Health 1951

The National Health Service was created in 1948 to provide free and accessible health care for everyone in Britain. This meant that for the first time families with low incomes could see a doctor for free and have reduced price dental and optical checkups.

The impact on small rural communities such as Stowupland was immense. District nurses were also available for rural areas and would visit people in their own homes. Politicians had even begun to talk about how to remove the stigma of mental illness.

Medical Advances

Medicine made great advances in the 1950s. The first heart-lung machine was developed, electric shock was successfully used to revive a patient who had suffered a cardiac arrest, the first synthetic antibiotics were developed, an artificial heart valve was inserted in a human heart, holes in the heart were surgically fixed and the world’s first pacemaker was invented!

The health of the nation was generally improving. This was partly due to the National Insurance and Industrial Injuries Acts of 1946 and the National Assistance and National Health Service Acts of 1948. They replaced the old poor law and created the welfare state to provide assistance for anyone in need. Working conditions had also improved since the turn of the century.

New Housing

A Prefabricated bungalow at Thurning
Prefabricated bungalow at Thurning.
The photograph was taken c.2000,
but prefab dates back to c.1950s.
© Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse
New houses were being built across Britain, including Stowupland. These replaced the old cottages that had no running water, sewage or electricity with bright new homes full of modern fittings and amenities. This helped reduce disease and improve health. Many of these homes were pre-fabricated and could be constructed in a very short space of time.


This exhibition is part of a wider sustainability project delivered through the Rural Museums East Partnership. It is funded by Renaissance East of England.

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