Exposing the horrors of TB

Former patient Nora Love from Dudley with project archivist Karen Rushton.'Picture by Jane Coltman
Former patient Nora Love from Dudley with project archivist Karen Rushton.'Picture by Jane Coltman

A unique collection exposing the horrors of tuberculosis in the first half of the 20th century has been put together by a team at Northumberland Archives.

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

Through its advanced equipment and use of the latest techniques, it achieved a very high success rate in the prevention and cure of TB.

For the young patients, however, this meant months, even years, away from their families.

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 of tuberculosis treatment.

Former patients and staff came forward to share their memories and photographs with researchers.

Following the initial work, a grant of £77,000 from the Wellcome Trust enabled the archives team – based at Woodhorn Museum – to catalogue a significant collection of case papers and radiographs of patients treated in the period before the introduction of antibiotics at the sanatorium.

An event at Woodhorn on Monday brought together some of the former staff and patients, as well as people who have recently inquired about their own or family members’ medical records.