From a lofty perch for the last few months, I have witnessed the demise of the old Royal Free Hospital building. On this land initially stood the barracks and stables for the Light horse volunteers of London and Westminster, until disbanded in the early 1830’s.
The Royal Free Hospital had opened its doors nearby in Greville Street, Hatton Garden in 1828, under the name The London General Institution for the Gratuitous Cure of Malignant Diseases, and moved into the Gray’s Inn Road address after the old barracks came onto the market. The hospital was noted for a number of things, including being the only hospital to treat patients of the Cholera epidemic of the mid 19th century, it’s progressive attitude towards education of women, and its intake of destitute women who could not gain healthcare elsewhere.
The building saw much rebuilding and enlargement at the turn of the 20th century, and during WW1, was used as a military hospital for wounded troops. The Royal Free grew after the war, and by the late 1920’s had over 260 beds. The structure did not escape the Lufwaffe’s attention in WW2, being hit by a V1 bomb in 1944, and again in 1945 by a V2.
Name changes also occurred becoming the Eastman Dental Hospital in 1988 (with it’s large building still intact next door today), as the Royal Free itself had closed its doors by 1974, and moved moved northwards to Hampstead, opening in 1978 and the first hospital to have been designed with the aid of computers.
Although most of the demolition work has finished, the façade (as is now the norm), is being kept intact and will for part of the entrance for a new “technologically advanced research environment” according to UCL, who are behind the new structure.
This building has a very interesting history and more can be read on the excellent ‘Lost Hospitals’ website, and information on the new structure, can be found below.
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