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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): H27/CW
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1871-1948
Level of description: subfonds
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Extent: 41.98 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Chelsea Hospital for Women


Administrative/Biographical history:

Chelsea Hospital for Women was founded in 1871 for the treatment 'of diseases peculiar to women'. The Hospital was initially situated at 178 King's Road, Chelsea, where it had eight beds for inpatients. Two of its founders, Dr Thomas Chambers and Dr James Aveling, became the first physicians to the hospital. Initially the main object of the charity was to provide treatment for ladies of limited means, whose 'social positions and refined sympathies' precluded them from entering the general hospitals. Although they could not afford expensive and prolonged medical treatment at home, they were expected to pay a minimum fee of a guinea a week towards the expenses of the Chelsea Hospital for Women. Poor, respectable women were admitted free of charge if they could obtain a subscriber's letter. The Duchess of Albany opened a new and larger hospital containing 63 beds, situated in Fulham Road, in 1883. This was followed in 1890-1891 by the building of a convalescent home at St Leonard's-on-Sea.

The development of the hospital was interrupted in 1894 and 1895 by a series of disputes between the Board of Management, members of the medical staff, and the medical press. A Committee of Enquiry chaired by Lord Balfour investigated allegations that hospital staff had carried out unnecessary and dangerous operations upon poor patients. In consequence ten of the medical staff resigned. Some, but not all, of the medical officers were reappointed by the governors. This led to a campaign in the medical press culminating in fresh elections of the medical staff in January 1895. The new surgeon to inpatients, Mr O'Callaghan, quickly proved to be so difficult to work with that the governors with the backing of the rest of the medical staff relieved him of his duties.

In 1911 Earl Cadogan gave a site in Arthur Street, Chelsea for a new and larger hospital. This opened on 11 July 1916 with 95 beds. The nurses' home was completed in 1924. The following year 'Pay Wards' were introduced. Eighteen beds were set aside as a 'Paying Floor' for patients able to pay 5.5s a week as well as fees to their medical officers. The east block wards were enlarged in 1933. This was followed in 1938-1939 by further extensions to the hospital and nurses' home that increased the accommodation to 126 beds, including a wing of six single rooms. At the same time a new heating system was installed. In 1939 Arthur Street was renamed Dovehouse Street.

In 1940 the hospital was designated Class 1A in the Emergency Hospital Service Scheme whereby 60 beds were placed at the disposal of the Ministry of Health for civilian casualties. In September 1940 the danger from air raids caused the evacuation of the top floor of the hospital thereby further reducing the number of beds. In 1939 some patients from Chelsea Hospital for Women were transferred to the convalescent home at St Leonard's but in 1940 this had to be closed because of the threat of invasion. Between 1940 and 1945 some patients from Chelsea Hospital for Women were treated at South Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth.

Despite suffering damage in an air raid in April 1941, Chelsea Hospital came through the War relatively unscathed. In 1948 it became part of the National Health Service and was designated a teaching hospital. It shared a Board of Governors with Queen Charlotte's Maternity Hospital, Hammersmith. In 1988 the former Chelsea Hospital for Women in Dovehouse Street ceased to be used for hospital purposes. All functions were transferred to the Queen Charlotte's site in Goldhawk Road.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Chelsea Hospital for Women, including Board of Management, later Council, minute books 1872-1948; Council agenda book 1925-1944; House Committee and Weekly Board minute and agenda books 1888-1948; Convalescent Home Committee minute books 1889-1947; Finance Committee minute books 1896-1948; Medical Committee minute books 1894-1950; Nursing and Catering Committee minute books 1938-1948; Radium Advisory and Drugs Committees minutes and papers 1929-1949; Rebuilding Committee Index to minutes 1911-1917; Building Committee minute book 1937-1939; Laws and Bye-Laws 1927-1938?; Annual Reports for 1877-1946; Clinical Reports for 1935-1956; Matron's report books 1930- 1962; Secretary's letter books 1936-1949; Papers and correspondence 1890-1970?; Medical registers 1895-1948; Case books 1872- 1947; South Middlesex Hospital case books 1940-1945; Pathologist's reports 1948; Record of treatment of cancer patients 1929-1945; Radium ledger 1928-1968. Register of appointment of officials and nursing and domestic staff c 1882-1893; Matron's appointment registers 1899-1929; Nursing staff registers 1925-1961. Register of baptisms 1937. Visitors books 1895-1957.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The records are arranged as follows: A = Administration, B = Patients' Records, C = Staff Records, G = Chaplain's Records, Y = Related Documentation.

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.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

ACC/2653, ACC/3335, ACC/3353.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For further information see King Edward's Hospital Fund for London papers and reports on the hospital 1903 - 1965 (ref.: A/KE/246/6, A/KE/514/2, A/KE/545/3, A/KE/737/13 and A/KE/738/47).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's 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

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