Archive for April 2015

WWII And The Move To Hexham Hydro

Yesterday the Stannington Sanatorium Project team took a trip to Hexham Hydro, now the Queen Elizabeth High School, to have a look around the building and the grounds as the children from Stannington Sanatorium were moved down to Hexham during WWII as it was deemed to be safer.  After visiting it is easy to see why the Hydro building was chosen by the Sanatorium Committee as it is in beautiful surroundings with views over to Hexham Abbey and the large open rooms making it ideal for the sanatorium’s needs.  The building also has its own walled garden, still well looked after and in use today by the school’s students, with evidence that the sanatorium patients grew produce there which they then went on to sell to local businesses in Hexham.  The Hydro building began life as a private house built in 1859 and known as Westfield House, but was later purchased by the Tynedale Hydropathic Establishment Company and alterations were made so that it could open in 1879 as the Tynedale Hydropathic Hotel.  Over the years additions were made including the large glass Winter Gardens, which would have been used by the sanatorium patients, and many famous clientele reportedly visited including Charlie Chaplin and Ramsay MacDonald. The Hotel eventually went into decline allowing it be used by the sanatorium during the war years as well as acting as a army billet and services bakery.


Read more below to see how WWII affected Stannington:


WWII broke out on 1 September 1939 with the UK officially entering the war 2 days later on 3 September.  Comments made by the matron in the annual report for 1939 highlight the immediate affects the war had on the Sanatorium:

 “…So rapid has been the growth of the Sanatorium that almost every year there has been some change in the structure or equipment to report, but all the changes have been for the securing of that first high ideal – the stamping out of tuberculosis in children.

Now war has come and much has changed.  At any moment a great strain may be put upon our hospitals, and we have had to open wide our doors and be ready to receive 218 adult patients in addition to our own 311 children.  We already have over 100 adult patients in residence, and among them are a number of men of the forces who either from accident or sickness require medical attention.” [HOSP/STAN/1/3/6]

The encroachment on space that the sanatorium had taken for granted for so many years was felt by all.  In the same year the school was evicted from its buildings to make way for beds and lessons were initially undertaken outside on the verandahs until more suitable accommodation was found in the small side wards.


Like people across the country the staff and patients contributed to the war efforts despite the illness faced by the children and additional pressures on the staff.  In 1940 the schoolchildren knitted over 100 woollen comforts for soldiers and 3 large blankets and together staff, children, and friends of the sanatorium raised £352, 17, 1 for the War Savings Scheme as well as additional monies for the Finland Fund, Lord Mayor’s Air-Raid Distress Fund, and the Greek Relief Fund.


After managing to continue operations for nearly two years at Stannington it was decided in 1941 that it was necessary to evacuate the children to a safer place.  The Hydro at Hexham was eventually settled on and over 200 children were moved on 11 August.  The Hydro lacked the vernadahs that were so common in Stannington for open-air treatment but was seen to be a suitable location owing to its lofty rooms, large windows, and beautiful surroundings.  The capacity at Hexham was significantly less than the facilities at Stannington and so the number of patients treated during the war years declined.


It was not until January 1945 that patients and staff were able to return to Stannington on a permanent basis.  Whilst early reports of the sanatorium’s time at Hexham appeared positive it is clear that by 1944 and continuing into the post-war years, the stress of the move and in particular shortages of nursing and domestic staff took its toll on the whole operation.  The 1944 annual report describes how that due to this the full operation of the sanatorium was prevented and consequently the number of patients treated was reduced further still following the initial curtailment felt following the move to Hexham.

This Week in World War One, 23rd April 1915

Berwick Advertiser title 1915

23rd April, 1915



Golden Wedding-Congratulations are due Mr and Mrs Hattle, 77 Low Greens, who on Sunday attained their golden wedding. Mr and Mrs Hattle were married at the Registry Office, Berwick, on the 18th April, 1885. Mrs Hattle’s maiden name was Isabella Elispeth Burgen. Although they have both passed the three score and ten- Mr Hattle being 75 and Mrs Hattle 71- they carry their years exceedingly well.


Golden Wedding celebration badge.

Golden Wedding celebration badge.


For a few years Mr Hattle followed the occupation of his father as a fisherman but afterwards entered the employment of the North British Railway Company where he remained for 40 years as porter at Berwick Station, retiring in 1910. Mr and Mrs Hattle have had twelve of a family of which five daughters and two sons are living, one son and two daughters having died. One of the surviving sons, Mr Thomas Hattle, is a postmaster in South Africa, and the other son James is at present serving in the auxiliary cruiser H.M.S “Macedonia” on which he took part in the Falkland Islands engagement. Two of Mr Hattle’s daughters are married and of these marriages there are six grandchildren. Mr Hattle has been a constant reader of the “Berwick Advertiser” for the past fifty years and during that period he has also been a staunch teetotaller. It is our hope that Mr and Mrs Hattle will be long spared to enjoy the evening of their life.

Information from the 1891 Census:

John Hattle aged 51 was living with Isabella Elspeth Hattle, his wife aged 46 at 13 Low Greens Berwick -upon-Tweed, Northumberland with their children Isabella Elspeth 17, Thomas 15, Alice 12, James  8, Mary Burgon 6, and Christina 3 ½ .


23rd April, 1915



“The Playhouse.” – Again programmes of outstanding merit are displayed at the “Playhouse” this week. The star turn of the week is “The Fordyce Family or the Lads of the Highland Brigade.” In their military speciality act they provide an entirely up-to-date and novel turn. They dance cleverly to Scotch tunes and introduce some very intricate step-dancing. The rifle spinning and dancing at the same time is very cleverly performed, and no one could be but pleased with their performance. The excellence of their turn is exemplified by the fact that they have had to respond nightly to encores. in the bioscope exhibition.

The Playhouse, Sandgate, Berwick-upon-Tweed

Berwick Advertiser, 23 April 1915. The Playhouse, Sandgate, Berwick-upon-Tweed, advert for The Fordyce Family.

“The Trap” was the feature at the beginning of the week. It was a thrilling drama in three parts and featured Irene Bordini. The picture for the week commencing on Thursday, is entitled “The Black Countess.” It is a photo play that is fascinating in every respect and a film all should see. A splendid programme is billed for next week. The turns are “Ford and Lewis, the Scotchman and the-?” and “Jessie Adams, ” a dainty comedienne with a style of her own. The feature of the first part of the week is “The Loss of the Birkenhead” which is a thoroughly British picture portraying a well told story, finely produced and excellent photography. It is exclusive to this hall. For the second part of the week there is a laughable Keystone Comedy entitled “The Property Man” in two parts. Charles Chaplin is in the leading part and it gets funnier and funnier as it goes on. The feature for the latter part of the week is a strong drama entitled “The Night Watchman’s Daughter.



Patient 81/39 – A Questionable Diagnosis?

Patient 81/39, a five year old boy, was admitted to Stannington in December 1937 due to ailing health following a two month period in bed suffering from mumps. He had developed a cough, was easily tired and was losing weight. The initial x-ray reports detail a blocked apex in the left lung and marked mottling in the right lung leading to an initial diagnosis of Pulmonary TB, Figure 1. However, following his admission further symptoms started to manifest themselves which indicated that the diagnosis of this patient was more complex than it was initially considered to be.


FIGURE 2: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_01


FIGURE 1: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_15









FIGURE 3: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_14


In April 1938, it was noted the patient had two subcutaneous abscesses on the iliac crest and the knee. A sample of the mucus taken from the abscess on the hip was sent for bacteriological examination. Results of this testing were as follows:

scanty pus cells and much granular debris. No definite organisms seen and tubercle bacilli not found.’

Furthermore, periostitis was noted in the upper end of the ulna which ‘appears septic’ but was regarded as being non-tuberculous. The patient still suffered with a cough but sputum tests were negative and notes state that no tuberculosis was seen. At this stage the x-ray report indicates that no bone lesions are seen in either the leg or the iliac crest, Figures 2 and 3.

Throughout the rest of 1938, the patient’s condition is very variable. An additional abscess is noted in the lumbar region with slight discharge and the apex of the left lung becomes more blocked with the lower lobe of the right lung being described as having been ‘studded with deposits’, however, the sinuses in the thigh and gluteus region are healed.


FIGURE 4: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_19

FIGURE 5: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_13

FIGURE 5: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_13









The main focus of the notes centre upon the right elbow which, in September 1938, was described as being very active with discharging abscesses; periostitis was greatly increased in the ulna and also present in the humerus with the joint being ‘badly involved’, see Figure 4. In November 1938 large sequestrum was removed from the elbow, at this time all lesions were considered very active. The elbow continued to be active with an increasing number of ulcers noted to have appeared; a maximum of four seen in February 1939 including one in the right cubital fossa which is incised to produce ‘copious…pus’, Figure 5.

X-ray reports from September 1939 read as follows:

11/9/39 –              Ulna hollowed out to cavity

                            Radius dislocated upward & forward

                            Lower end humerus eroded & partly destroyed.

15/9/39 –            Ulna – upper end partially destroyed, disorganisation of elbow joint’

No further comment is made regarding a diagnosis of tuberculosis in the elbow.


In addition to ongoing changes in the elbow an abscess appeared on the right mastoid, which was opened and drained in October 1938 and is noted to have become less active by November 1938. However, this abscess continued to open throughout the patient’s stay at Stannington and is often referred to as ‘discharging freely,’ with a diminishment in its activeness finally being noted in October 1939.


FIGURE 6: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_09


FIGURE 7: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_02










Further skeletal changes are observed in the x-ray report notes from September 1939, Figures 6 and 7:

11/9/39 –             Leg – large cavity in fibula L and in head of R. tibia

15/9/39 –             Left fibula large focus

     Right tibia large focus passing through into epiphysis.

Combined with this the medical notes indicate that a sinus developed on the left ankle and another on the right tibia during the same period with a further sinus developing in November 1939.


This patient was transferred from Stannington in February 1940 to a local hospital in West Hartlepool, his home town, as showing No Medical Improvement and a final diagnosis of TB Bones and Joints and old lung lesion.  His final x-ray report, see Figures 8-12, dated 27th February 1940, reads:

Large cavity head of R.tibia & sequestrum seem smaller than 11/9/39

Elbow –Improved

Fibula – large cavity little change.

Skull – little seen

Chest – L.apex clearer much mottling’


FIGURE 8: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_18


FIGURE 9: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_17











FIGURE 10: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_03


FIGURE 11: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_04


FIGURE 12: HOSP-STAN-07-01-02-91_05










The multifocal nature of this patient coupled with comments throughout the notes on possible non-TB origin is suggestive of a potential differential diagnosis. Any further comments based upon the information provided and radiographic images would be welcomed.

Herbert Tustin’s dramatic wartime memoir: ‘Escaping from the Kaiser’

Escaping from the Kaiser by H.W. Tustin is published by Pen & Sword Books.

‘Escaping from the Kaiser’ by H.W. Tustin is published by Pen & Sword Books.

In the spring of 2013, I came across a dusty old manuscript at my mother’s house in Somerset. It turned out to be my grandfather’s memoir, written about his experiences during the Great War. Reading it was quite a revelation. Not only was it dramatic and well written, but also a fascinating historical document, providing a thorough and vivid description of life in a WWI German PoW camp – an aspect of history that has, I have subsequently discovered, been little explored by historians. I decided to try to have it published, hoping that it might appear in print while the author’s daughter, my now 85-year-old mother, was still around to read it. I am pleased to say that the memoir – ‘Escaping from the Kaiser’ by Herbert Tustin – has just been published by Pen & Sword Books, much to the delight of my mother.

My grandfather’s memoir begins with him in Northern France in April 1915, en route to the Second Battle of Ypres with his regiment, the 8th Durham Light Infantry. He describes how the initial mood of ‘glorious adventure’ gave way to much darker emotions as they neared the battle zone and the grim realities of war become ever more apparent. The 8th Durhams were sent to the most critical section of the allied line, the extreme head of the Ypres Salient. Outgunned and outnumbered, their position was hopeless. The regiment was decimated by the German bombardment, and those that survived were forced into a desperate retreat, during which my grandfather was captured, along with a great many of his comrades.

Following capture, my grandfather and his fellow captives endured an arduous three-day rail journey in cattle trucks to Rennbahn PoW camp, just outside the German city of Münster. Here he was to spend 16 months, and a large portion of his memoir is devoted to describing this experience in great detail: the hunger, hardships and brutalities; the prison work; the character of the various nationalities; the activities and recreations; and the friendships and humour.

Reunited sweethearts Herbert and Sybil. This photo was taken after Tustin's escape, just outside his family home in Ponteland, Northumberland, England.

Reunited sweethearts Herbert and Sybil. This photo was taken after Tustin’s escape, just outside his family home in Ponteland, Northumberland, England.

Conditions at Rennbahn were tough, but my grandfather made the best of the situation, participating in many of the prisoner-organised activities, including accompanying at the piano for theatrical productions, playing the organ during church services and helping to edit the PoW church magazine. Nevertheless, thoughts of escape ran constantly in his mind. According to a recently acquired recording of an interview with his friend and 8th Durham comrade, Private William Stephenson (1894–1995), my grandfather decided to escape because he got word that a ‘young lieutenant’ was paying too much attention to his sweetheart Sybil, which troubled him greatly and made him determined to return to England as soon as possible. He had met Sybil, who was to become his wife, while they were both trainee teachers at the College of St Hild and St Bede in Durham, and their relationship was kept alive during the war through a frequent exchange of letters.

Whatever mix of emotions inspired my grandfather, they must certainly have been very strong, as attempting to escape was an incredibly risky venture: Rennbahn was surrounded by a triple girdle of barbed wire, with the middle wire carrying a lethal electric charge. Armed guards were posted at every entrance, and watch-dogs patrolled the perimeter fence, which was illuminated by powerful arc lamps. Any would-be escapee who succeeded in breaking free from the camp still needed to cross 50 miles of enemy territory before reaching the safety of neutral Holland. In addition to these formidable difficulties, my grandfather had the sobering knowledge that all previous British escape attempts had failed, and that he would be severely punished if caught. Finally, as if he needed reminding of the dangers, within less than a month of making his own bid for freedom, a French prisoner was shot and killed in the act of attempting to escape.

Rennabahn POW camp: a view overlooking one of the four blocks. The trees in the distance could not be seen by the prisoners, for no windows opened onto the outside. Rennbahn, one of nearly 300 German POW camps, was a fairly typical 'Mannschaftslager' (a camp for ordinary soldiers rather than commissioned officers) and held as many as 10,000 prisoners of many different nationalities.

Rennbahn PoW camp: a view overlooking one of the four blocks. The trees in the distance could not be seen by the prisoners, for no windows opened onto the outside. Rennbahn, one of nearly 300 German PoW camps, was a fairly typical ‘Mannschaftslager’ (a camp for ordinary soldiers rather than commissioned officers) and held as many as 10,000 prisoners of many different nationalities.

My grandfather’s first effort to escape was by tunnelling out of the camp. He and an 8th Durham comrade, Private Thomas B. Dickinson (called ‘Hicky’ in my grandfather’s memoir), also an alumnus of Bede College, took over a tunnel that had been abandoned by other prisoners. They set to their digging work with great enthusiasm, but the increasing moisture and stench, which they suspected was coming from the camp sewers, forced them also to abandon the tunnel.

Not to be defeated, in the summer of 1916, my grandfather conspired with Canadian PoW Gerrie Burk on an alternative plan: this involved cutting the wire beneath one of the entrance gates, which were not electrified but kept under constant armed guard. The idea was to choose a stormy night, wait for the sentry to disappear into the shelter of his box, less than four yards from the gate, creep up, cut the wires and crawl beneath the gate to freedom. It is difficult to see how this audacious plan could have succeeded, but the fact that they were resolved to carry it out says a lot about their determination and courage.

Fortunately, they came up with a better plan: on the pretext of visiting some sick friends, they inveigled their way into the camp hospital, which was just outside the main camp and away from the electric wire. Here they were helped by their PoW friends, one being Private Alfred J. Cleeton (of the 7th Canadians), who by good luck had befriended the watch-dog and was thus able to keep it at bay. Seizing their moment and with the sentries only yards away, the intrepid duo made their dash up and over the ten-foot barbed wire, lacerating their hands horribly in the process, before making good their escape.

For the next nine days they headed for Holland, travelling by night and hiding during daylight hours. Increasingly weak and hungry, they supplemented their small food supply with whatever they could find – wild berries, vegetables foraged from fields and apples stolen from orchards. Each day of their nerve-wracking journey brought new dangers: roving hunters, barking dogs, road blocks, treacherous bogs, children at play and even run-away bulls – all of which threatened to expose their presence and bring their dreams of freedom to an abrupt and inglorious end. Somehow, they managed to avoid recapture, despite the closest of calls. Exhausted almost beyond their ability to continue and only yards from neutral territory, they were met by a fusillade of shots fired at them by German frontier guards. Luckily, it being night-time, they managed to evade the guards and, finding sanctuary in a ditch, crawled slowly forwards, inching past a German sentry before finally crossing the Dutch border to safety and freedom.

The original pencilled escape map. It is remarkable that this map, drawn on thin, poor quality paper, survived the arduous ten-day escape journey. it is yet more remarkable that it still exists, a century after its creation.

The original pencilled escape map. It is remarkable that this map, drawn on thin, poor quality paper, survived the arduous ten-day escape journey. It is yet more remarkable that it still exists, a century after its creation.

On arriving in Holland, they were relieved to meet a friendly group of soldiers, who accompanied them to the nearby town of Enschede. The Dutch authorities, having verified their story, treated them with the utmost kindness and sent them under escort to Rotterdam, where the British Consul arranged their passage on the first boat leaving for England. Their voyage was a perilous one, for the previous four ships to leave Rotterdam had been torpedoed by German U-boats. Fortunately, their vessel, the SS Grenadier, was able to navigate its way across the mine-strewn, submarine-infested North Sea, to arrive safely in Newcastle on Tyne on 18 September.

My grandfather’s amazing story of war, imprisonment, survival and escape, enhanced by original photographs, concludes with an epilogue by my grandmother. Writing some 20 years after her husband’s death, she recalls his welcome home, the joyful reunion and his proposal of marriage.

Herbert Tustin with his family - wife Sybil, daughter Lynette and son Graham - in Teesdale, c.1936.

Herbert Tustin with his family – wife Sybil, daughter Lynette and son Graham – in Teesdale, c.1936.


Tustin as an officer cadet in 1917. After his escape, he received a commission and was posted to garrison duty in South Africa, where he served out the rest of the war.

Tustin as an officer cadet in 1917. After his escape, he received a commission and was posted to garrison duty in South Africa, where he served out the rest of the war.

Sadly, I never knew my grandfather, whose life was cut short when he died of cancer in 1939. I am grateful, however, that he left such a dramatic and wonderfully written wartime memoir. Having it published has been something of a personal tribute, and I am proud to be related to a man who showed such courage under so much adversity. I am also delighted that that his story – ‘Escaping from the Kaiser’ by Herbert Tustin – is now available to be read and enjoyed by everyone.

We would like to express our sincere appreciation to Richard Corr [grandson of Herbert Tustin] in supplying this article for the Northumberland At War Project.

Dr T. M. Allison

Thomas Moffatt Allison was born in 1861 in Guisbrough, North Yorkshire, the son of a mining engineer.  He went on to study medicine and appears to have moved to Newcastle in the 1890s and by 1901 is recorded in the census as living and working at Dene House Hospital, a private hospital in Ellison Place, Newcastle.


During this time he was heavily involved with the Poor Children’s Holiday Association (PCHA), the charity behind Stannington Sanatorium, holding the role of Honorary Physician to the PCHA and sitting on its General Management Committee.  Through his position within the charity he was instrumental in the establishment of the sanatorium at Stannington, which is clear from the annual reports of PCHA.  In the 1906 annual report Dr Allison explains what is currently being done to tackle tuberculosis in the area as well as detailing the benefits that a sanatorium at Stannington will bring:

“Speaking of consumption, we have had quite a number of examples of local tuberculosis (bone and gland cases), and also of lung tuberculosis (or consumption), during the year.  These we have provided for as well as we could, – having regard to the danger of infecting others if sent to homes where there are other children – that is to say, we have isolated them as far as possible, and provided sputum flasks, etc.

But to cope properly with consumptive children there must be a proper place for them.  And we are indeed glad that next Spring our Stannington Sanatorium – (the first in England) for Consumptive Children, will be ready for opening.” [HOSP/STAN/1/3/2]

Patients and Staff Outside the Sanatorium c.1920s [HOSP/STAN/11/1/54]

Patients and Staff Outside the Sanatorium c.1920s [HOSP/STAN/11/1/54]

Once the sanatorium opened in 1907 his close involvement with institution continued as he took on the role of visiting physician and quite clearly held the sanatorium and its young patients close to his heart.  The matron in July 1916 made the following comments about a visit he made:

“Dr Allison brought out with him a gentleman to look over the Institution – he also gave me £1 to buy something for the children & has promised to send us records for our gramophone.” [HOSP/STAN/2/1/1]

Various reports on the early days of the Sanatorium along with newspaper articles from the time show Dr Allison to have been a consistent presence in some of the day to day operations of the Sanatorium and not just the medical side of things.  His presence at social events and in children’s Christmas parties is reported upon on several occasions.


During his career he wrote extensively on the treatment of tuberculosis and childhood disease with many articles and letters published in the British Medical Journal.  He was also active in other areas of local society and was the President of Newcastle Rotary Club and also stood for parliament as a coalition candidate for Morpeth Borough, but was unsuccessful in this particular political venture.


He died in Newcastle on 9 October 1928 leaving a widow, Frances Sarah Allison.  His son Gordon, a Lieutenant in the 1st King George’s Gurkha Rifles predeceased him having died in action in north-west India on 8th June 1919 aged 20.



‘A Nation of Workers.  Will a Nobler Understanding Arise from Comradeship?’, North-Eastern Daily Gazette, 4 Nov 1916

‘Northumberland.  Vigorous Contests Anticipated.’ Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 20 Nov 1918

This Week in World War One, 16 April 1915

Berwick Advertiser title 1915


Word was received about 9.30 o’clock last night that hostile airships were in the vicinity and had dropped bombs on Blyth. Precautionary methods were immediately taken. The electric light power was immediately switched off at the Urban Electric Works, and house-holders were ordered to extinguish all lights and the town was soon plunged into complete darkness. When the picture houses closed the people who had composed the audiences experienced considerable difficulty in reaching their homes owing to the intense darkness. Probably High Street was the most difficult to navigate and much good humored chaff could be heard as people tried to evade each other in the inky darkness. Fortunately, Berwick was not visited by the Zeppelin.

World War One: the German zeppelin Viktoria Luise emerging from its hangar. Wellcome Library, London.  Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0.

World War One: the German zeppelin Viktoria Luise emerging from its hangar.
Wellcome Library, London. Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0.



Results of Examination.

Social meeting and Presentation.


On Thursday evening the members of the Berwick St Andrew’s Nursing Class held a social meeting in the Long Room of the Corn Exchange.

The hall was gaily decorated with patriotic flags, flowers, and evergreens, and there was a touch of enthusiasm in all the preparations which at once engendered in the guests that feeling of welcome and sociability so essential in making such a gathering a success. Those present readily indulged in the games and dances, and, after an hour’s enjoyment in this way, were just in the right mood to receive the more formal part of the evening’s proceedings with a spirit which made all feel quite at ease.

The Mayor (Councillor Wilson) was accompanied to the chair by the Mayoress, the Sheriff, Dr and Mrs Maclagan, Miss Anthony, Matron of the Borough Hospital, and Miss Gradon, convenor of the Class Committee.



On behalf of Miss Anthony, the Mayor read the following report on the origin and work of the class during the winter:-

World War One Navy nurses training at Chatham. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Ref: L0009198

Very soon after war was declared, the Mayor asked me, would I be willing to teach bandaging, bed-making, etc., to about twenty ladies, so that they might be useful in the event of temporary hospitals being opened for wounded. I consented. This was the beginning of our ambulance class. Owing to unforeseen circumstances, the classes were not started until 14th September. At the first meeting twenty eight members were enrolled. The classes grew rapidly, chiefly owing to the enthusiasm of the members, and Miss Cockburn, who was appointed class secretary. At the end of September there were 42 names on the roll. It became necessary to seek a larger room. We secured the Parochial Hall, but owing to the arrival of wounded, we had to vacate it after three weeks. Captain Kimberley very kindly granted us the use of the Army Hall. Our next step was a decision to try for the “Home Nursing and Hygiene Certificate of St Andrew’s Ambulance Association.”…..

Thirty-seven sat for the examination, and all have obtained certificates…..


….In reviewing the report, the Mayor said he had no idea that the Nursing Class had assumed the size which it had, and he was glad to think that out of the little conversation which he had had with Miss Anthony prior to the commencement of the class so much good had accrued. He was delighted to know that success had attended their efforts, and that everyone who had gone up for examination had obtained certificate. He understood that they had worked very hard during the winter, and he had to congratulate both the Doctor and Miss Anthony on the results. There was, unfortunately, a great deal of fighting to be done at the front yet, and he was afraid that there would be many wounded soldiers in consequence. Berwick was ready and willing to do its share, and he believed that the services of some of the members of the class would be needed. Not only were they equipping themselves to be of use in this direction, but the knowledge gained would be of advantage to them in many ways. he trusted that all of them would maintain their connection with the class during the summer and next winter, would go up for the medallion of the Association……………………..


Heliotherapy, or sunlight treatment, was one of the key therapeutic measures used by sanatoria to tackle tuberculosis and in this respect Stannington was no different.  Most sanatoria were built in the countryside where patients could benefit from fresh air whilst receiving plenty of rest and a good diet.  In addition to this sunlight, whether real or artificial, was an essential component in aiding recovery based on the principle that it would strengthen the patient and better enable them to fight off the disease.  Many of the photographs of children in the sanatorium from the collection show them to be outside on most occasions whether they be in school, in bed, or taking part in leisure activities.




Stannington had been using arc lamps since 1920 in the treatment of skin lesions and ulcers with the aim of speeding up the healing process of such lesions by exposing them directly to the light.  In 1926, however, a large artificial light department was introduced and equipped with ultraviolet apparatus to allow patients suffering from various forms of TB to be treated and to continue to receive light treatment even in adverse weather conditions.  Patients may have been required to spend time in the artificial light room for several minutes each day for as long as it was seen to be beneficial.  For many patients with mild cases of tuberculosis, or where there were no surgical options, this may have been their main and only active course treatment.



Children at rest in the vita glass pavilion

One very notable part of the sanatorium buildings was the vita-glass sun pavilion, built in 1927 thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, and opened by the Duchess of Northumberland.  It had the capacity to house 50 patients and was used primarily in the treatment of those with pulmonary TB.  Vita glass is designed to allow ultraviolet rays to penetrate easily and the pavilion meant that the children could enjoy natural sunlight whilst being protected from the elements.




T. C. Hunter, ‘Associations and Institutions: Stannington Sanatorium, Northumberland’, The British Journal of Tuberculosis, 1930, 24, 28-32.

R. A. Hobday, ‘Sunlight Therapy and Solar Architecture’, Medical History, 1997, 42, 455-472.

UK Archaeological Sciences Conference 2015

Yesterday the Stannington Sanatorium Project Team visited Durham University to attend this year’s UK Archaeological Sciences (UKAS) Conference.  The conference is being hosted by the University’s Department of Archaeology and runs from 8th-11th April.  We were fortunate enough to be able to present a poster presentation to demonstrate the potential of the Stannington Collection as an academic resource for those in the field of archaeology, see below.



 (Click to enlarge)

During the course of the day we spoke to several people interested in the collection and the poster will continue to be displayed for the duration of the conference for delegates to view.  We also had the opportunity to view other posters and hear various presentations on some of the interesting research currently being carried out by those in the field of archaeology.  The topics covered were varied and included investigations into Iranian pottery production, the origins of agriculture, entheseal changes, and the migration of red deer to the Outer Hebrides and the Orkneys in the Neolithic period.  All in all it was a very interesting day and a great opportunity for us to promote the collection further.


This Week in World War One, 9th April 1915

Berwick Advertiser title 1915

APRIL 9TH 1915


Steamer’s Escape From Pirates Off Berwick

Captain A. Findlay, of the steamer Helen, of Glasgow, reported to the ship’s owners, Messrs G. T. Gillie and Co., of Newcastle, an exciting experience off Blyth.

“About 7.10a.m. on Monday,” he said, “a large steamer passed us, flying his code number and a Dutch ensign aft. I was on watch myself, and thought it curious, as we could see nothing to make him fly his number.

“About 7.20 a.m. we sighted a submarine coming straight for us. We were then about seven miles off Berwick, and I at once headed the ship straight for the land and told the engineers to get the utmost speed they could out of the steamer. We worked up to top speed, and the submarine followed, trying hard to get on our quarter. I kept porting out helm to keep him right astern. He gradually got nearer, but as we were drawing close to Berwick he gave up the chase at 7.50a.m. and stopped. We got a fine sight of the submarine as she was only half a mile from us then. He was flying no flag, and I could not see his number.


Firing Without Warning at Trawler’s Crew

German U-Boat, U-10

The German U-Boat U-10 was reported as being the submarine which attacked the Acantha 5th April. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-B2- 3292-11]

The Grimsby trawler Acantha, owned by Messrs Horris and Chapman, was torpedoed and sunk off Longstone, Farne Islands, on Monday afternoon. The crew of thirteen hands took to the small boats and were picked up by the Swedish steamer Tord and landed at Blyth.

The Acantha was on a return journey from the White Sea with a cargo of fish valued at £2,000. On Monday afternoon about one o’clock the crew were astonished to hear the report of guns and of shots striking the trawler. A submarine was then sighted heading for the Acantha at high speed and firing from rifles and a small gun on her deck as she came on. A zigzag course was steered by the trawler with the intention of avoiding any torpedoes which might be discharged, but against the greater speed of the submarine the trawler could not escape.

The Germans were content to rely on their small gun, and shots from this holed the Acantha so badly that she began to fill. Captain Pederson, of the Acantha, ordered the crew to the boats, and while the life-boat on the weather side was being launched the pirates peppered the trawler with rifle shots, but as J. Oatley, the chief mate, observed, the shooting was bad and no one was hit. After the small boats had cast off those on the submarine continued firing at them with their rifles, and several shots struck the boats, making holes in the gunwales. None of the crew was struck.

The Acantha apparently did not sink speedily enough for the Germans, for when the crew’s boats were


Longstone, close to where The Acantha was attacked on the 5th April 1915. © Copyright Christopher Styles and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

four or five hundred yards off a torpedo was fired at the trawler, which sank with a large explosion. Captain Pederson said the submarine did not give any warning, but opened fire at once. He saw it quite distinctly. It was painted white, but there were no numbers or letters on the sides.

The submarine stayed in the vicinity for some time after sinking the Acantha, and then went south. After being in their boats an hour and a half the crew were picked up by the Tord.



Bamburgh Work Party.-During the first three months of the year the ladies of the above party have been busy making garments, etc., for our troops at home and abroad. The articles made are as follows:-Shirts, 44; socks, 90 pairs; mufflers, 24; mittens, 36; beside bed socks, helmets, slippers, etc…

…The work has been forwarded to the Northern General Hospital, to Major Beal, for the 11th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers; and the Miss Grey, at a hospital in France.

Bamburgh Red Cross Society.- The members of the above have since the arrival of the Northern Cyclist Battalion in Bamburgh undertaken the cooking for the hospital of that section of troops. They have, in addition to the army rations, been able to supply the invalids with many extras, which have been kindly contributed by the following:- Misses Morpeth, Mrs Macaskie, Mrs Williams, Mrs Shields, Mrs Littlefair, Mrs Thompson (Shoreston Hall), Miss Broadbent, Mrs Laing, Mrs Smeedle, Miss Hutchinson, Mrs Keys, Mrs Marshall, Mrs Little, Miss J. Weatherston, Miss Ross, Miss Hall, Mrs McDougal, Miss M. Ross, Miss M. Wallace, Mrs Hart, Mrs Freeman (Bells Hill), Mrs Dryden and Miss J. Clarke.

Advert for Redpath and Son, High Street, Berwick, from the Berwick Advertiser 9th April 1915

Advert for Redpath and Son, High Street, Berwick, from the Berwick Advertiser 9th April 1915



Selman Waksman New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Higgins, Roger, photographer/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain

Selman Waksman
New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer: Higgins, Roger, photographer/ Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain


Streptomycin was the first antibiotic drug to be discovered that was effective in the treatment of tuberculosis.  It was isolated in October 1943 by Albert Schatz, Selman Waksman, and Elizabeth Bugie  with Waksman going on to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1952 for his work on the discovery of streptomycin.  Extensive human trials of the drug were carried out in the USA in the years following its discovery and the UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) carried out its first randomised, controlled clinical trial of the drug in 1946.  The MRC’s trial aimed to compare the effectiveness of streptomycin combined with bed rest with that of bed rest alone and did eventually show the drug to be more effective.



At this point the drug was used in conjunction with the traditional methods utilised in the sanatoriums, such as bed rest and light treatment, and we start to see cases of streptomycin being used as treatment in Stannington Sanatorium from 1947.  Although it was available as an effective treatment and the only drug treatment option it was not widely used on the children of Stannington, and instead particular cases were singled out as suitable candidates for treatment.  There were several problems arising from the use of streptomycin that meant it could not be a cure-all treatment for everyone.


The drug must be administered by injection which could prove to be very painful, a particular problem where children were involved.  One girl, patient no. 13/1949, had been receiving regular streptomycin treatment at Newcastle General Hospital before being admitted to Stannington.  Initially intramuscular and intrathecal treatment was used, which involved administering the drug directly into the muscle and into the membrane of the spinal cord.  Daily treatments were continued for 4 weeks and although there were some initial signs of improvement toward the end of the 4 weeks the patient began to become very ill with continuous vomiting, drowsiness, incontinence and papilloedema (swelling of the optic discs caused by intracranial pressure) so treatment had to be stopped.  A week after treatment was stopped there was a marked improvement in her general condition and so treatment was resumed with a general anaesthetic being required for each intrathecal injection.  The patient continued to improve but the papilloedema persisted and the intrathecal therapy was proving difficult to administer.  Instead a tube was inserted along the floor of the skull to the interpeduncular fossa and streptomycin injected on alternate days, which in turn led to the reduction of the papilloedema and improvement in her condition generally.  She was continued on intramuscular injections up to her discharge to Stannington Sanatorium where she was to receive more traditional treatment and rest on the basis that she would be returned to NGH if any relapse in her condition was experienced.


This case clearly illustrates how streptomycin was not a simple cure not least because the administration of the drug was particularly uncomfortable but also because of the side-effects that could be experienced.  One noted side-effect in children is the possibility of irreversible auditory nerve damage.  Contemporary studies also showed that toxic reactions to interthecal streptomycin could occur sometimes with fatal consequences.  The invasive methods of administering the drug meant that when it was first introduced some of the children in Stannington Sanatorium that were chosen to receive the treatment had to be discharged to a local hospital to receive it.  Nonetheless, it still provided incredibly successful results and patient 13/1949 went on to be discharged as quiescent.


Of the cases from Stannington Sanatorium that received streptomycin treatment we can see that they were all suffering from quite severe forms of tuberculosis making streptomycin a last attempt where it was known that traditional sanatorium methods would not work.  For example, the above case, patient 13/1949, was suffering from TB meningitis, which along with miliary TB was responsible for a large number of deaths.   Looking at patient files from the beginning of the 1940s we can see that it was these sorts of cases where deaths regularly occurred, whereas most other manifestations of TB responded well to sanatorium treatment.  In this respect streptomycin was incredibly successful in treating patients that only a couple of years earlier would most likely have died.


The years following the introduction of streptomycin saw the development of several other drugs effective in the treatment in TB which helped to tackle problems of drug resistance that had been developing.  Instead combination therapy using multiple drugs became possible and their proper administration meant that the development of drug-resistant strains could be tackled.  Owing to drug resistance and its difficult administration streptomycin is no longer a first line drug but remains on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) list of essential medicines.



SCHATZ, A, BUGIE, E, & WAKSMAN, S. A. (1944) Streptomycin, a substance exhibiting antibiotic activity against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, 55, pp.66-69.

BYNUM, H. (2012) Spitting Blood: The History of Tuberculosis, Oxford University Press, p.195.

MILLER, F. J. W, SEAL, R. M. E, and TAYLOR, M. D. (1963) Tuberculosis in Children, J & A Churchill Ltd. p.184.