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London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): H47

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1804-1993

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 11.21 linear metres

Name of creator(s): Children's Ophthalmic Convalescent Home | Moorfields Eye Hospital
Central London Ophthalmic Hospital xx Moorfields Eye Hospital
Moorfields Eye Hospital xx Moorfields, Westminster and Central Eye Hospital xx Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital' xx The London Ophthalmic Infirmary xx London Dispensary for curing diseases of the Eye and Ear
Royal Westminster Opthalmic Hospital xx Moorfields Eye Hospital


Administrative/Biographical history:

In 1804 John Cunningham Saunders (1773-1810) founded the 'London Dispensary for curing diseases of the Eye and Ear', in Charterhouse Square. The impetus for the formation of the world's first specialist Eye Hospital seems to have been an epidemic of trachoma. This is a form of potentially blinding tropical conjunctivitis which was brought back to England by British troops returning from the Napoleonic wars in Egypt. In 1808, three years after the first patients were treated the hospital became exclusively an eye hospital, the first of its kind in the world.

The number of patients seeking treatment steadily increased, forcing a move in 1822 to a larger site on the corner of Lower Moor Fields on Blomfield Street, at this time the hospital was renamed 'The London Ophthalmic Infirmary'. To mark the agreement of the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria to become patronesses of the Infirmary in 1836, the hospital was again renamed as the 'Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital'. The hospital had however benefited from Royal Patronage since 1815.

The hospital moved again to its present site in the City Road in 1899. At this time, the first specialist departments were set up (X ray and Ultra Violet treatment rooms). The Hospital was still operating as a charity and each patient received an admission card that read: 'This letter is granted to the applicant in being poor. Its acceptance therefore by anyone not really poor constitutes an abuse of charity'.

During the First World War the Hospital suffered from staff shortages due to staff enlisting. By 1916 there were only 33 medical staff left to run the hospital, this was of a pre-war complement of 85. Thirty beds were in use throughout the war for the treatment of naval and military casualties suffering from eye wounds and diseases. During 1916, 197 soldiers were admitted for treatment. In February 1919 the Hospital was declared closed for military business.

In 1929 the Hospital began to implement plans for the construction of an extension to provide a private ward block, additional accommodation for nursing and medical staff, a new enlarged out-patients department, increased premises for the medical school, extensions to the pathological laboratories, museum and library and a convalescent home. In 1935 after a public appeal for one hundreed and twenty thousand pounds the extension was completed and was named the King George V extension. The Duke and Duchess of York opened it on 16th May 1936. In 1937 a modernisation scheme was undertaken to bring the old buildings up to the standard of the new extension.

During the Second World War the Hospital opened its doors to general surgical cases and most of the ophthalmic patients were evacuated out of London. In 1944 Moorfields received a direct hit from a 'doodlebug' and suffered serious damage; this was so extensive that the Hospital was nearly pulled down and rebuilt on a green field location. However the site was rebuilt and in 1946 the City Road Hospital amalgamated with the Royal Westminster Ophthalmic Hospital and the Central Eye Hospital, and took on the clinical facilities for the Medical School for the University of London. The hospital was renamed the Moorfields, Westminster and Central Eye Hospital and had a total of 341 beds and the facilities to treat 7400 in-patients and 90,000 outpatients each year.

With the formation of the NHS in 1948 Moorfields lost its status as a voluntary hospital and came under the management of the Teaching Hospitals Regional Board, with the administration carried out by the Moorfields, Westminster and Central Hospital Management Committee. In 1956 was officially named as 'Moorfields Eye Hospital' by Act of Parliament. In 1950 the sixteenth International Congress of Ophthalmology was held at Moorfields and for the first time ever TV cameras were installed in the Theatres especially to demonstrate surgical techniques. NHS reorganisation in 1974 brought the Hospital under the control of the Postgraduate Teaching Hospitals Regional Health Authority and in the Moorfields Eye Hospital District. The Hospital redeveloped the site in the late 1980's allowing for the expansion of more specialist areas. The Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Trust, in existence since 1994, also runs outreach community eye clinics at nine other sites where it provides a range of ophthalmic services. 1999 saw the centenary of Moorfields Eye Hospital at City Road.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Moorfields Eye Hospital and predecessor hospitals, 1804-1993, including the Children's Ophalmic Convalescent Home, the Central London Opthalmic Hospital, the Royal London Opthalmic Hospital and the Royal Westminster Opthalmic Hospital.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

Divided into 5 sections: H47/MR: Moorfields Eye Hospital, H47/CH: Children's Ophalmic Convalescent Home, H47/CL: Central London Opthalmic Hospital, H47/RL: Royal London Opthalmic Hospital and H47/RW: Royal Westminster Opthalmic Hospital.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: Depositor

Physical characteristics:


Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Material recieved in 2 accessions, in 1996 and 1997. ACC/3771 and B97/080.


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

Publication note:



Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: February 2009

Hospitals | Health services
Medical institutions

Personal names

Corporate names
Central London Ophthalmic Hospital x Moorfields Eye Hospital
Children's Ophthalmic Convalescent Home | Moorfields Eye Hospital
Moorfields Eye Hospital x Moorfields, Westminster and Central Eye Hospital x Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital x The London Ophthalmic Infirmary x London Dispensary for curing diseases of the Eye and Ear
Royal Westminster Opthalmic Hospital x Moorfields Eye Hospital