29 Carey Street, London (1836 - 1850)
8 Devonshire Square, Bishopsgate, London (1850 - 1876)
81 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London ( 1876 - 1886)
The Metropolitan Hospital
On Wednesday 30 March 1836, an advertisement in The Times announced the foundation of the Metropolitan Free Hospital. The aim of the hospital was to offer treatment to people 'whose only recommendations are poverty, destitution and disease.' They would be accepted without the letter of recommendation which was required by other hospitals at that time, but was often difficult to obtain. The founders of the new hospital proposed 'to remedy these incoveniences and defects in most.... public institutions and to promote the sacred cause of charity'. Two physicians and three surgeons offered their services free of charge. Readers of The Times were asked to give donations. Ten guineas would give them the right to be a life Governor and a subscription of one guinea a year would make them a Govenor as long as the money was paid.
During the first years of its existence the Metropolitan Free Hospital was mostly governed by businessmen of the City of London, the most notable being Joseph Fry. He was a founder member of the hospital and remained a very active chairman for 24 years until his death in 1897. He was the son of Elizabeth Fry (1780 - 1845) who did so much for the improvement of the condition of female prisoners. She and her husband, along with their son Joseph, belonged to the Society of Friends, better known as Quakers. Joseph later became an Anglican.
In the first few years of the Hospital's existence it had acute financial problems. Tradesmen's bills and even the rent for 29 Carey Street were in arrears. It was probably due to this lack of funds that the hospital only treated out-patients. The Duke of Cambridge visited the hospital on 23 May 1843 and proposed that six beds should be immediately fitted up for in-patients. By 19 June 1844 in-patients were accepted into the Metropolitan Hospital. The Hospital moved from Carey Street to 8 Devonshire Square in 1850. The financial situation had not improved and only out-patients were accepted in the new premises. However, on 20 August 1850 it was decided to convert two rooms into one as an in-patients' ward, and to put up beds so that visitors could see that 'in-patients will be received when the funds admit it'.
Unfortunately the new property was soon needed by the Great Eastern Railway Company for an extension of Liverpool Street Station. After long negotiations, 8 Devonshire Square was sold for £8,500 in February 1876. It was not easy to find suitable new accommodation. Several possibilities were suggested and finally it was decided to take a lease on a former warehouse at 81 Commercial Street, Spitalfields. The hospital was closed to out-patients from 21 December 1875 to 3 January 1876, when the new premises were opened. The new wards for in-patients were not ready until April of that same year. Plans were then made to erect a purpose-built hospital in Half Moon Street and Bishopsgate Street. It took some time to remove the sitting tenants but before any building could begin, the Great Eastern Railway Company decided that this space was also needed for Liverpool Street Station and the Great Eastern Hotel. They offered to pay £25,000, which was accepted in 1882. Again a suitable site had to be found and in January 1883 a freehold site in Kingsland Road was bought for £5,896. Delays occurred and when the lease of the Commercial Street House expired in March 1885, the new building was far from completed. In-patients were sent home, or moved to other hospitals. A cottage and some shops at the corner of Kingsland Road and Enfield Road were taken on a weekly basis. This was not a satisfactory arrangement and in August the Management Committee demanded that the new out-patients department should be completed within two weeks. Even then delays occurred and the department was finally opened on 29 September 1885. The remaining part of the building was finished in the autumn of 1886.
Soon after the Metropolitan Free Hospital was established in Kingsland Road, Sir Edmund Hay Currie became a Governor. He was a businessman in the City of London and he quickly realised that the financial situation would have to be improved. He therefore suggested that subscrubers should contribute a small sum to the hospital on a monthly basis, whether ill or in good health. This meant that the name had to be changed. The word 'free' was omitted and the name became simply 'Metropolitan Hospital'.
Little is known about the nursing staff in the early days of the hospital. The post of matron was often vacant, with no suitable candidates for the position. Sir Edmund Hay Currie proposed a solution - to seek the co-operation of an Anglican Nursing Order, the Order of All Saints. This Order provided the nursing staff of the hospital from 1888 to 1895.
The site in Kingsland Road allowed the further deelopment of the hospital. In 1896 it had 160 beds, twelve being reserved for Jews who had their own cook and a Jewish out-patient physician. In that year 781 in-patients were treated and 16,033 out-patients. In 1934 the number of in-patients treated at the hospital had increased to 1,981, and out-patients to 29,313, mostly from Hackney. By this time special departments had been established in ENT and Gynaecology. Moreover a Tuberculosis Dispensary had been organised, which was linked to an inspection of schoolchildren arranged by London County Council.
In 1948 the Metropolitan became part of the National Health Service and was administered by the Central Group Hospital Management Committee. In the 1970s it had 146 beds. The hospital closed in 1977.