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Records of Cromwell House, Highgate (Great Ormond Street Convalescent Branch)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): CH
Held at: Great Ormond Street Hospital Archives
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Full title: Records of Cromwell House, Highgate (Great Ormond Street Convalescent Branch)
Date(s): 1869-1924
Level of description: Sub fonds of Great Ormond Street Hospital archives
Extent: 14 volumes
Name of creator(s): Great Ormond Street Hospital


Administrative/Biographical history:

Great Ormond Street Hospital was founded in 1852 by Charles West on its current site in Bloomsbury as the Hospital for Sick Children. It was the first children's hospital in Britain. It became part of the NHS in 1948 and took over the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Sick Children in 1968. It went through several changes of name during this period and adopted its current name in 1994.

Cromwell House opened in 1868 as a convalescent home. Since it opened in 1852, the hospital had sent children to convalescent homes, generally at the expense of hospital supporters. Children were regularly transported to Mitcham, and to the seaside at Margate, Brighton, Torquay and Eastbourne, in the hope that rest and country or sea air would help them regain health and strength.

The governors settled on Cromwell House, a mansion in Highgate Village, that had been used as a boys’ school for many years, and had suffered a catastrophic fire in 1865. The house was built in the early 17th century, and, coincidentally, had medical associations dating back to the time of the marriage of Charles II and Catherine of Braganza. The Queen’s physician, Dr Fernando Moses Mendes, (a Portuguese Jewish convert to Christianity who attended Charles II in his final illness), lived in the house when it was owned by his cousin, Alvaro Jacob Mendes, a diamond merchant. The hospital negotiated a 70-year lease, at an annual rent of £250, and the hospital spent £3,000 on fitting it out as a suitable place to care for sick children. It had space for 20 beds for convalescents, and 32 for chronic cases (12 medical and 20 surgical).

The numbers treated crept up, and by 1885, Cromwell House had provided care for 98 convalescent and 152 chronic patients. The vast majority of the patients cared for in Highgate were chronic cases, that is, suffering from long-term debilitating conditions that required continuing skilled treatment.

From 1870, parents were allowed to visit their children at Cromwell House on Sunday afternoons. Highgate had been originally intended for both in and out patients, but always had far more in-patients, as it was difficult to arrange their removal to north London unless the children actually passed through the hospital. Many children who would not have benefited from treatment in the hospital were presented for admission to Great Ormond Street with governors' letters, but who would be expected to gain much from a spell at Cromwell House. By 1870, these children were brought into Great Ormond Street for only a day or two before being sent up the hill to 'healthy Highgate'.

The staff at Cromwell House, away from the management committee, enjoyed more freedom, but also more individual responsibility, than their Great Ormond Street counterparts. In 1869 it was run by a lady superintendent, just one experienced nurse, two assistant nurses, a convalescent nurse or teacher, a cook, two housemaids, one kitchen maid, and a porter-cum-gardener. There was only one night nurse on duty, who had charge from 9.30 p.m. until 7.30 am.

No admissions were allowed from the fever wards, or where the patient or a member of his or her family had had an eruptive fever in the previous two months. All children admitted had to be able to walk, and to partly feed and dress themselves, and the patients had to be able to observe the regulations regarding the hours of rising, meals and rest. There was a strict veto on epileptics, idiots, the insane, or those who needed a lot of care at night. While these regulations certainly restricted the numbers of children admitted to Cromwell House, the biggest filter was the fact that parents were expected to pay two and sixpence in transport costs to get their child to and from Highgate, and sixpence a week for washing.

Great Ormond Street kept Cromwell House open until the early 1920s, when it became clear that the old mansion was no longer suitable for long-term convalescent care, and that metropolitan London had crept up Highgate Hill, enveloping the house and garden in pollution and traffic noise. A new mansion (complete with extensive parkland) was found near Epsom on Surrey, and Tadworth Court became the new convalescent branch of Great Ormond Street Hospital. The main house was partly given over to wards, but mostly for offices, and single-storey pavilions were built in the grounds to house non-ambulant patients more easily.

Cromwell House’s medical associations did not end with the departure of the patients, however; it became home to the first Mothercraft School set up in this country, according to the tenets of the Dr Spock of his day, New Zealand paediatrician Sir Frederic Truby King. Today it is home to the Ghanayan Embassy.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Cromwell House, Highgate (Great Ormond Street Convalescent Branch), CH/3 Financial Records, comprising CH/3/1, Highgate Ledger, containing maintenance costs for Great Ormond Street Convalescent Branch (provisions, salaries, rents etcetera), January 1896 to December 1900; CH/3/2 Cromwell House Wage Book (for Nurses and Servants), September 1869 to December 1910.

Visitors' Books and Report Books, comprising CH/7/1, Cromwell House Visitors Book, 1869-1918, (with leaflet on Regulations for Admission.); CH/7/2 Matron's Report Book, November 1911- May 1922.

Correspondence, comprising CH/8/1 Letters and Press Cuttings Book re Cromwell House, 1867-1873 (includes plan of Dead House, staff memoranda, correspondence on patients and management, leaflets and advertisements about the house produced by the hospital, press cuttings and illustrations. draft regulations and maintenance proposals); CH/8/2 Report of the Sub-Committee on the desirability of retaining Cromwell House.

Patient Registers, comprising CH/9/1, Patient Admissions Register, 1869-1883; CH/9/2, Duplicate Admissions Register, 1869-1880 (with letter from Catherine J. Wood on staffing problems at Cromwell House, dated 9th May 1878); CH/9/3, Patient Admissions Register, 1883 -1891; CH/9/4 Patient Admissions Register, 1893-1898; CH/9/5 Patient Admissions Register, 1904-1910; CH/9/6 Admissions Register to Chronic and Surgical Wards, 1870-1904; CH/9/7 Duplicate Admissions Register to Chronic and Surgical Wards, 1870-1880; CH/9/8 Register of Out-Patients, 1884-1888.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

14 bound volumes, arranged by catalogue number.

Conditions governing access:

The volumes are available for research in the Museum and Archive Service reading room.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies and photographs are permitted, subject to the agreement of the archivist

Finding aids:

The catalogue is available on the office computer of the Museum and Archive Service and in typescript form.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Details of the patients will be found on One file of fund raising material is housed at the London Metropolitan Archives. Material on Cromwell House is also held at the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Entered by Andrea Tanner

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2010

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