The change in the treatment of tuberculosis since the 1950s is illustrated by the case of the writer Katherine Mansfield. Today she would have been cured, but she lived too early. After the First World War she searched everywhere for a cure. Away from home, in sanatoria in France or Switzerland, any rumour of a cure was followed up. Separated by TB from her husband Myddleton Murray, who had to earn a living as a jobbing writer back in London, Katherine Mansfield, lived out her last short years in foreign pensions among strangers, obessionally trying to write against the background of perpetual illness. In doing so she spoke for all those thousands of inarticulate sufferers from tuberculosois, illustrating their sense of the shortness of life and the unceasing search for a cure. In the end she died while trying out yet another promised cure.

When, in the end Streptomycin was discovered, the bacteria was defeated. Large isolation hospitals could be closed; open-air balconies in London hospitals and the open stairways in blocks of industrial dwellings, which had been built in Victorian times as the last word in health protection, were glassed in and the buildings made warm at last. An complete architectural concept had been changed.

This then had been the reason for the high roof with no ceilings in St James's School, its large windows and the love of bright sunlight. These were the only measures likely to keep children healthy in a world without our modern drugs. Each child was guaranteed a fixed cubic capacity of air to breathe and a high roof was required to provide it. Only when modern drugs were available could classroom ceiling heights be lowered.

The Earlier Muswell Hill Solution

St James's School playground in 1925,
showing the open-air hut and desks under the oak trees.

The old Open Air Hut and the trees all disappeared when Charles Clore House was built on the old school site. Then, in 1994, Haringey Council built sheltered housing on the municipal yard beyond Clore House. Perhaps some of the boys and girls who sat in the hut in 1925, have come to live on the site in later life.



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