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Published March 2014

Women's Hospitals

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March we invite you to have a closer look at a building type designed to take care of the health of women: Women’s Hospitals.

International Women's Day has been celebrated since the early 1900's. It was a time of great changes in England and many parts of the world. With increasing industrialisation, the period also saw a booming population growth and progress in health care.

Women Patients

Almshouses for elderly women survive from the eighteenth century – no surprise given that women have long tended to outlive men. During the 19th century, the medical profession's understanding of the particular health needs of women grew.

Women's hospitals first appeared in the 1840s and there were twelve by 1871. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson founded the New London Hospital for Women on Euston Road in 1890, which not only catered for women but was staffed by female doctors too.

From the 1870s, general hospitals began to set up gynaecological wards and specialist departments. The National Health Service introduced universally available free healthcare in 1948 and since then the treatment of men and women in separate buildings has declined. However, refuges for abused women - which originated from philanthropic endeavours in industrial towns - are a type of welfare building that still has a role to play in the lives of some.

Unsurprisingly, women have often been the focus of attempts to improve children’s health. As well as lying-in hospitals for mothers after giving birth, and those specifically for women and children, the interwar years saw the Mothercraft Training Society build a new headquarters in Highgate, North London. Here they tutored new mothers on how to look after their babies.

Below are a few of the records relating to women’s hospitals to be discovered on PastScape:

Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital, Harcourt Street, Marylebone, London was founded in 1739 as a lying-in hospital. It is probably the first of its kind in Britain. The obstetrician Sir Richard Manningham opened a house in Jermyn Street for 25 lying-in women. In 1804, it came under the patronage of Queen Charlotte. Previously sited at various locations in London, in 1813 it was moved to the Old Manor House, Lisson Green, now Marylebone Road. Purpose-built premises were erected in 1855-7 to designs by C Hawkins, and additions followed in 1878, 1885-6, 1878 and 1898-9. In 1939, the new Queen Charlotte’s Hospital was finished at Goldhawk Road and the building was no longer used as a hospital. It was demolished in about 1984.

Administration Block to Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital © Mr Anthony Rau

Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, Goldhawk Road, Hammersmith, London was built in 1929-1930 to designs by E. Stanley Hall and Eaton and Robertson. Initially, the hospital was a 30-bed isolation hospital for research and treatment of childbed fever. Here for the first time Leonard Colebrook and his team demonstrated how germs of the fever spread.

It was intended to be the largest maternity hospital in the British Empire: originally, it was designed to have 358 beds. However, this plan was never realised.  In 1950 the hospital had 156 beds and 142 cots and, by 1951, 165 beds and 151 cots.  In 1988, the hospital was merged with the Chelsea Hospital for Women, and renamed Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital. At the end of 2000, the hospital moved to new premises built on the Hammersmith Hospital campus on the corner of Du Cane Road and Artillery Lane. By 2007, apart from the Grade II listed Administration Block  the buildings had been demolished and the site redeveloped with apartments.

Nottingham Hospital for Women, Peel Street was a purpose built hospital designed by the architects Bromley, Cartwright and Waumsley of Nottingham. H.R.H. Princess Helena Victoria opened it on 5th November 1929.

The Georgian style hospital originally comprised accommodation for 60 beds arranged in two twelve-bed and two ten-bed wards, with a separate ward for 16 private patients. Southfield House, a private nursing home, was converted into a nurses’ home providing accommodation for 36 nurses. In 1939, a new wing was opened and Southfield House was demolished to make way for a larger nurses’ home. The new wing contained 40 beds, increasing the capacity of the hospital to 100 beds. The hospital closed in 1981 when all its services were transferred to Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre on Derby Road. The hospital building has been converted into apartments.

The Women’s Hospital, Catherine Street, Liverpool was designed as a purpose-built hospital by Edmund Kirby and Sons between 1926 and 1932. The hospital was originally built for 132 beds that included private wards. It was officially opened on 21st June 1932 as the Liverpool and Samaritan Hospital for Women but was renamed the Women's Hospital in December 1932.

The hospital merged with Liverpool Maternity Hospital and Mill Road Maternity Hospital in 1985. Ten years later, in 1995, the site closed as the hospital was moved to a new site in Crown Street. The site was subsequently redeveloped as student accommodation, known as the Agnes Jones House. Redevelopment involved the demolition of all the hospital buildings except the former administration block.

Camborne and Redruth Hospital, Redruth had its origins in a miners’ and women’s hospital. The Miners’ Hospital was built in 1863 as a six-bed convalescent home for miners, largely paid for by Lord Robartes. The medical staff consisted of the surgeons of the various tin mines in the neighbourhood, each looking after their own patients. A completely separate West Cornwall Women’s Hospital was built on an adjacent site in 1899 to designs by Sampson Hill. The Miner’s and the Women’s hospitals were amalgamated in 1901. In 1926, a maternity ward was added.

From 2002 onwards, the site was redeveloped as Gweal Pawl urban village and the former hospital building was converted into flats.

More buildings for women as patients within English Heritage’s datasets:

Ann Routh's Almshouses, 28 Keldgate, Beverley, West Yorkshire. 1749, designed by James Moyser and built by Thomas Wrightson. Listed Grade II in 1950. (National Heritage List for England (NHLE) record)

Samaritan Hospital for Women, Marylebone Road, London. 1889-90 by WC Habershon and F Fawkner. Listed Grade II in 1987. (NHLE record  PastScape record)

Samaritan Hospital for Women, Marylebone Road, London © Mr Anthony Rau

Derros Building, 29 Great Ancoats Street, Manchester. 1899 by William Sharpe. Listed Grade II in 1998. (NHLE record)
The Hospital for Women, 29 and 30 Soho Square, Westminster, London. 1909-10, No 30 of late seventeenth-century origins, No 29 a rebuild of 1867-9. Understood to be the first gynaecological hospital in the world. Listed Grade II in 1987. (NHLE record  PastScape record)

Hospital for Women, 29-30 Soho Square, Soho, Greater London Authority
© English Heritage NMR. Reference Number: BL20933

Jessop Hospital for Women, Leavy Greave Road, Sheffield, South Yorkshire. 1878 by John Dodsley Webster. Listed Grade II in 1995. (NHLE record  PastScape record)

Jessop Hospital for Women, Leavy Greave Road, Sheffield
© Mrs Barbara A West LRPS

Royal Waterloo Hospital
, Waterloo Road, London. 1903-5 by MS Nicholson. Listed Grade II in 1980. (NHLE record  PastScape record)

The former Lying-In Hospital (now Broadcasting House), New Bridge Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. 1826 by John Dobson. Listed Grade II in 1971. (NHLE record  PastScape record)

Buildings for training nurses, doctors... and mothers!

Former London School of Medicine for Women, 8 Hunter Street, Bloomsbury, London. 1897-1900 by JM Brydon. Listed Grade II in 1999. (NHLE record)

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital for Women, Euston Road, London. 1889-90 by JM Brydon. Listed Grade II in 2003. (NHLE record  PastScape record)

Tredegar House, Bow Road, Tower Hamlets, London. 1911-12 by Rowland Plumbe. Listed Grade II in 2009. (NHLE record)

Further reading:

Margaret E Broadley (1980). Patients Come First: Nursing at 'the London' between the Two World Wars. Tunbridge Wells: Pitman Medical for the London Hospital Special Trustees.

Archibald Edmund Clark-Kennedy (1962). The London: a study in the voluntary hospital system. Tunbridge Wells: Pitman Medical Publication Company.

Deborah Colville. (2011). New Hospital for Women. Available: Last accessed 14/02/2014.

Cherry, Deborah and Walker, Lynne. (2002). Elizabeth Garrett Anderson: Image, Identity And Space. The Modernization of 19th Century Medicine, Visual Culture in Britain. 3 (2)