Middlesex Hospital Medical School, UK

Middlesex Hospital was a teaching hospital located in the Fitzrovia area of London, England. First opened as the Middlesex Infirmary in 1745 on Windmill Street, it was moved in 1757 to Mortimer Street where it remained until it was finally closed in 2005. Its staff and services were transferred to various sites within the University College London Hospitals NHS Trust. The Middlesex Hospital Medical School, with a history dating back to 1746, merged with the medical school of University College London in 1987.

The first Middlesex Hospital opened in 1745 as the Middlesex Infirmary in Windmill Street, London W1, named after the county of Middlesex. The infirmary started with 18 beds to provide medical treatment for the poor. Funding came from subscriptions and, in 1747, the hospital became the first in England to add ‘lying-in’ (maternity) beds.

The second Middlesex Hospital, in Mortimer Street, was opened in 1757. The foundation stone was laid in 1755 by the hospital’s president, the Earl of Northumberland. The Hospital was Incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1836, allowing it various benefits as a charity.

Over the years extra wings were added but, in 1924, it was decided that the building was structurally unsound and an entirely new building would be required. The Duke of York, later King George VI, visited the hospital on 26 June 1928 to lay the foundation stone of the new building. He returned to open the completed building on 29 May 1935. The hospital had been completely rebuilt, on the same site and in stages, without ever being closed, paid for by more than £1 million of donations from members of the public. The nurses’ home in Foley Street was connected to the hospital by underground tunnels to allow safe and convenient access for nursing staff at night.

Whilst part of the Bloomsbury Health Authority in the 1980s, the Middlesex Hospital was also associated with: St. Peter’s Hospital, Soho (urology); St. Paul’s Hospital, Red Lion Square (skin and genito-urinary diseases); Soho Hospital for Women (gynaecological disease); Horton and Banstead hospitals (psychiatric disorders); Athlone House (geriatric care); St. Luke’s (Woodside) Hospital (psychiatric disorders).

In 1992 the St. Peter’s Hospitals were closed down and moved into new accommodation in the Middlesex Hospital, which itself was merged into the University College London Hospitals NHS Trust in 1994.

Although the former county name “Middlesex” is common to all, there was no working connection between the Middlesex Hospital and the North Middlesex, Central Middlesex and West Middlesex Hospitals.

The Middlesex Hospital Medical School traced its origins to 1746 (a year after the foundation of the Middlesex Hospital), when students were ‘walking the wards’. The motto of the medical school, ‘Miseris Succurrere Disco’, was provided by one of the deans, Dr William Cayley, from Virgil’s Queen Dido aiding a shipwreck: ‘Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco’ (‘Not unacquainted with misfortune myself, I learn to succour the distressed’).

At the establishment of the then London University (now University College London), the governors of the Middlesex Hospital declined permission of the former’s medical students to use the wards of the Middlesex Hospital for clinical training. This refusal prompted the foundation of the North London Hospital, now University College Hospital.

The medical schools of the Middlesex Hospital and University College Hospital merged in 1987 to form the University College and Middlesex School of Medicine (UCMSM). The current UCL Medical School, which resulted from the merger of UCMSM and the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in 1998, still honours the Middlesex Hospital in its coat of arms.

The Courtauld Institute of Biochemistry of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School was opened by Samuel Augustine Courtauld in 1928, the foundation stone having been laid on 20 July 1927. Its main entrance was in Riding House Street. Courtauld also endowed a Chair of Biochemistry. Notable researchers at the institute include Frank Dickens FRS, Edward Charles Dodds FRS and Sir Brian Wellingham Windeyer FRCS.

The Middlesex Hospital closed in December 2005. The main hospital building in Mortimer Street was sold to developer Project Abbey (Guernsey) Ltd for £180 million, considerably more than the anticipated sale price due to the property boom, to finance the UCL Hospital Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme on Euston Road, and was demolished in the spring of 2008. The chapel of 1890, designed by John Loughborough Pearson, and the heritage facade on Nassau Street were preserved when the site was cleared. The Grade II listed stone and brick building on the corner of Nassau and Mortimer Street was also preserved.

The building was used, just before it was demolished, in the film Eastern Promises. Its name in this film was changed to “Trafalgar Hospital” using an inscription matching the style and apparent age of the old legend above the main door.

The former chapel of the Middlesex Hospital by John Loughborough Pearson is now the only surviving building of the Hospital. It is owned and managed by The Fitzrovia Chapel Foundation. The chapel was completed after the architect’s death under the supervision of his son Frank, also an architect. The chapel was structurally complete in the mid 1920s and the surrounding hospital then demolished and rebuilt around it 1927–29. The chapel was not formally opened until 1929 by which time much of the lavish interior decoration of marbles and mosaic in a mix of Italian gothic and romanesque styles had been added, work largely due to Frank Loughborough Pearson, giving it the appearance it broadly retains today.

For nearly 100 years, four giant paintings welcomed visitors to the reception area of The Middlesex Hospital. The Acts of Mercy were painted in 1912 by Frederick Cayley Robinson, a distinctive yet elusive British artist, after being commissioned by Sir Edmund Davis, one of the governors of the hospital. Prior to the demolition of the hospital, the art was purchased by The Wellcome Library, and in 2010, the canvasses were loaned to The National Gallery for an exhibition. Large-scale copies of two of the paintings are on display in the neighbouring restaurant Percy & Founders, on the site of the former hospital.

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