Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Stannington’s Hospitals (NZ182810 & NZ188819)

Source: WellcomeLibrary blog (WI no. L0016013)

A couple of miles north-west of the Northumberland village of Stannington, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, there once stood two really quite extraordinary medical institutions. Until their closures in the 1980s and 1990s respectively, Stannington Children’s Hospital and St.Mary’s Asylum were two of the most interesting places in the North-East.

The former, known more commonly as Stannington Sanatorium, was the very first purpose-built children’s TB hospital in the UK. Opened in 1907, it was built specifically for the needs of youngsters suffering from the disease in the days before the use of antibiotics. Fresh air, exercise and good nutrition were the order of the day, as well as the use of cutting-edge medical techniques – and all done with remarkable frugality due to much voluntary support. It was originally known as ‘Philipson’s Colony’ after one Roland Philipson who had made a generous donation to the appeal for the campaign by the Poor Children’s Holiday Association for just such an institution. In the seventy-odd years of its (sometimes controversial) existence around 11,000 youngsters passed through its doors.

The nearby St.Mary’s Hospital was, somewhat strangely, Gateshead’s official lunatic asylum. Built to the designs of George Thomas Hine during 1910-14, it served as the home of the town’s mentally ill until as recently as 1995. Almost immediately after its opening it was requisitioned by the military for the duration of World War I, but was thereafter returned to Gateshead who added a nurse’s home in 1927-8 (and otherwise modified the site) – before adding yet more buildings in the late 1930s, making St.Mary’s a sizeable concern in its ‘heyday’.

The old asylum site is now disappearing fast under new (and ongoing) development – the old children’s sanatorium up the road having been obliterated several years ago.


  1. Is there any way I can obtain more detailed information regarding St. Mary's Hospital?

    1. Apart from what may be gathered from online searches, then it's off to the old fashioned record offices/archives. Thing is, it was situated in Northumberland, but run by Gateshead Corporation - so the records could be at Northumberland Record Office, Durham Record Office or Tyne & Wear Archives! Gateshead Central Library may have something, too.