AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 H71
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Date(s): 1801-2000
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 117 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Royal Free Hospital


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Royal Free Hospital began life as a small dispensary in Holborn. It was founded by William Marsden in 1828, to provide free medical care to those who could not afford it (at that time, people seeking hospital treatment had to pay a fee, or provide a letter of recommendation.) Thus, it was the first free hospital in London. The title 'Royal' was granted by Queen Victoria in 1837, in recognition of the hospital's work during the 19th century cholera epidemics, when it was the only London hospital to accept cases.

Demand for free hospital treatment was high, so in 1844 the Royal Free moved to larger premises, a former army barracks in Gray's Inn Road, where it stayed until the early 1970s. In 1877, the Royal Free became a teaching hospital and made history by becoming the first hospital in Britain to accept women as medical students. This began a close association with the London School of Medicine for Women, later renamed the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine. The Royal Free School of Nursing was started in 1889, and in 1895 the Royal Free became the first hospital to appoint an almoner, forerunner of the modern social worker. After the Second World War, The Royal Free continued to innovate, leading the way in treatments for kidney and liver diseases, haemophilia and cancer.

On the inception of the National Health Service in 1948, the Royal Free joined with several smaller hospitals including the Children's Hospital Hampstead, the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, the North-Western Hospital, Hampstead General Hospital and the London Fever Hospital to form the Royal Free Group. In 1968, Coppett's Wood and New End Hospital joined the Royal Free Group and, in 1972, Queen Mary's House.

Survival of records from the Gray's Inn Road era is generally very good. Extensive series of minutes, annual reports and photographs give insight into the management and day-to-day administration of the Royal Free, the difficulties funding a voluntary hospital, and the development of the NHS. The collection also includes some of the earliest surviving patient case notes from a British hospital (1899-1920). These give detailed personal and clinical histories of patients, which provide a unique insight into the personal, social and medical conditions of the population of London's Kings Cross slums. They include case notes by some of the first women surgeons and physicians.

The Royal Free moved to its present site in Pond Street, Hampstead, in the mid 1970s. The new hospital brought together the old Royal Free Hospital in Gray's Inn Road with Lawn Road Hospital (formerly the North-Western Fever Hospital), New End Hospital and Hampstead General Hospital. As a result of NHS reorganization, the Royal Free came under the control of Camden and Islington Area Health Authority between 1974 and 1982 and the Hampstead Health Authority between 1982 and 1991. Records from this period of the Royal Free's history are patchy. Major series of minutes have survived, but few other records have been transferred.

In April 1991 the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust became one of the first trusts established under the provisions of the NHS and Community Care Act 1990. The Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital joined the trust in 1996. On 1 April 2012, the trust was authorised as a foundation trust, under the name Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Royal Free Hospital and associated hospitals including the official corporate records of the Royal Free Hospital, London, from its foundation in 1828 up to c 2000.

Also the following collections from hospitals that were part of the Royal Free Group or Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust:
London Fever Hospital
The North-Western Fever Hospital
The North-West London Hospital
Hampstead General Hospital
Children's Hospital Hampstead
New End Hospital
Hospital for Diseases of the Throat in Golden Square
Central London Throat Nose and Ear Hospital
Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital
Coppett's Wood Hospital

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

H71/CHH Children's Hospital Hampstead
H71/CL Central London Throat Nose and Ear Hospital
H71/CW Coppett's Wood Hospital
H71/FH Friern Hospital
H71/GS Hospital for Diseases of the Throat Golden Square
H71/HG Hampstead General Hospital
H71/LF London Fever Hospital
H71/NE New End Hospital
H71/NWF North Western Fever Hospital
H71/NWL North West London Hospital
H71/RF Royal Free Hospital
H71/RN Royal National Throat Nose and Ear 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 is held by the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

The records of the Royal Free Hospital and its associated collections were transferred from the Royal Free Hospital Archives Centre to London Metropolitan Archives in 2013.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in December 2013.

Allied Materials

Related material:

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:
Added May 2014

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"