Asthma, school phobia and broken bones: other conditions at Stannington in the era of antibiotics

Whilst the majority of the case files we hold are for patients who suffered from tuberculosis, a significant number of the latter case files we hold are not. In the middle part of the 20th Century detection and antibiotic treatment for T.B. developed and social conditions improved. This resulted in fewer children suffering from the disease requiring hospital treatment and beds being made available to children suffering from other complaints. From just a few non tuberculosis patients admitted in the mid-1950s numbers grew and in the 1960s around 80 in every hundred patients did not suffer from tuberculosis. Here we will look at the range of other illnesses and afflictions which children admitted to Stannington suffered from during this period.

To begin with, starting in 1956, non T.B. patients were admitted by referral from the same three visiting consultants who oversaw the treatment of tuberculosis patients. These patients were children who had chronic illnesses including asthma, respiratory infections, rheumatism and orthopedic conditions. This reflected the individual specialisms of the visiting consultants who were treating T.B. patients, and the illnesses it was thought would benefit from the environment and experience of the sanatorium and its staff.

By 1959 the situation had changed to the extent that most patients did not have tuberculosis; In the extract below from a letter found in a patient file, Dr Miller, one of the consultants who oversaw the care of patients at the hospital, explains what has changed.

Until a few years ago it [the sanatorium] was used entirely for children with tuberculosis, but recently as the number of children suffering from clinical tuberculosis has decreased so remarkably and social conditions have improved, we have been able to use the hospital for non – tuberculosis chronic respiratory disease and now the children with tuberculosis are in the minority.

From this point onwards the range of conditions which patients admitted to the hospital suffered from continued to grow. The table below summarises the range of conditions patients admitted to the hospital were diagnosed with in 1966, the last year of admissions for which we have case files, and is also illustrative of the preceding years in the decade.

Diagnosis Cases admitted in 1966 % of total
Asthma 36 23
Tuberculosis (all types) 21 14
Behaviour Problem 15 10
Bronchitis 13 8
Chronic Respiratory infection 9 6
School Phobia 7 5
Bronchiectasis 4 3
Rheumatism 4 3
Diabetes 4 3
Muscular Dystrophy 3 2
Enuresis 3 2
Epilepsy 3 2
Malnutrition 2 1
Chorea 2 1
Eczema 2 1
Bronchopneumonia 2 1
Meningocele, glomerulonephritis, leg injuries, abdominal pain for investigation, endocarditis, headaches, osteitis of pubic ramus, Coeliac disease, Marfan’s  syndrome, post pneumonia, neuroblastoma, Perthe’s disease, streptococcal infection, paralysis, obesity, for observation, habit spasms, post burns, fractured leg, scoliosis, mesenteric adenitis, post road accident, fibrocystic disease, pschomatic vomiting and  amystonia congenita all accounted for 1 diagnosis on admission each. 16

The largest proportion of patients admitted to the hospital suffered from respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and respiratory infections. Orthopaedic cases, conditions and injuries affecting bones and joints are also present. Patients diagnosed with psychological complaints make up a large group of patients admitted to the hospital. In addition to these there a number of other conditions are represented in the patient files; these include diabetes, obesity, chorea and admittance for a period of recovery after suffering from burns.

Patients suffering from asthma or other bronchial conditions were often admitted for several months or years at a time with the aim of improving their condition. For these patients treatment often included antibiotics such as penicillin, breathing exercises  and postural drainage. If judged well enough, patients were often allowed home for holidays with permission from doctors. This allowed the patients to visit their families and also appears to have been used to trial patients in their home environment to see if they could sustain improvements in their health outside the hospital environment.

Treatment summary card
The treatment summary card of a patient admitted to Stannington Children’s Hospital in 1959 suffering from Asthma (HOSP-STAN-07-01-01-3710-03)

In the latter years of the time for which we have files patients were admitted with a range of psychological complaints. These were varied and include depression, psychosis, anxiety and school phobia. School Phobia, or the refusal to go to school, often had an underlying cause of depression or anxiety. These patients often came from difficult home backgrounds and were often admitted in part to give them respite from the home environment and the conditions which were causing their conditions. During the 1950s the care of these patients was overseen by Dr Connell, a consultant who had originally started visiting the hospital to see patients who had been admitted with conditions which it was felt may have in part had psychosomatic causes.

Case file cover
Case file cover for a child suffering from School Phobia (ref: HOSP-STAN-07-01-01-4501-01)

Children with orthopaedic conditions made up another group admitted to Stannington. Some of these were congenital, for example Perthe’s disease and talipes equinovarus (club foot), and some had other causes such as accidents. These patients were often admitted for recovery in a medically supervised environment following procedures and operations carried out at the general hospitals. The Royal Victoria Infirmary and Fleming Memorial Hospital in Newcastle feature regularly as places from which cases are referred.

In a large number of cases other factors played a role in a child’s admission alongside their medical condition. The continued provision of education meant that children were able to continue learning whilst their health improved. This appears to have been a particularly important factor in the cases of children with bronchial complaints such as asthma who outside Stannington could be missing large chunks of education.  Schooling played such a large role in hospital life that admissions, discharges and holidays were commonly scheduled to coincide with school terms.

Home and social condition also played a role in the decision to admit children to Stannington. Examples include poor or overcrowded housing, a disrupted family environment, or where it was considered care or treatment administered by parents may be unreliable.

The case files for patients not suffering from T.B. largely follow the same format as that for T.B. patients. The case files for non-tuberculosis patients often include numerous letters regarding the progress of the patient’s recovery and arrangements for check-ups and procedures at other hospitals.  These could often involve Stannington, the visiting consultant overseeing the patients care, specialists at other hospitals who were involved in a patient’s treatment, the family of the patient and the family doctor. In addition there can be other documents included in the files such as weight and height charts. One example is the page below, which is a dietary guide found in the file of a patient who was admitted to Stannington after being diagnosed with diabetes.

Recommended diet for a patient with diabetes. (ref: HOSP-STAN-07-01-01-3310_19)
Recommended diet for a patient with diabetes. (ref: HOSP-STAN-07-01-01-3310_19)

Of International Importance: The St. Paul & Butler Families of Ewart Park – Part Two

Horace and Anna Maria’s eldest child, Anna Maria Charlotte St. Paul [always known to the family as Charlotte], born in 1805, seems to have been the family hypochondriac.  Much of the correspondence from her to various family members discusses her various ailments, and the lack of attention and sympathy she receives from her brother and sisters.  She married into a well-known local family when she wed Reverend Leonard Shafto Orde in 1832.  Leonard was the personal vicar to the Duke of Northumberland, so much time was spent in Alnwick.

Elizabeth Katherine and Frances Agnes St. Paul, the middle daughters, are still mysteries to us.  What has been gleaned so far is that Elizabeth and Frances were deemed ‘imbeciles’.  The girls lived with Charles Maximilian and Anna Maria at Ewart Park, under constant supervision because of their so-called violent behaviour.  Letters from their sister, Anne, suggest that the girls were kept in their own private apartments at both St. Ninians and Ewart, and they were not allowed out of their rooms without attendants. An intriguing letter written in 1849 by Anne to her brother Horace about their sisters, notes that Elizabeth is cunning, prone to fits of rage, used violent language as well as violence itself, and that she was deficient in intellect.  The two sisters were also defrauded by their aunt and uncle.  Anna Maria got the girls to sign folded pieces of paper, and the girls did not know they were signing promissory notes, technically handing over their inheritances and allowances to their aunt and uncle, presumably to pay debts.  Frances died in 1862, Elizabeth not until 1881.

Another sister, Jane Isabella, ran off to Ireland at a young age, where she took up with a Captain, before meeting and marrying Dr. Evans.  He died soon after and Jane married again, to another doctor, Dr. Martin Hamilton Lynch, with whom she eventually moved to France.

Horace’s youngest daughter, Anne, was quite an adventuress for her time.  She showed a wilful streak, and followed her sister Jane to Ireland.  Writing in November 1834, she notes that she fled to Jane because two people had informed her that her brother-in-law, the Reverend Leonard Shafto Orde, had declared she was,

…in a state of derangement, that a strait waistcoat was the fittest thing for me, and that he had been advising my relations at Ewart to have me taken care of as a deranged person.

Her father must have looked upon her favourably though, as she seems to have gone unpunished for her exploits.  Anne died in 1883, having never married.


Sir Horace III
Sir Horace III


Sir Horace’s son, Horace St. Paul, was his heir.  The only legitimate son, born in 1812 at St. Ninian’s, Northumberland, he served as MP for East Worcestershire from 1837-1841, and the collection includes extensive political records relating to his campaigns.  He was a Justice of the Peace, advocated teetotal principles, and served as a Deputy Lieutenant of Northumberland.  A somewhat wholesome image of the man is presented when viewing his papers.  A legal document shatters this.  At the age of 50 years, Sir Horace seduced the seventeen year old Fanny Russell of Highgate, after she was sent to his abode by her mother to curry his favour for the family boarding house.  The affair continued for some years and Fanny bore him two children, both of whom died in infancy.

Sir Horace eventually married Jane Eliza Grey in 1867.  She was the daughter of George Annett Grey, and niece of Josephine Butler.  The couple had only one child, Maria (or Mia) St. Paul, born in 1868.  Jane died in 1881, and Mia and her father lived at Ewart until his death in 1891.  The baronetcy then became extinct, although Mia was still entitled to bear the title of Countess of the Holy Roman Empire.

Mia loved Ewart and Northumberland deeply.  At the age of two she had laid the foundation stone for the new nurseries at Ewart. She was an enthusiastic member of the Berwickshire Naturalist’s Club, and greatly enjoyed travelling the county, and talking to her tenants on the estate.  Her godmother was her great-aunt, Josephine Butler, and these great family ties led to the marriage of Mia to Josephine’s son, George Grey Butler, a Senior Examiner to the Civil Service, in 1893.


Mia's Wedding Photo
Mia’s Wedding Photo


George treated Mia as an equal, discussing estate business with her, as well as art and literature.  The couple had three children, Hetha, Horace and Irene Maria Butler.  Their story unfortunately does not have a happy ending.  A diary kept by George after the birth of Irene in 1901 charts Mia’s short illness and death.  It seems that she suffered from blood poisoning after childbirth, and suffered hallucinations for days before she died.

There is an oral history recording of Hetha Butler held within the archives [ref. T/20].  Recorded in 1972, Hetha reminisces about her idyllic childhood on the Ewart estate.  We also hold many of her watercolour sketches of the estate, which cast light on the privileged childhood the children had.  Irene became Private Secretary to Lord Robert Cecil in 1927, and she seems to have continued in this position until 1942, two years before her death.

Hetha and Irene’s brother, Horace was born in 1898.  He served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery during the First World War, and among the collection we have some of his trench maps for Belgium and France. After the War, he struggled to receive an army pension after suffering from “shell shock” or post-traumatic stress disorder.  He married Dorothy Torlesse and the couple moved to Canada before eventually returning to England.  During the Second World War, he served as a Captain in the 1st Battalion Northumberland Home Guard.  Because of the role he held, we have in the collection files relating to the Home Guard.

Although hardly touched upon so far, the hidden gem of the St. Paul story is Ewart Park itself.  The house is Grade II listed, and though constructed by Count Horace, does have nineteenth century additions.  The grounds and parkland in which Ewart sits were also designed by the Count.  The house was sold by the family in 1937, after the death of George Grey Butler.  His son, Horace, did not have the means for the up-keep of the house, especially after death duties.  It was occupied by the military during the Second World War, and has not been inhabited since.


Ewart Park Room c.1960
Ewart Park Room c.1960

This Week in World War One, 21 October 1916

Berwick Advertiser title 1915






Friends familiar with Holy Island are often struck with the fact of the longivity of the natives, but it is rare even in this parish to meet with a couple who can celebrate their “diamond wedding.” Such, however, is the case of John Stevenson, who married Alice Watson on October 11th, 1856. A conversation with this old couple reveals many interesting incidents of local history. Born at Holy Island on June 27th, 1830, John Stevenson has lived during the reigns of four sovereigns and five vicars; he can recall a visit to Wooler Fair at the age of 8 years, where he saw the stage coach change horses for Edinburgh; whilst some years afterwards he helped in the transformation of modern life by preparing the railway line to Berwick, the wages being 9s per week.

BRO 0017-4B-5 Holy Island Church
BRO 0017-4B-5 Holy Island Church


At this time the line was laid as far as Belford. Though a great part of his life was spent fishing he had a varied career, including a month spent on a  man-of-war during the Russian War. For 39 years he acted as Church verger and gravedigger, but gave up this work in 1909 owing to advancing age. Mrs Stevenson was born at Felkington in May, 1834, so that there will probably be very few indeed who can remember her as Alice Watson. It is said that this interesting couple was the last but one to be married at Lamberton Toll. Both Mr and Mrs Stevenson are enjoying remarkably good health considering their advanced ages, and all who knew them will rejoice to know they are spending their declining years on Lindisfarne – the “Isle of Rest.”




COL. SIR R. WALDIE GRIFFITH  has sent the following for communication to the Press: – The Territorial Force Associations of Roxburgh, Berwick, and Selkirkshires have been again approached as to the possibility of raising a Volunteer Corps in their Area, and it is considered advisable to explain the conditions and duties to be undertaken on enrolment.

The Volunteer Battalion will be formed under the same conditions of service as the former Battalions of the above mentioned Counties, but there will be no allowance for uniform. Drill etc., will be carried on as was done by the Volunteers of the Border Counties in civilian clothes, but, as Field Marshal Lord French foreshadowed in a speech the other day, arms and equipment may be supplied free but, as this will cost a great deal, it could only be given to men who would give some guarantee of continuing their services till the end of the War. Men, however, who do not feel they can give this guarantee, should enrol for such service as they can render. 200 sets of equipment are already promised to approved Corps by Royal Letter.

Volunteer Training Corps Uniform
Volunteer Training Corps Uniform


Men Suitable for Enrolment.

The men suitable for enrolment are:-

  • Men over 17 years of age.
  • Men declared medically unfit for Military service, but fit for ordinary work.
  • National Reservists fit for Home Service.
  • Men exempted by the Tribunals from service in the Army.

Duties of Enrolled Volunteers.

The duty of enrolled Volunteers will be to perfect themselves as far as possible in Drill, Rifle Shooting, and other Military duties during the Winter months in Public Halls, etc., Miniature Rifle Shooting, Squad Drill, Rifle Exercises, etc. lectures will also be given on Drill, Discipline, Trench Fighting, and all Military subjects.




A Runaway Horse.  – About 8.30 on Wednesday morning, while Gordon McLean, hawker, was driving a pony and float down Sandgate to the quay the animal got restive and bolted. McLean was unable to pull up. A man named Moses Davidson, who jumped from the vehicle was slightly injured. McLean also leaped off and received some injuries. The front of the trap was knocked clean out by the horse rearing and kicking. The animal was fortunately stopped before it reached the edge of the quay.

Two Germans Escape from Scottish Camp. – Two German prisoners escaped on Wednesday forenoon from a camp in Peeblesshire. One is about 30 years of age, and the other slightly older. Both are men of about five feet six inches. One is clean shaven, and the other has a short beard. They were dressed alike in grey corduroy suits, with blue patches on the back and similar patches on the trousers; may have grey overcoats, or may be in naval uniform. Both men speak a little English with a German accent.

Motor Transport Collides. – On Thursday morning, while Norris Townend, residing at 12 South Moor, Halifax, was driving a motor transport in Bridge Street, Berwick, the wheel side slipped while taking the corner of Hide Hill. The vehicle came into violent contact with the door of Mr Prentice, seed merchant’s office, doing considerable damage to the stone work. The waggon was a heavy vehicle belonging to Messrs Alder and Mackay, Edinburgh, and it was also slightly damaged.

BRO 0426-355 Hide Hill, Berwick-upon-Tweed
BRO 0426-355 Hide Hill, Berwick-upon-Tweed


Tweedmouth Young Mens’ Bible Class. – A memorial service for fallen comrades was held in the Kiln Hill Hall on Sunday last. There were present – Rev. M. Thompson, Rev. R. Leggat, Major McGill, Mr John peacock, Mr A. Martin, Mr and Mrs Anderson, Mr Robert Sidey, and a large gathering of members and friends. The Sheriff presided. After the opening hymn and scripture lesson, and whilst the congregation stood, the Secretary read the roll of members who have answered the call of King and Country and are still serving, numbering 112; also the roll of comrades who have fallen in battle numbering 21. Major McGill gave a most appropriate address to the lads, and Mr Peacock most feelingly addressed those who are mourning the loss of loved ones, while Mr John Moor of the Y.M.C.A. Huts, rendered that beautiful solo “Shadows.” The singing of the Glory Song brought a most solemn and yet inspiring meeting to a close.



Local lady’s Fine Work in France. – On account of her splendid work amongst our men at the front, both at the base and up the lines, Miss Katherine Vincent, the eminent Newcastle singer, wife of Dr Paxton, of Norham, presently a surgeon with the fleet has been asked to prolong her stay in France for the duration of the war. In eleven weeks Miss Vincent has organised the given, with her two lady friends, Miss Marguerite Godfry, of Stroud, and Miss Mollie Eadie, of Glasgow, more than 100 concerts acting in the capacity of singer, violinist, and pianist.