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Collection exposes horrors of the past

A unique collection exposing the horrors of being subject to tuberculosis in the first half of the 20th century at a former county facility has been created.

Stannington Sanatorium opened in 1907 as the country’s very first children’s sanatorium set up to treat youngsters diagnosed with TB.

The Woodhorn archives  project with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust with individuals who had experience of the pre-antibiotic era of tuberculosis treatment at Stannington Sanatorium in Northumberland.'Former patients Brian Thorns from Bedlington and his brother Raymond Thorns.'Picture by Jane Coltman

The Woodhorn archives project with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust with individuals who had experience of the pre-antibiotic era of tuberculosis treatment at Stannington Sanatorium in Northumberland.'Former patients Brian Thorns from Bedlington and his brother Raymond Thorns.'Picture by Jane Coltman

Initial work by archivists – supported by Northumbria Healthcare’s Bright Charity – about the facility began with the collection of oral history recordings from individuals who had experience of the pre-antibiotic era.

Former patients and staff came forward to share their memories and photographs with researchers and in the process began to shed light on what it was like to have TB and how it was dealt with during that era.

Archivist Karen Rushton said: “Reading the sanatorium’s old medical records from the 1930s and 1940s, it can be shocking to hear of some of the drastic medical procedures used and the seemingly dire outlook of many of the children.”

A grant of £77,000 from the Wellcome Trust enabled the archives team, to catalogue a significant collection of case papers and radiographs of patients treated for TB in the period before the introduction of the use of antibiotics at the sanatorium.

With the project drawing to a close, an event at Woodhorn brought together some of the original staff and patients from the hospital, including Bedlington’s Brian Thorns and his brother Raymond.

Visit www.experiencewoodhorn.com for details.