The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, UK

A hospital in London dating back to the 1750s with an interesting history. Home to the Elephant Man for a time, the hospital has now moved to new premises.

The abandoned Royal London Hospital
 

Construction of the first buildings of the Royal London Hospital began in 1752 and was partially opened in 1757. But the interesting history of the hospital spans back twelve years earlier, when seven men met in the Feathers Tavern in Cheapside, London to found what was originally named The London Infirmary. Intended for the sick poor among ‘the merchant seaman and manufacturing classes’, the hospital, renamed to London Hospital in 1748, treated its first patients in a house in Featherstone Street, Moorfields.

The London Hospital archive image showing the original façade

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The London Hospital archive image showing the original façade

The hospital operated on a voluntary basis, where patients were not charged for treatment and their care was funded charitably from annual subscription fees. Funds were gradually accumulated until a purpose built hospital could be opened in Whitechapel Road.

Interesting FactThe Elephant ManInteresting Fact – The Elephant Man Joseph Merrick, the so-called Elephant Man, was admitted to the hospital in 1886. He remained there until he died, in his hospital room facing Bedstead Square in 1890. His skeletal remains are preserved in a private museum within the site.

The London Hospital was steadily expanded over the years, including the addition of The London Hospital Medical College, the first such medical training facility in the UK. A bell was installed in the entrance of the hospital – before the introduction of anaesthetics in 1846, it is reputed to have summoned attendants to hold surgical patients still.

The hospital played a central role during both World Wars in treatment of the wounded and organisation of medical services to the north and east of London. Heavy damage was sustained during and after the Blitz and the hospital struggled with finances for years after, having incurred large debts during the wars. It wasn’t until 1950s, after the hospital became part of the NHS in 1948, that the damage could be repaired.

Interesting FactInteresting Fact – Jack the Ripper The murders of “Jack the Ripper” took place around Whitechapel and the bodies of his victims were examined at the London Hospital. Forensic investigations also took place there and police consultations with doctors from the hospital were held, regarding the serial killer.
The current frontage of the Royal London Hospital

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The current frontage of the Royal London Hospital

In 1990, celebrating its 250th anniversary, the hospital was awarded the title ‘Royal London Hospital’ and became the first NHS Trust, allowing it to regain some self-governance. The Air Ambulance was by this time operating from the hospital, and later became the first of such to carry a doctor on-board.

By the turn of the 21st century the old hospital buildings were becoming gradually less suitable for the delivery of modern clinical services. Plans for a new hospital began, and construction of the current Royal London building was completed in 2012. All patients and services were transferred and the old building now forms part of the Whitechapel area redevelopment plan.

Royal London Hospital - Main reception waiting area

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Royal London Hospital – Main reception waiting area

Royal London Hospital - Reception

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Royal London Hospital – Reception

Royal London Hospital - Another reception

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Royal London Hospital – Another reception

Royal London Hospital - Remembrance plaque in the main entrance

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Royal London Hospital – Remembrance plaque in the main entrance

Royal London Hospital - Looking across the main staircase

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Royal London Hospital – Looking across the main staircase

Royal London Hospital - Lantern above staircase

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Royal London Hospital – Lantern above staircase

Royal London Hospital - Main staircase

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Royal London Hospital – Main staircase

Royal London Hospital - Staircase and corridor

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Royal London Hospital – Staircase and corridor

Royal London Hospital - One of the many operating theatres

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Royal London Hospital – One of the many operating theatres

Royal London Hospital - Lights in an operating theatre

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Royal London Hospital – Lights in an operating theatre

Royal London Hospital - Lights in an operating theatre

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Royal London Hospital – Lights in an operating theatre

Royal London Hospital - Another theatre

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Royal London Hospital – Another theatre

Royal London Hospital - A blue theatre

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Royal London Hospital – A blue theatre

Royal London Hospital - Blue painted operating theatre

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Royal London Hospital – Blue painted operating theatre

Royal London Hospital - There were a lot of theatres!

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Royal London Hospital – There were a lot of theatres!

Royal London Hospital - Plaque commemorating thew donation of a whole floor of operating theatres

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Royal London Hospital – Plaque commemorating thew donation of a whole floor of operating theatres

Royal London Hospital - Seats in corridor

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Royal London Hospital – Seats in corridor

Royal London Hospital - Ward space

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Royal London Hospital – Ward space

Royal London Hospital - One of the many wards

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Royal London Hospital – One of the many wards

Royal London Hospital - Talbot ward reception

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Royal London Hospital – Talbot ward reception

Royal London Hospital - Treatment room

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Royal London Hospital – Treatment room

Royal London Hospital - Behind the clock

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Royal London Hospital – Behind the clock

Royal London Hospital - The chapel

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Royal London Hospital – The chapel

Royal London Hospital - Columns and altar in the chapel

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Royal London Hospital – Columns and altar in the chapel

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