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Archives in London and the M25 area

Hackney Hospital

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0405 H
Held at: Barts Health NHS Trust Archives (St Bartholomew's Hospital Archives)
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Full title: Hackney Hospital
Date(s): 1788-1983
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 700 items
Name of creator(s): Hackney Hospital | London
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Hackney Hospital had its origins in 1750, when the wardens, overseers and trustees of the parish of St John, Hackney, ordered that a room be reserved in the workhouse in Homerton High Street so that sick paupers could be treated separately from other inmates. A matron and one nurse were appointed, and by the following year a larger room was needed and the matron's charge was extended to include the insane as well as the sick. The matron was able to order any of the healthy inmates to help her in treating the 'unfortunates'. Social conditions in Hackney were among the worst in London and there was a continual need for the workhouse and its infirmary to expand to meet the demands made upon it. In 1801, more land was acquired in Homerton High Street. However, it was not considered worthwhile to make improvements until after the freehold of all the property used for the relief of the poor was obtained in 1848. The Guardians of the Poor, who had taken over the responsibility for poor relief from the parish trustees in 1834, then immediately began to rebuild and modernise the buildings, managing to complete the work within two years. There was a cholera epidemic raging at the time, fuelled by the overcrowded conditions and poor drainage in the area. The parish medical officer had resigned in 1849 because he was unable to cope with attending all the sick poor, so the workhouse infirmary was quickly filled to capacity and beyond.

The Guardians took every opportunity to expand and improve the buildings. There is no mention of bad conditions at the Hackney Infirmary in the Lancet's survey of workhouse infirmaries published in 1866, despite it giving a general impression of the workhouses as rather dismal places. They were usually overcrowded, with few comforts, and the walls were painted dull brown and white with little ornament or decoration. The inmates slept on flock beds on wooden or iron bedsteads. There were few books or other amusements and card games were strictly forbidden. The food was usually adequate, but often cold after being carried long distances from the kitchens. The inmates' diet included mutton, bread and beer, but never fruit or vegetables. There were never enough nurses to look after the sick and those that were employed usually had no training and were inclined to drunkenness, encouraged by allowances of beer and gin to supplement their wages. A direct result of the Lancet's survey was the passing of the Metropolitan Poor Law Act in 1867. This resulted in further rebuilding at Hackney so that the Infirmary was entirely separate from the main workhouse buildings, according to the provisions of the Act. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Infirmary accommodated 606 beds. The nursing staff were now partially trained and consisted of a matron and her assistant, eleven staff nurses, twenty-six students and six ward maids. The nurses worked fifty-seven hours per week, or seventy-two hours if on night duty.

In 1930, the Hackney Institution as it was then known, was taken over by the London County Council. However, it was not until four years later that the healthy inmates were moved out and referred to the Public Assistance Committee and the workhouse finally ceased to exist. Its buildings were then used to provide hospital accommodation, but were administered separately until 1938, when they were amalgamated with the Infirmary under one matron. Among the first improvements was the building of a nurses' home in 1937, whilst wards and kitchens were also updated. In 1948, the Hospital came under the control of the newly formed Ministry of Health. For the next 25 years it was administered jointly with the Eastern, the German and the Mothers' hospitals, which together formed the Hackney Group of Hospitals. The Ministry made funds available for further improvements, including a new out-patients department opened in 1956 and physiotherapy rooms the following year. An oncology department with two wards was also opened. With reorganisation in 1974, Hackney Hospital and the other hospitals in the Group became part of the new City and Hackney Health District, the teaching hospital for which was St Bartholomew's Hospital. In 1987, the City and Hackney Health Authority opened a new hospital, the Homerton, and the general services from Hackney Hospital were gradually transferred there. Only psychiatric and geriatric services remained at Hackney and, in 1995, these too were transferred to Homerton. The Hackney Hospital was closed in 1995.


Scope and content/abstract:

Comprises: Administrative records; Estate and property records; Matron's office and nursing; Medical records; School of Nursing 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:

Allied Materials

Related material:

Records of Hackney Hospital, 1879-1948, including admission and discharge registers, 1881-1885, are held by London Metropolitan Archives.

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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