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London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): H47/RL

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1804-1959

Level of description: sub-fonds

Extent: 4.18 linear metres

Name of creator(s): 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


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 hundred 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.

For information about the hospital after 1956 see Moorfields Eye Hospital(H47/MR)


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Royal London Opthalmic Hospital (later renamed Moorfields Eye Hospital), 1804-1959, including papers relating to the centenary appeal; minutes of committees including the Appeals Committee, Building Committee, Management Committee, Drug Committee, Election Committee, Finance Committee, Governors Annual Meeting, House Committee, Medical Board, Organisation Committee, Special Appeal Committee and Select Committee on Changes Proposed in Medical Department; papers of the London Dispensary for the relief of the poor afflicted with diseases of the Eye and Ear; annual reports; annual reports of the London Infirmary for the Curing of Diseases of the Eye, financial records, leaflets, addresses and histories.

The only surviving patient records are surgeon's case books from 1879.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

These records are arranged according to a classification scheme for hospital records: General Hospital Administration (A), Patients' Administration (B), Finance Office (D), Endowments (E), Related Documentation (Y) and Prints and Photographs (PH).

Conditions governing access:

These records are open to public inspection, although under section 5(4) of the 1958 Public Records Act administrative records are closed for 30 years and patient records for 100 years.

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:

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

Hospital administration | Hospitals | Health services
Hospital patients | People by roles | People
Medical history | Personal history | History
Ophthalmology | Medical sciences
Medical institutions

Personal names

Corporate names
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

Finsbury | London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe