Fresh from our adventure at Hexham Hospital, we still had the urge to explore. We cured this by visiting a nice little shack known as Wheelbirks Tuberculosis Sanatorium.

I was reading the history for Wheelbirks Tuberculosis Sanatorium and damn, I sure do feel sorry for the owner for plunging all his money into a solitary hospital for them to discover an anti-biotic that not only makes institutions such as this completely redundant, but he also died before construction was complete. History below.

Wheelbirks Tuberculosis Sanatorium was a NIGHTMARE to find. With it being on the way home P and I thought we would just ‘pop in’ on the way. Yeah, as if! We arrived to the GPS location and found nothing in sight (it’s in the middle of nowhere) and after driving around for twenty minutes we realised we needed to get on a hill to scout the land. Five minutes later we’re at the highest point scanning for Wheelbirks Tuberculosis Sanatorium. Success! We spotted it! It was literally dead center of where we had previously been driving however because of the sheer amount of frees and farmers land you cannot see it unless you’re on a peak.

With the location scouted we start driving towards it. There has been reports that it is on farmers land so you need to park up a few miles away and walk down. Easy enough, we said. Two miles is nothing!

So we get out, ran over the farmers fields to avoid getting shot and spot the trees that cover the building. Excellent! Then we realise the biggest problem – to get to Wheelbirks Tuberculosis Sanatorium you have to go down a huge, steep hill that is covered in nettles, holly and spikes. You then arrive to a stream (that leads into a river) and climb back up the other side of the hill (I’m not joking when I say it is steep. These hills are about 800m with a 60% incline. If you’re not holding on to something you’re going to fall down). Best part? This isn’t a straight hill. Remember all those painful plants? They’re everywhere. You have to turn that 800m climb into 3000m as you can’t just walk straight. I mean fuck, it was awesome for photography, but damn tiring!

So anyway, after making friends with a lot of cows, scaring a baby deer, drinking from the river (then realising it’s linked with a sewer. Gross.) and falling down the hill a few times, we reached this gorgeous building.

This place is virtually untouched. With it being over a hundred years old its completely withering away (even the iron beams had rust holes) however there is no vandalism at all. There’s nothing inside other than boats, a freezer and a combine harvester that the local farmers have been hoarding away (the farmers house is only around 200 meters away) but damn, the brickwork is awesome (every brick named). It’s very Americanised and ahead of it’s time. Just a damn shame that the poor bloke died before it was complete.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.


Wheelbirks is a small rural part of Northumbria, located to the south of Hadrian’s Wall. According to several historical books, there have been farmsteads in the area since the 16th century. It was David Richardson, though, who would have the greatest influence in transforming the area. Richardson, who was a Quaker and the owner of some of the largest tanneries in the country, moved to the area in 1882. The family has a long history as tanners, tracing as far back as the mid-16th century to a site based at Great Ayton, Cleveland, so they had a considerable amount of wealth and influence.

In 1902, Richardson started work on replacing the original farmhouse at Wheelbirks with a Restrained Gothic style farmhouse and several small cottages. By 1911, the area was completely transformed, having changed from a small farmstead into a fully-fledged estate. Further development was prompted a few months after completion following an outbreak of tuberculosis (TB) inside Richardson’s tanneries. During the early 1900s, for instance, the works located at Elswick were reported to have a high incidence of the disease.

The sanatorium itself is a cruciform construction of steel-reinforced concrete, white engineering brick and glass. It was designed to appear as if it is standing on stilts in a hollow; three bridges attached to the main entrances of the building helped to create the illusion. The design of the structure, which is reportedly American-based, and its chosen setting is said to have comprised a fresh-air method of treatment whereby patients would be surrounded by countryside and a clean, unpolluted environment. Unfortunately, Richardson never witnessed the completion of the sanatorium because it remained unfinished at the time of his death in 1913. In the end, the building was never used to treat TB sufferers because developments in antibiotics led to important changes in how TB was treated, to the extent that the use of isolated hospitals was rendered unnecessary.