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The London Chest Hospital Tower Hamlets
   
Summary: The London Chest Hospital was founded in 1848 to offer treatment to poor people in the City and East London suffering from tuberculosis. Land owned by the Crown was acquired on Bonner Fields, formerly the site of Stepney Manor House, demolished in 1848, where there had been plans to lay out ornamental gardens as part of Victoria Park. The foundation stone was laid by Prince Albert in 1851 and the new hospital opened in 1855. In the following decades pioneering work led to a greater understanding of TB. The hospital was set in spacious grounds with mature trees including an ancient mulberry tree once in the grounds of Bishop Bonner's palace. As open-air treatment was recommended sun balconies were added to the south-east of the building in the early 1900s, although they were later enclosed. The hospital closed in 2015 and the site sold for development to Circle Housing.
Previous / Other name: The City of London Hospital for the Diseases of the Chest; Victoria Park Hospital
Site location: Bonner Road
Postcode: E2 9JX > Google Map
Type of site: Institutional Grounds
Date(s): 1851-55
Designer(s): F W Ordish
Listed structures:
Borough: Tower Hamlets
Site ownership: Barts and the London
Site management: Barts and the London
Open to public? Partially
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Facilities:
Events:
Public transport: Rail: Cambridge Heath. Tube: Bethnal Green (Central). Bus: 309, D3
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/01/2016
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.bartsandthelondon.nhs.uk

Fuller information:

The London Chest Hospital was founded in 1848 by a group of philanthropic City bankers and merchants, the majority of whom were Quakers. At that time tuberculosis was a major cause of death, particularly common among poorer people, and the founders wanted to offer treatment to the people of the City and East London similar to that offered by the Brompton Hospital in West London, founded in 1841. Initially a public dispensary was opened in Liverpool Street, which immediately attracted large numbers of patients but the charity had to limit those it treated in order to keep solvent to raise the funds for its new hospital. An area of land owned by the Crown was acquired on Bonner Fields near the new Victoria Park (q.v.) and the foundation stone was laid by Prince Albert in 1851. £30,000 was raised and the 80-bed hospital opened in 1855.

The hospital became world-renowned for the treatment of diseases of the heart and lungs, particularly pulmonary tuberculosis. Among its staff members was Lord Lister who pioneered the development of antiseptics and its doctors became involved in teaching and research. In 1890 they attracted the attention of Robert Koch who in 1882 had discovered the tubercle bacillus, which had led to a greater understanding of the disease. Another pioneer was Robert Philip in Edinburgh who had founded a Tuberculosis Dispensary in 1887 where the importance of early diagnosis, prevention, treatment and after-care was emphasised, and in 1912 adherence to his system was recommended throughout the UK by the Astor Committee, leading to a decline in the disease.

In order to provide open-air treatment at the London Chest Hospital, balconies had been added to the building in the early 1900s and a Tuberculosis Dispensary was provided in 1916. The hospital had expanded to 180 beds, and during WWI and its aftermath ex-Servicemen with TB and those who had been gassed in the trenches were treated. During WWII, under the Emergency Medical Service, half of the hospital’s 200 beds were made available for air raid casualties. The hospital was badly bomb-damaged in 1941 particularly the North Wing, the chapel and nurses’ home, but later repaired. In 1948 the hospital became part of the newly-created NHS and its governing board joined the Brompton Hospital. The post-war period saw the hospital develop. In 1963, twin theatres were designed and built specifically for the surgical treatment of tuberculosis. In 1970 the hospital became one of the pioneers in the investigation and treatment of coronary artery disease. In April 1994 after public consultation, The Royal Hospitals NHS Trust was formed, amalgamating The Royal London, St Bartholomew's and The London Chest hospitals. In 1999 The Trust was renamed Barts and The London NHS Trust.

In the grounds is an ancient mulberry tree, known as the Bethnal Green Mulberry, reputedly brought from Persia by James I in C16th. It grew in the grounds of the palace of Bishop Bonner, formerly on this site, and its fruit fed silkworms for the local silk weaving industry. In the Royal London Hospital Museum is an inkwell created in 1915 from one of its branches that has a plaque claiming the Bishop sat under the mulberry to enjoy shelter in the cool of the evening while deciding which heretics to execute.

The London Chest Hospital closed in 2015, and its services to become part of the specialist cardiovascular unit at Barts Hospital. The site was purchased by Circle Housing.

Sources consulted:

The history of The London Chest Hospital on www.bartsandthelondon.nhs.uk; Postcard of the Month no36, May 2003, www.eastlondonpostcard.co.uk; Bridget Cherry, Charles O'Brien, Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 5: East', Yale University Press, 2005; 'london Hospital to be sold to developers', East End Life 19-24 May 2014; Spitalfields Life, 'The oldest tree in Bethnal Green', posted 27/8/2015.
Grid ref: TQ353832
Size in hectares:
   
On EH National Register : No
EH grade:
Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:
Registered common or village green
on Commons Registration Act 1965:
No
Protected under London Squares
Preservation Act 1931:
No
 
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
On Local List:
In Conservation Area: No
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order: Yes - Mulberry
Nature Conservation Area: No
Green Belt: No
Metropolitan Open Land: No
Special Policy Area: No
Other LA designation:
   

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