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Archives in London and the M25 area

Metropolitan Hospital

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0405 M
Held at: Barts Health NHS Trust Archives (St Bartholomew's Hospital Archives)
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Full title: Metropolitan Hospital
Date(s): 1825-1977
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 260 items
Name of creator(s): Metropolitan Hospital, London
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

On Wednesday 30 March 1836, an advertisement in 'The Times' announced the foundation of the Metropolitan Free Hospital. The aim of the hospital was to offer treatment to people 'whose only recommendations are poverty, destitution and disease'. They would be accepted without the letter of recommendation required by other hospitals, but which was often difficult to obtain. The founders of the new hospital proposed 'to remedy these inconveniences and defects in most [...] public institutions and to promote the sacred cause of charity'. Two physicians and three surgeons offered their services free of charge. Readers of 'The Times' were asked to give donations. Ten guineas would give them the right to be a life Governor and a subscription of one guinea a year would make them a Governor as long as the money was paid. During the first years of its existence, the Governors of the hospital were largely businessmen of the City of London, the most notable being Joseph Fry. He was a founder member and remained an active chairman for twenty-four years, until his death in 1897.

In the beginning, the hospital had acute financial problems. Tradesmen's bills and even the rent for 29 Carey Street were in arrears. It was probably due to this lack of funds that only out-patients were treated. The Duke of Cambridge visited the hospital on 23 May 1843 and proposed that six beds should be immediately fitted up for in-patients. By 19 June 1844, in-patients were accepted into the Metropolitan Hospital. The Metropolitan moved from Carey Street to 8 Devonshire Square in 1850. The financial situation had not improved and only out-patients were accepted in the new premises. However, on 20 August 1850, it was decided to convert two rooms into an in-patients' ward and to put up beds so that visitors could see that 'in-patients will be received when the funds admit it'. Unfortunately, the new property was soon needed by the Great Eastern Railway Company for an extension of Liverpool Street Station. After long negotiations, 8 Devonshire Square was sold for £8,500 in February 1876.

It was not easy to find suitable new accommodation for the hospital. Several possibilities were suggested and finally it was decided to take a lease on a former warehouse at 81 Commercial Street, Spitalfields. The hospital was closed to out-patients from 21 December 1875 to 3 January 1876, when the new premises were opened. The new wards for in-patients were not ready until April of that same year. Plans were then made to erect a purpose-built hospital in Half Moon Street and Bishopsgate Street. It took some time to remove the sitting tenants, but before any building could begin the Great Eastern Railway Company decided that this space was also needed for Liverpool Street Station and the Great Eastern Hotel. They offered to pay £25,000 and this was accepted in 1882. Again a suitable site had to be found and in January 1883 a freehold site in Kingsland Road was bought for £5,896. Delays occurred and when the lease of the Commercial Street house expired in March 1885, the new building was far from completed. In-patients were sent home or moved to other hospitals, and a cottage and some shops at the corner of Kingsland Road and Enfield Road were taken on a weekly basis. This was not a satisfactory arrangement and in August the Management Committee demanded that the new out-patients department should be completed within two weeks. Even then delays occurred and the department was finally opened on 29 September 1885. The remaining part of the building was finished in the autumn of 1886.

Soon after the Metropolitan Free Hospital was established in Kingsland Road, Sir Edmund Hay Currie became a Governor. He was a businessman in the City of London and he quickly realised that the financial situation of the Hospital would have to be improved. Currie therefore suggested that subscribers should contribute a small sum to the Hospital on a monthly basis, whether ill or in good health. This meant that the name had to be changed. The word 'Free' was omitted and the name became simply 'Metropolitan Hospital'.

Little is known about the nursing staff in the early days of the Hospital. The post of Matron was often vacant, with no suitable candidates for the position. Sir Edmund Hay Currie proposed a solution - to seek the co-operation of an Anglican Nursing Order, the Order of All Saints. This Order provided the nursing staff of the Hospital from 1888 to 1895.

The site in Kingsland Road allowed the further development of the hospital. In 1896 it had 160 beds, twelve being reserved for Jews who had their own cook and a Jewish out-patient physician. In that year, 781 in-patients and 16,033 out-patients were treated. In 1934 the number of in-patients treated at the hospital had increased to 1,981 and out-patients to 29,313, mostly from Hackney. By this time, special departments had been established in ENT and Gynaecology. A Tuberculosis Dispensary had also been organised, which was linked to an inspection of schoolchildren arranged by London County Council. In 1948 the Metropolitan became part of the National Health Service and was administered by the Central Group Hospital Management Committee. In the 1970s it had 146 beds. The hospital was closed in 1977.


Scope and content/abstract:

Comprises: Administrative records; Estate and property records; Nursing records; Medical records; Pathology records; Radiography records; Nurses League records; Staff records; Operating theatre 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:

Administrative records relating to the Metropolitan Hospital, comprising annual reports, 1897-1947, are held by London Metropolitan Archives, ref: SC/PPS/093/37,83.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Original description compiled by Neil Hargreaves, thanks to generous funding from The Pilgrim Trust/Esmée Fairbairn Foundation Cataloguing Grants Programme. 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:
2007; updated July 2020.

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