Memories of old hospital wanted

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A project is being launched to gather more information about the early days of a building which was built to treat children suffering from tuberculosis in the 1900s.

Almost 30 years ago staff from Northumberland Archives discovered a collection of documents from Stannington Sanatorium which came to light during a general survey of the old hospital site at Stannington, outside Morpeth.

Now, researchers are working with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in a joint project to find out more about the sanatorium and TB treatment prior to the introduction of antibiotics.

Personal recollections and experiences of the Stannington hospital will help to tell the story of the sanatorium, so archive staff are keen to hear from former patients and members of staff who were treated or employed at Stannington before 1948.

The hospital was the first purpose-built children’s TB sanatorium in the country and opened in 1907.

Poverty was recognised as a major factor contributing to TB, and at Stannington children from Tyneside and Northumberland were able to escape.

Sue Wood, head of collections for Northumberland Archives, said: “The work we are carrying out now with the support of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, will help us to provide a really interesting and useful resource for historians and researchers.

“By talking to individuals who have personal experience of the pre-antibiotic era of tuberculosis treatment, we will be gathering a very private view of life in the hospital.

“They will be able to tell us what the routine was like, how the treatment affected them, and what they felt being removed from their families, homes and communities for months on end.”

Respiratory consultant Dr Gbenga Afolabi, who has an interest in the treatment of TB and in global health, is leading the project at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. “We are delighted to be involved in this exciting project which will unearth the secrets about this lesser-known part of Northumberland’s history and shed light on how healthcare was delivered in years gone by,” he said.

“As a consultant who has been treating respiratory patients for around 20 years, I am fascinated to hear people’s accounts of the sanatorium and understand better how they were looked after.

“This story will not only be a valuable resource locally it will also contribute to the wider discussion about the treatment of tuberculosis across the world.

“I would urge anyone who has a story to tell about the sanatorium to get in touch.”

Ms Wood added: “We would love to hear from anyone with recollections of working at Stannington Sanatorium in any capacity or spending time there as a patient in the years up to 1948.

“Their recollections will help us all to gain a fascinating insight into this killer disease in the early 20th century and its treatment, and at the same time provide a valuable resource for future generations.”

To contact Northumberland Archives, call (01670) 624455 or email collections@woodhorn.org.uk