By the middle of the 18th century there were five voluntary hospitals in London (St Barts, Guy's, St Thomas', Westminster and St George's) which provided free medical care to those who could not afford it, however there were none in the east of the City, serving the rapidly growing, and comparatively impoverished population there; this was the void that the London Hospital was to fill.The institution that was to become the Royal London Hospital was founded on 23rd September 1740, when seven gentlemen met in the Feathers Tavern in Cheapside in the City of London to subscribe to the formation of an "intended new infirmary." On 3rd November The London Infirmary opened in a house on Featherstone Street, Moorfields. The staff consisted of one surgeon, physician and apothecary; and was operated as a voluntary hospital, in which patients were not charged for treatment and their care was funded charitably from annual subscription fees. In May 1741 the Hospital moved to larger premises in Prescott Street, in that time in an exceedingly bad neighborhood. In 1742, the 2nd Duke of Richmond was persuaded by the hospital's surgeon, John Harrison, to become the first President of the new hospital. The name changed to The London Hospital around 1748. By 1744 the houses at Prescott Street were in an unfit state and a subscription fund for a new building was opened, and the current site was acquired at Whitechapel Mount (then relatively sparsely built on.)
Medical students had been recorded as studying under the staff of the London Hospital as private pupils since the year it had begun, however it was not until 1785 that The London Hospital Medical College was founded; chiefly through the efforts of William Blizard, the hospital's surgeon. Private medical schools had been long established, but the London College was the first medical school in England and Wales organised in connection with a hospital. Joseph Merrick, known as the "Elephant Man", was admitted to the Hospital in 1886 and spent the last few years of life there. His mounted skeleton is currently housed at the Medical School, but is not on public display. The Royal London Hospital Museum is located in the crypt of a 19th-century church. The Museum has sections on the history of the hospital since its foundation in 1740, Joseph Merrick (the 'Elephant Man'), and former London hospital nurses Edith Cavell and Eva Luckes. A showcase on forensic medicine features original material on the Whitechapel ('Jack the Ripper') murders and hospital surgeon and curator, Thomas HorrocksOpenshaw who helped investigate. It also has a permanent exhibition of artefacts and archives relating to the hospital and the history of healthcare in the East End. Works of art, surgical instruments, medical and nursing equipment, uniforms, medals, and written archives and printed books are included. The Royal London's archives contain documents dating back to 1740, including complete patient records since 1883. There is the model of a Church in the hospital that was built by Joseph Merrick who spent the last few years of his life at the hospital (see picture above). The museum is wheelchair accessible, however the ramp to the entrance is quite steep. Guided tours upon arrangement.
Location : St Augustine with St Philip's Church, Newark Street, London E1 2AA
Opening Times: Tuesday to Friday 10:00 to 16:30.
Tickets : Free.
Tel: 020 7377 7608