One Of London’s Lost Hospitals

Matthew 21.12.68 001

Matthew 21.12.68 003Jackie and Matthew 12.68

This morning I scanned seven more archived colour slides, this time from December 1968. A considerable amount of retouching was necessary, and most were out of focus, but given the subject it seemed worth the effort. Matthew was two days old when he lay in the hospital cot, and a couple of days older when Jackie brought him home for Michael’s inspection.

Jackie, Michael and Matthew 12.68 002

My wife, along with a number of other new mothers, wishing to be home for Christmas, discharged herself on 23rd December, thus incurring the wrath of the consultant who announced: ‘When you all come back with prolapses in your forties it won’t be my fault.’  At that time primigravidae, you see, were expected to remain ward-bound with their infants for ten days.

In ‘All Is Flux, Nothing Stays Still’, I described, among other changes, the disappearance of The Nelson Hospital in Merton. It was here that both Matthew and Becky, twenty months later, were born. According to ‘Lost Hospitals of London’ the facility was officially opened by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll in June 1912. ‘In 1924 it was decided a Maternity Department was needed.  A dozen cottages on an adjacent site were purchased, with the Hospital paying compensation to the occupants for turning them out (including a brewery company who had to be provided with a new off-licence in lieu of the one sandwiched between the last two old cottages).

The Princess Royal laid the foundation stone in 1930 and the new wing was opened by Mrs Stanley Baldwin, wife of the former Prime Minister, the following year.  It had 21 beds and included rooms for antenatal clinics, two labour wards, a nursery for the babies and an isolation ward.  At the same time an upper floor extension was built onto the original central block.  The Hospital then had 86 beds.  An Infant Welfare Department was also established.’

nelson5This was the hospital of my own childhood. It is fascinating that just about 100 years after homes were sacrificed for the originally pre-NHS establishment, that has been demolished to make way for other residential accommodation.

The Nelson Hospital was named after Admiral 1st Viscount Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), who had lived in Merton. At the time of our children’s births, a bust of the great naval hero stood on a pedestal at the front of the main entrance pictured above. The sculpture was stolen in 1979.

Now, are you ready for the details of tonight’s Jackie’s glorious gourmet dinner? It was chicken breast fillets baked in a hot spicy marinade; sauteed potatoes and onions; and a melange of roast vegetables including peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, and more onions. This was followed by custard tart. Jackie drank Kingfisher, whilst I drank Castillo San Lorenzo rioja reserva 2009.

P.S. This comes from Lesley O’Neill:

‘Lovely photos Derrick, my husband was also born there, a few years before your child! You may be interested to hear the rebuilding of the Nelson Hospital is almost complete and is due to open for business on 1st April! They have kept the original fronts and I must say I think they’ve done a great job in combining old and new, somehow it seems to work.’
………and this from our daughter Becky: ‘ And to think I had Flo on the 23rd and was unpacked and settled in at No.76 on Christmas Eve – WITH the hospital’s consent. Lovely pic of Ma at home with M & M’
…….and from Jackie: ‘So different now! and better too. They still thought pregnancy and birth to be a medical condition! Nan’s generation was told that ideally you should go to a Lying In Hospital two weeks before the birth and stay there for two weeks afterwards, those were the days!’