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Archives in London and the M25 area

German Hospital

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0405 G
Held at: Barts Health NHS Trust Archives (St Bartholomew's Hospital Archives)
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Full title: German Hospital
Date(s): 1843-1971
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1273 items
Name of creator(s): The German Hospital
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Originally founded 'for the reception of all poor Germans and others speaking the German language', the German Hospital also cared for the local English-speaking population in the case of emergencies. It was supported by subscriptions and donations, many from Germany or the German community in England, and was run by German nursing sisters and doctors.

It is estimated that in the 1840s some 30,000 Germans were living in England, making up by far the largest immigrant community. Many of them lived and worked in poor conditions in the East End of London, where poverty and the language barrier left them little chance to make use of the limited medical resources available at that time. The work of a German pastor and a doctor to establish a hospital for 'poor German sick' was taken up by the Prussian Ambassador, the Chevalier Bunsen. He succeeded in enlisting the support of the rich and influential in Germany and England, including both royal houses, so ensuring that the hospital was built. On 15 October 1845, the German Hospital opened with just twelve beds.

An early outstanding feature of the Hospital was the nursing care provided by the Protestant Deaconesses from the Kaiserswerth Institute near Wessendorf. It was their example at the German which prompted Florence Nightingale to visit the Hospital on two occasions and then to enrol for training at the Institute in Germany in 1851. New hospital buildings, constructed according to the highest standards in hospital design, were opened in 1864, and proved to be invaluable in the epidemics which swept London in the 1860s and 1870s. The German royal family took a keen interest in the Hospital, as did the von Schroder family who were often to provide funds for the Hospital over the years.

During the First World War, the German staff remained at the Hospital despite strong anti-German feelings in the country and a shortage of nurses and doctors in Germany. The period between the wars was one of great improvements and extensions to the buildings, the most important of which was the opening of a new wing in 1936. This housed maternity and children's wards, and the well-known and innovatory roof garden for convalescents, which provided a panoramic view of the entire city as far south as Crystal Palace. In May 1940, the staff of the German Hospital were interned on the Isle of Man. English staff assumed the running of the Hospital, which now became German in name only.

Before 1948, nursing matters at the German Hospital were dealt with by the Board of Household Management, later the Household Committee. When the Hospital was taken into the National Health Service in 1948, the newly formed House Committee took over from the Hospital Committee, the Household Committee and the Nursing Committee. The League of Friends of the Hospital was founded in 1956.

In 1974, the German became part of the newly-formed City and Hackney Health District. For its last thirteen years, the German Hospital cared for psychiatric and psychogeriatric patients. During this time it continued to develop its work, such as its provision of emergency night-shelter facilities for psychogeriatric patients from the community. However, it closed in 1987, as the services it offered were transferred to the new Homerton Hospital.


Scope and content/abstract:

Comprises: Engineering Department; Administrative records; Financial records; Estate and property records; Postcards; Photographs; Internal publications; Medical Committee; Nursing records; Medical Photography/Illustration Department; Medical records; Pathology records; League of Friends; Nurses League; Staff records; Operating theatre registers; External Publications.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English and German

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:

The papers relating to the German Orphanage and German Church are probably from the business papers of Charles Rees, Surveyor to the London Hospital.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Records of the Hospital, 1898-1947, are held by London Metropolitan Archives.

Records of the Hospital, 1845-1950s, comprising pharmacopoeia, 1845; case notes, 1890s-1950s; photographs of patients, 1890s-1900s; and material relating to hospital during Second World War, 1940s-50s, are held at the Wellcome Library.

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:
September 2001; updated July 2020.

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