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Archives in London and the M25 area

Mothers' Hospital of the Salvation Army

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0405 F
Held at: Barts Health NHS Trust Archives (St Bartholomew's Hospital Archives)
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Full title: Mothers' Hospital of the Salvation Army
Date(s): 1862-1986
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 284 items
Name of creator(s): The Mothers' Hospital
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Mothers' Hospital traces its origins to the work for unmarried mothers begun in the earliest days of the Salvation Army. 'Refuge Homes' for poor and destitute women were provided in private houses in various parts of London. As part of this scheme the Salvation Army established a home at Ivy House, Mare Street, Hackney in 1884. Many of the women seeking shelter there were pregnant, and in 1888 the Salvation Army decided to dedicate Ivy House to the confinement of unmarried mothers. Although maternity hospitals had existed in this country since the eighteenth century, these were almost entirely reserved for married mothers only. This was the first time that maternity hospital facilities had been combined with a 'Home of Refuge'.

The Hospital trained its first student midwife in 1889 and more than 250 pupil midwives graduated from the school during its eighteen year existence at Ivy House. During this period, the Hospital continued to expand and more buildings were bought. One of the later developments was a mother-and-baby home called Cotland, based at 11 Springfield Road, Upper Clapton. It existed between 1912 and 1920, and many of the women mentioned in the records of the Mothers' Hospital gave Cotland as an address. Finally, the Salvation Army purchased land in Lower Clapton Road, London E5 in order to build a hospital dedicated to unmarried mothers. In 1912, the foundation stone for the new Mothers' Hospital was laid by Princess Louise, daughter to Queen Victoria, and the Hospital was officially opened in 1913. Designed for 600 births per year, it soon outgrew its facilities and various extensions were made over the years. The new Hospital continued to uphold the teaching tradition of Ivy House and midwives were trained to the standards of the London Obstetrical Society and of the Central Midwives Board (CMB). Pupils attended classes for Parts I and II of the examinations of the CMB and gained experience both on the wards and in District work.

The First World War meant that the Hospital opened its doors to both married and unmarried women. Soldiers could not always send sufficient money to their families and the loss of many lives often caused acute poverty. Therefore, it was decided that the Hospital would be allowed to admit married women whose husbands were in the Army or Navy, or had been killed. Since that time the Hospital accepted both married and unmarried mothers. Between the two world wars, many improvements and additions were made. In 1921, the new nurses' home and theatre were opened by Queen Mary. By the 1930s, the number of births had risen to 2,000 per annum. The Hospital suffered damage during the Second World War, but fortunately there was no great loss of life. Arrangements were made for evacuation to Willersley Castle in Matlock, Derbyshire and to Bragborough Hall, Northamptonshire. However, the Hospital remained in service throughout the war for those who did not leave London. In all, 6,587 babies were born there between September 1939 and August 1945.

Research and innovation were always encouraged at the Mothers' Hospital. One interesting experiment which foreshadowed modern techniques of nursing was dictated by wartime conditions. In defiance of current practice, patients were made ambulant on the second day after delivery. The purpose of this carefully controlled experiment was to facilitate the orderly transfer of patients to the air-raid shelter and make more shelter space available. Margaret Basden, consultant obstetrician in residence during the war, recorded 'from personal experience how smoothly the scheme works, how well the patients stand it, and how striking has been the absence of any confusion or panic'.

With the creation of the National Health Service in 1948, the Hospital was given over to the Minister for Health and was later administered as part of the Hackney Group of Hospitals. However, Health Service Authorities agreed that a proportion of the staff should be members of the Salvation Army and thus the Hospital was able to maintain its individuality. In 1952, Lorne House was acquired opposite the Hospital and used as a training centre and home for 24 nurses. There was also a visiting service provided for mothers giving birth in their own homes. Between 1948 and 1974, the Mothers' Hospital belonged to the Hackney Group Hospital Management Committee and on 1 April 1974, the Group became part of the City and Hackney Health District. The Mothers' Hospital was closed in 1986, and all obstetric services were transferred to the Homerton Hospital.


Scope and content/abstract:

Comprises: Administrative records; Estates and property records; Matron's office and nursing records; Medical records; Pathology records; Photographs.

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:

Girls statement books, 1884-1966, Ivy House registers of births, 1890-1910, annual reports, 1911-1947, Management Council minutes, 1914-1923, annual medical reports, 1934-1936 and correspondence, 1947-1976, are held by the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, House 14, The William Booth College, Denmark Hill, London, SE5 8BQ.

Microfilm of registers of births are held by Hackney Borough Council Archives.

Administrative records, 1912-1947, 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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