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Archives in London and the M25 area

Bethnal Green Hospital

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0387 BG
Held at: Barts Health NHS Trust Archives (Royal London Hospital Archives)
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Full title: Bethnal Green Hospital
Date(s): 1913-1990
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 10 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Bethnal Green Hospital
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Bethnal Green Hospital, London was originally an infirmary built by the Board of Guardians of the Parish of St Matthew, Bethnal Green, and opened in 1900. It was built on a site once part of Bishop Hall Farm, and leased in 1811 by William Sotheby to the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews. The site was renamed Palestine Place and became the centre of the Society's activities in London. The foundation stone of a Chapel (later known as the Episcopal Jews Chapel) was laid in 1813 and in the following years schools for boys and girls and 14 houses were built.

The Board of Guardians of the Parish of St Matthew, Bethnal Green, approached the Society in 1891 with a view to purchasing the estate as a site for a new infirmary, but their offer was refused. In 1894 the Board applied to the Local Government Board for an order to purchase the site. Although the purchase price of 18,000 for the freehold and 17,500 for the leasehold was regarded as expensive the purchases were completed in 1895, except for a small piece of land which reverted to the Guardians in 1909. In 1948 a further piece of land on Parmiter Street was purchased by the London County Council from the Elizabeth Mary Bates Trust for the Moravians. The building was designed by Messrs Giles, Gough and Trollope and was intended to accommodate approximately 750 patients. The total cost, including the purchase of the site, was 212,894-7s-10d. The clock from the old Palestine Chapel was transferred to the tower on the new administrative block. Some of the minor furnishings, such as mattresses and tables, were made by the inmates of the Workhouse in Waterloo Road.

The Hospital was certified for 669 patients and was opened on 5th March 1900, with the first patients admitted on 17th April. The central administrative block included facilities for the Nurse Training School, which held the first examinations of candidates in 1901. The first Medical Superintendent was William James Potts and the first Matron Joanna E Hopper. From 1900 to 1906 the Hospital received 14,705 admissions. The Hospital was planned principally with chronic sick in mind and this remained the case until the First World War. In March 1915 the Military Authorities took over the Hospital for the use of wounded soldiers. Civilian patients were moved to St George-in-the-East, or to the Workhouse in Waterloo Road. The Military Hospital was commanded by Colonel E Hurry Fenwick, a Surgeon at the London Hospital from 1890 to 1910. During the military occupation a Pathological Laboratory was installed. It was not until February 1920 that all patients and staff were back in the Hospital. From 1920 to 1930 changes were made to provide a wider range of services for acute patients.

Under the Local Government Act, 1929, the Board of Guardians was dissolved and the Hospital passed to the London County Council on 1st April 1930. By 1929 casualty and receiving blocks had been built, a small X-ray Department had been added and an operating theatre was under construction. The Hospital also had a VD unit, which was closed in 1952. Its certified accommodation was 650 and it had 551 inmates. The Workhouse was mainly occupied by chronic sick and infirm under the charge of the Hospital's Medical Superintendent. The Hospital came under the control of the London County Council's Central Public Health Committee, which in 1934 became the Hospitals and Medical Services Committee. There was also a Bethnal Green Hospital Sub-Committee dealing with immediate day-to-day matters. During the 1939-1945 War, the Hospital suffered some minor bomb damage.

With the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948 the Hospital became part of the Central Group (No 5) within the North East Metropolitan Region. By now the number of beds was considerably reduced, being little more than 300; in 1953 there were 313 beds, with an average daily occupation rate of 260. The Group Pathology Laboratory was established at the Hospital in 1950. A Geriatric Unit was established in 1954. In 1966 the Central Group was dissolved and the Hospital became part of the East London Group; in the same year, the Postgraduate Medical Education Centre was started. In 1972 the Obstetrics Department was closed. Under the National Health Service reorganisation of 1974 Bethnal Green Hospital became part of Tower Hamlets District, managed by the City and East London Area Health Authority. In the same year the Gynaecology Department was closed. From 1977 to 1979 the Hospital's role was changed from acute to geriatric, with the closure of 167 acute beds and their replacement with 120 geriatric beds for Tower Hamlets patients in St Matthew's Hospital. In June 1978 the surgical beds were closed and the remaining 40 medical beds were closed in August 1979. The Hospital closed in 1990 when patients and staff transferred to the newly built Bancroft Unit for the Care of the Elderly at the Royal London Hospital (Mile End).


Scope and content/abstract:

administrative records, Chaplain's records, financial records, patient records, nursing records, photographs and miscellaneous records.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

See Scope and content.

Conditions governing access:

Some material is restricted. Please contact the repository in the first instance.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copying and digitisation services are available for unrestricted material. Researchers should contact the repository in the first instance.

Finding aids:

See 'Detailed catalogue' link above.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Transferred between 1985 and 1991.

Allied Materials

Related material:

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Originally compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Updated by Clare Button, Archivist, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London.

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:
June 2001, updated April 2020.

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