Wartime art is found at Stannington hospital

A PIECE of wartime history has been unearthed at a former Northumberland war hospital.

Site labourer Shaun Lamb, 22, at St Mary's Hospital, Stannington beside a picture of Winston Churchill

A PIECE of wartime history has been unearthed at a former Northumberland war hospital.

Workers in Stannington have discovered a unique mural of Winston Churchill buried deep in the bowels of St Mary’s hospital.

The artwork, believed to date from 1943, is now set to go under the hammer to raise cash for modern-day soldiers.

North East homebuilder Bellway is developing St Mary’s, which was built as an asylum in 1910.

The Grade-II listed building has been empty since 1995, but after a lengthy planning wrangle is now being transformed into apartments.

As they prepared the site, workers came across the unusual picture on a wall under the hospital’s concert hall stage.

The simple sketch, painted onto the whitewashed wall, is instantly recognisable as Churchill, the Prime Minister who was leading the country’s war effort at the time.

“It is a very good image of Churchill and shows him smoking his trademark cigar,” said Bellway’s sales director Rob Armstrong.

So far, Bellway’s research has thrown up only a few more details about the circumstances surrounding the miraculously well-preserved drawing.

And they are appealing for Journal readers who remember the hospital in its war days to help them out.

During the Second World War, St Mary’s was commandeered by the Ministry of Defence and used as a hospital.

Soldiers injured in battles across the world would have been brought to the isolated building to rest and recuperate.

In 1939, stage actresses Lilian Braithwaite and Sybil Thorndike formed a concert section of the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) at the hospital.

ENSA had been set up to provide entertainment to troops serving abroad, and well-known stars such as Gracie Fields, George Formby and Laurence Olivier all performed under its banner.

At St Mary’s, ENSA performances played to patients from all three armed services, on the concert hall stage directly above where the picture was found.

It is believed the Churchill caricature, which is signed “TAZ ENSA 1943”, would have been drawn by a member of the association.

But it is not known if TAZ was a stage pro, or simply a injured soldier who decided to get involved.

Bellway plans to carefully remove the unique artwork, and sell it at auction on behalf of modern-day armed services serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

DO you know who TAZ is, or do you remember the ENSA performers at St Mary’s? Call The Journal on 0191 201 6455.

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