The Royal London Hospital – London’s Best Places to Visit
The hospital was founded in September 1740 and was originally named The London Infirmary. The name changed to The London Hospital in 1748 and then to The Royal London Hospital on its 250th anniversary in 1990.
The London Hospital became Britain’s largest voluntary hospital with its story is told in the crypt of St Philip’s Church. Exhibits feature dentistry, surgery, paediatrics, nursing, the NHS, uniforms, helicopter ambulance, x-rays and videos. The lives and works of individuals such as Edith Cavell, Eva Luckes, Sydney Holland and Joseph Merrick (The ‘Elephant Man’) are also featured.The first patients were treated at a house in Featherstone Street, Moorfields in November 1740. In May 1741, the hospital moved to Prescot Street, and remained there until 1757 when it moved to its current location on the south side of Whitechapel Road, Whitechapel, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.The Royal London is part of the Barts and the London NHS Trust, alongside St Bartholomew’s Hospital (“Barts”), located approximately two miles away.
History of The Royal London Hospital
It began life in September, 1740, when seven men met in the Feathers Tavern in Cheapside, London to found The London Infirmary. Like other charities, the London Infirmary was founded by professional men, businessmen and philanthropists. However, The London was intended for the sick poor among ‘the merchant seaman and manufacturing classes’: the East End community of the time. In November 1740, the first patients were received at a house in Featherstone Street, Moorfields. The following May, the hospital moved to rented premises in Prescot Street, near the Tower of London.
Five new general hospitals in London
Between 1720 and 1745 five new general hospitals were founded in London. All became great institutions and all were the products of the voluntary hospital movement, that is, charity hospitals supported by the voluntary contributions of the public. The London was one of these new hospitals, which were unique to England and North America and were inspired by a mixture of social, scientific and humanitarian motives.
The London relied on public generosity for over 200 years, from its opening in 1740 with only 1 shilling (5p) in the bank until its running costs were taken over by the State under the National Health Service in 1948. The support of members of the Royal Family and leading members of society was important in inspiring benefactors to help the charity hospital.
Building the new hospital
The Hospital Governors appointed a committee under the Earl of Macclesfield to choose a site for a purpose built Hospital. Mount Field in Whitechapel, which was owned by the City Corporation, was selected and building began in 1752.
The Royal London has a museum which is located in the crypt of a 19th century church. There is a forensic medicine section which includes original material on Jack the Ripper, Dr Crippen and the Christie murders. There are also displays on Joseph Merrick (the ‘Elephant Man’) and former Hospital nurse Edith Cavell. A former Curator of the Museum was the noted surgeon Thomas Horrocks Openshaw.
The Royal London’s archives contain documents dating back to 1740, including complete patient records since 1883.