Thursday, October 4, 2012

South London Hospital for Women and Children

Main Entrance - South London Hospital for
 Women and Children
South London Hospital for Women and Children

Location: 103 South Side, Clapham Commons, SW4 9DR, London, England, United Kingdom

Opened: 1913

Closed: 1984

This piece on the South London Hospital for Women and Children is from another one of those cool accidental finds, Lost Hospitals of London:

The perceived need for a general hospital for women in south London, staffed totally by women, was met when the South London Hospital for Women was founded by Miss Eleanor Davies-Colley (1874-1934) and Miss Maud Chadburn in 1912.  The new hospital would also train women doctors to become specialists (most hospitals at this time refused to employ them).

The two women, both surgeons at the New Hospital for Women, had begun raising funds in 1911.  The New Hospital for Women, which had been established for the same purposes, was having to turn away patients as it was unable to cope with the demand.

Two large houses - Holland House and Kingston House - on the south side of Clapham Common had been purchased following a public appeal.  An anonymous donation of £53,000 towards the building costs and a further £40,000 for the endowment of the Hospital enabled it to open within a year of its foundation.  The Out-Patients Department opened first, in 1913, at 88 and 90 Newington Causeway, while Holland House was demolished and building of the new hospital began.  In 1914 in-patients were temporarily accommodated in a nearby nursing home.

In 1916 the 80-bedded South London Hospital for Women was opened by Queen Mary.

The Hospital was said to be an 'Adamless Eden' as, apart from the engineer and the gardener, all the staff were women, including the porters.  A state-of-the art building, each ward had a balcony and an unusually large bathroom, which had wide doors so that a patient could be helped to enter supported by two nurses. The lavatory walls were covered with white marble, as this was believed to be non-absorbent.  An electric lift could take patients on their beds up to the flat roof for open-air treatment.  The infectious wards could only be entered from the flat roof. The nurses quarters contained a dining room, sitting room, silent room and visitors' room.  Each nurse had her own bedroom.  Their bathrooms contained facilities for shampooing hair and hot rails over which it could be dried.  The ward maids and servants had their own comfortably fitted cubicles in the basement.

In 1920 another building - Preston House - on the south side of the Hospital site was purchased.  This was equipped to provide an extra 40 surgical beds and was opened by the Duchess of York in 1924.  Kingston House, on the north side of the Hospital, was demolished in 1927 and a new North Wing built.  This included a new Out-Patients Department.

The North Wing opened in 1930 and building works continued throughout the 1930s.  The name of the Hospital was changed slightly and it became the South London Hospital for Women and Children (although boys up to the age of six had always been admitted).  The outbreak of WW2 in 1939 postponed the opening of the new South Wing and Nurses' Home.

During WW2 the Hospital admitted war casualties, after a Special Act of Parliament enabled it to treat male patients.  Although the buildings did not suffer serious damage, like other hospitals at this time its normal work was disrupted due to shortage of staff.  A 20-bed maternity unit had been due to open in 1944, but because of the danger of V1 flying bombs, it was evacuated to Scarborough.  The maternity home opened a few months later in Nightingale Lane (and was officially opened only in 1948 as the Queen Elizabeth Maternity Home).

A house in Chistlehurst was loaned to the Hospital; it had 35 beds for patients receiving medical treatment or convalescing following surgery.

In 1948 the Hospital joined the NHS, become part of the Lambeth Group of Hospitals.  It also opened a country annex at Woodhurst, a house at Peas Pottage near Crawley (this closed in 1970).

In 1964, following an NHS reorganisation, the Hospital passed to the newly formed South West London Group Hospital Management Committee.

In 1974 it then became part of the Wandsworth and East Merton Health District.

In 1982, after yet another NHS reoganisation, the Wandsworth Health Authority assumed responsibility for the Hospital.  The Health Authority decided it was 'uneconomic' and, despite strong public opposition, a petition signed by 60,000 people and occupation of the building for nine months by protesters, the Hospital closed in 1984.

The South London Hospital for Women and Children, once described as the 'best run hospital in England' maintained its female-only staffing policy to the end.

Present status (February 2008)
The supermarket chain, Tesco, bought the site in 1994 and planned to demolish the Hospital and to erect a 2,499 sq. metre supermarket with 112 apartments above (including an 11-storey tower) and parking for 257 cars.

Demolition was contested on the grounds of the builidng's architectural importance. Thus, the plans were changed and original facade of the Hospital retained; the rest of the building was demolished in 2004.

More on the 1984 protest and occupation can be found here.


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