St. Mary's Hospital, Praed Street

St Mary's Hospital was founded in 1845 as a voluntary hospital for 'the deserving sick poor' and opened the Medical School in 1854. It relied, like all other hospitals at that time, entirely on subscriptions, donations, grants from charities and fund raising events. Similar charitable foundations arose in the neighbourhood - The Samaritan Free Hospital for Women, founded 1847; The Western Eye Hospital, 1856; Paddington Children's Hospital, 1883; St Marylebone Poor Law Infirmary (which became St Charles' Hospital) 1884; St Luke's Hospital for the Dying Poor, 1893.

The Naval 'Lock' hospital was on the Harrow Road, by the canal bridge, on the site now occupied by the Carlton Gate flats. When this was moved to Greenwich, in 1846, the building became the Workhouse Hospital. Later it became Paddington General Hospital, demolished in the 1980s. Over the years, all these medical institutions except, of course The Lock Hospital, became associated with St Mary's in Praed Street. One typical example was Paddington Children's Hospital, on Paddington Green.

Paddington Children's Hospital

In the 1860s the North-West London Free Dispensary for Sick Children was established in cramped quarters at 12 Bell Street, by Dr Eustace Smith and Dr T.C. Marby. It was a charity, but most Dispensaries would see patients only on the presentation of a letter of recommendation from a Governor (a one guinea subscriber). The parent of a sick child, distracted by worry, had first to obtain a letter from a remote patron, who might be on holiday or otherwise occupied, before the child could be seen. This Dispensary would have none of that In the 1880s. the life expectancy of a child was only eight years. When a child was born people used to say, "Has he come to stay?" When a child became ill, speed was essential, so the Dispensary, and Paddington Children's Hospital after it, always saw any child without notice, or letter of recommendation.

The Dispensary premises in Bell Street were too small. £7.000 was raised (a large sum of money in those days) which allowed the purchase of two freehold houses on Paddington Green and their conversion into a hospital. It was opened on 16th August 1883.

Soon after the new hospital opened in the two Paddington Green houses a diptheria outbreak in the hospital caused great distress. After repeated failure to trace the cause, the houses had to be demolished and only then were two old cess-pits found nearby. A new hospital was built on the site, opened in 1895 and extended a year later at a total cost of £15,000. The hospital was built in dark red Ibstock bricks, with a lighter red brick for string lines and courses, both so hard that they look like terra cotta.

In 1911 a much improved Out Patients Department was opened. The waiting hall, often so depressing and even forbidding in hospitals of the period, was lined with huge murals of playing children and nursery rhymes. Made in coloured tiles, the gifts of friends, they are delightful. A number of useful health precepts which, if acted on would "vastly improve the health of the little ones" were painted boldly round the ceiling.

In the 1990s the Children s Hospital was moved into St Mary's. The Paddington Green frontage was converted into flats and the rear portion rebuilt as Paddington Green Health Centre. Three of the tile murals are now in Paddington Green Health Centre and the others are in the lobbies of the flats built in the site. The precepts, because they were stenciled directly into the walls, were too difficult to preserve and have been lost.

Paddington Children's Hospital moved to Praed Street

In the 1990s the Children's Hospital was moved into St Mary's. The Paddington Green frontage was converted into flats and the rear portion rebuilt as Paddington Green Health Centre. Three of the tile murals are now in Paddington Green Health Centre and the others are in the lobbies of the flats. The precepts, because they were stenciled directly into the walls, were too difficult to preserve and have been lost.

 

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