 15 years.

The Sanatorium in Bear Road operated as an isolation hospital, opening in around 1881 during an outbreak of smallpox.  It remained so until 1948 when it was taken over by the Ministry of Health and it became Bevendean Hospital.

Diphtheria Discharge 1932Gordon Charles Dinnis 1934

Corporation of Brighton, Borough Sanatorium.  Bear Road, Brighton.  Feb 16th 1932

Dear Sir, or Madam,  I beg to inform you that your son Gordon Dinnis will be discharged on Wednesday Feb 17th at 11 o’clock a.m.  Will you please send for him and oblige M.M.Spencer Matron.


Infection at times lingers in the throat and nose of patients after recovery and the Corporation cannot accept responsibility or liability for outbreaks of infection following the discharge of patients from the Sanatorium.  The first three weeks after return home is the most dangerous time, so that if possible, the patient should have a bed to himself and be kept apart from children during that period.  Colds, and sores about the nose render discharged patients more infectious and call for greater care as to isolation.  Any complaint as to the patient’s condition on discharge should be made to me without delay.


The following advice, in addition to the directions given above, should be strictly followed; – Diphtheria is a disease which , in a small proportion of cases, is followed by serious symptoms.  These sometimes, though rarely, occur several weeks after a patient is apparently well.  It is advisable, therefore, to look out for the occurrence of any of the following symptoms, and if they occur to call in a doctor AT ONCE.  1. The child speaks through his nose, or 2. when swallowing, has liquids come back through the nose, or 3. is very pallid, and appears tired on the least exertion, or 4. has difficulty in walking.  The most dangerous sign of all is vomiting, as this frequently precedes paralysis of the heart.


Your child should be taken to the Health Office for swabbing on Wednesday, the 16th March between 10 and 11 a.m., and if the swabs are negative should return to school on Monday, the 21st.  If you keep this form and show it to the Attendance Officer when he calls there will be no difficulty in respect of the absence of the above from school.

About Jackie Dinnis

Welcome to my blog where I am enjoying meeting my family - past and present - one at a time. Join me as I learn who my ancestors were, where they lived, what their occupations were and what everyday life was like for them.
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