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At St Clement’s Hospital

February 27, 2013
by the gentle author

Members of City of London & Cripplegate Photographic Society were invited to record the interior of the disused St Clement’s Hospital in Mile End last year. Originally opened as the City of London Union Workhouse in 1849, it was converted to an Infirmary in 1874 and renamed St Clement’s Hospital in 1936, being used as a psychiatric unit in recent years, before closing finally in 2005.

An initiative is being launched by East London Community Land Trust to convert the building to affordable housing, but in the meantime it lies in magnificent dereliction and an exhibition of these other-wordly photographs opens tomorrow, Thursday 28th February, at the Genesis Cinema.

© Hilary Barton

© Hilary Barton

© Pat Mooring

© Jean Jameson

© Bill Gilliam

© Jean Jameson

© Pat Mooring

© Pat Mooring

© Pat Mooring

© Pat Mooring

© Pat Mooring

© Pat Mooring

© Jean Jameson

© Pat Mooring

© Pat Mooring

© Jean Jameson

© Pat Mooring

© Pat Mooring

© Pat Mooring

© Pat Mooring

© Bill Gilliam

© Pat Mooring

© Jean Jameson

29 Responses leave one →
  1. Janice Humpage permalink
    February 27, 2013

    A beautiful building that would provide wonderful homes , such a shame it has been so abused and — what are the feet all about ?
    Thank you for showing us some of its history, absorbing as usual.

  2. February 27, 2013

    What an amazing place – will go to exhibition.
    Would love to do some drawing there – any idea who I could contact?

  3. February 27, 2013

    Oh those lovely bannisters and stairways!
    And what are the feet?!!!

  4. Libby Hall permalink
    February 27, 2013

    I worked at St. Clements for awhile in the early 70s (when I had thought I wanted to be a psychiatric nurse.) These revelatory photographs bring back gloomy memories (memories which were also reluctantly nudged into my consciousness two weeks ago with the illustrations from the surgical appliances catalogue.)

    I do have some happy memories though, of the time working at St. Clements – of the bus journeys to, and specially FROM, work. I loved that bit of London at the time.

  5. Teresa Stokes permalink
    February 27, 2013

    How weird are those feet coming out of the wall! Reminds me of Roman Polanski’s film Repulsion. I guess we’ll never know now, what on earth that’s all about!

  6. Teresa Stokes permalink
    February 27, 2013

    Here is another set of almost identical photos of a hospital in Ireland which also closed recently, found them when looking at buildings designed by my architect great grandfather James Franklin Fuller:

    http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/asylums-hospitals/52855-st-finians-hospital-killarney-29-11-07-a.html

  7. February 27, 2013

    Great photos, the first one is absolutely wonderful and kind of looks inviting, though obviously it was never the place to be. These places were often handy for the cemetery.
    I wish I were near enough to visit the exhibition.

  8. Ian permalink
    February 27, 2013

    I, too, would have loved to see the exhibition. There’s something so melancholy about these once majestic buildings being left to rot. Whatever happens to it, I hope it does it justice.

    And, working for the NHS myself, I see photos like this and wonder at all the stuff that was LEFT! It must cost the organisation a small fortune in wastage, even if half the things are outdated. We still use beds like the ones left in the corridor, and they ain’t cheap! ((We do have some state of the art ones, too, I hasten to add.)

  9. Vanessa permalink
    February 27, 2013

    Ian – that’s funny, I was thinking about all the wastage myself, especially the beds!? Plus pinboards, whiteboards, filing units etc. etc. etc. all the still useful things left behind. NHS needs a WASTE TSAR!

  10. Tanya permalink
    February 27, 2013

    I live in Canada but visit London regularly. There is an abandoned hospital on Hackney Road next to the City Farm. I’d love to know more about that one. I often think it would make great condominiums but I suppose it is too far gone for renovation.

  11. joan permalink
    February 27, 2013

    Throughout my childhood St Clement’s was used as a threat: ‘the men in white coats from St Clement’s will come and get you’; ‘lock the doors someone has escaped from St Clement’s’. And I remember occasionally someone dishevelled and pyjama clad would be spied on the Mile End Road and assumed to be an ‘escapee’. Fortunately attitudes to mental health have moved on since the 70s and it is so good to see the building being prepared for a new life. Weird, though, how it looks as if everyone left in a hurry.

    Best wishes,

    Joan

  12. Paula PM permalink
    February 27, 2013

    Wonderful photo essay. But please, could someone explain the feet?! I’m very curious to know.

  13. Joyce Fenton-Douglas permalink
    February 27, 2013

    . . . no wonder psychiatric treatment ends up being cyclical . . .

  14. Cherub permalink
    February 27, 2013

    I vaguely remember references to St Clements when I was mature student at Queen Mary College in the early to mid 90s, but I never knew where in Mile End it was.

  15. sprite permalink
    February 27, 2013

    Whaoo! I did my psychiatric placement as a general nurse at St Clements, the ward located at the back overlooking the cemetary. We used to take some patients to the cemetary which felt more like a jungle as it still does.

    To Tanya: the hospital next to the City Farm was a children’s hospital and was part of Great Ormond Street. I believe it is soon to be renovated and transformed into flats but don’t quote me on that. It was a wonderful hospital really serving the then still poor population of the East End.

    There is a story on how it came to be made redundant but I don’t have any proof of it either. It goes like this: the Royal London Hospital which is just down the road only had two children’s wards. A policeman whose child was admitted there fell in love with one of the sister of the wards and starting fundraising like mad to help the Royal London build a dedicated children’s unit. No one at the time seemed to take any notice that Queen Elizabeth’s hospital in Hackney Road was already fulfilling this role. This fragmentation of services used to send some of us mad when considering all the waste and poor allocation of resources.

    Furthermore the children unit at the Royal London was built in the courtyard, tremendously reducing the only green space available to the whole hospital. It had been a joy to so many as balconies run along the back of all the wards built in a U shape around that green and the statue of Princess Alexandra.

    But as Queen Elizabeth’s, the shell of the Royal London is now all boarded up since the wards moved onto new premises, to what is at present the most modern hospital in the UK, with the only helipad for the whole of Inner London.

    It looks like derelict hospitals of the East End might well become the subject of future posts.

    sprite

    acute ward -
    staffing level here too
    in-a-de-quate!

    sprite

  16. Ros permalink
    February 27, 2013

    Yes, evocative and melancholy photos, and a sheaf of interesting comments – don’t forget either that some people benefitted from their care at St Clements. I know at least 3 people, both in-patients and out-patients, who experienced it as a kind and caring place. And when are we going to learn about those feet??

  17. Jenx permalink
    February 28, 2013

    Yes, I’d like to know about the feet too!!

  18. March 1, 2013

    V good. Reminds me of some of the work in William Eckersley’s ‘Left London’ book.

  19. Rae permalink
    March 2, 2013

    I did my psychiatric placement here in the mid 1980s, and the place has haunted me ever since. Some of the shots, of the stairs particularly, are deeply evocative. I worked in several old workhouses which were partsof the NHS still at that time.

  20. Jean Jameson permalink
    March 9, 2013

    I am so sorry it has taken me so long to reply to the queries about my photograph of the feet. I wanted to find out the story behind them and contacted an occupational therapist who worked there for ten years. She doesn’t remember exactly how the feet project came about, but she said they were very creative in the department and used many different materials and mediums in their therapeutic work. I have to fall back on my own guesswork, which is that a plaster cast was made of people’s feet, then they decorated them and the finished ones were arranged as an ‘installation’, as we found them. If I find out any more, I will let you know! If anyone wants to add to our project – oral histories or just memories of St Clement’s, please do get in contact with me – jmjoiseau@yahoo.co.uk. What started out just as a photographic shoot is turning into much more story telling with service users and staff, through the Friends of St Clements.

  21. March 24, 2013

    I used to work there as a nurse. I wonder if they found my fags.

  22. Rachel Joyce permalink
    March 24, 2013

    The feet were made at the Occupational Therapy department with the patients. I worked there and am still in the mental health unit. St Clements is a beautiful place.

  23. Vicki permalink
    June 25, 2013

    It’s such a shame that this historical building will be turned into flats, all the history in there will be bought down to provide homes.Its ashame that it cant be turned into a museum and provide work for the youth of the area in mile end.

  24. Jane permalink
    July 10, 2013

    I worked at St Clements for a couple of years as an Occupational Therapy Assistant before I eventually did my OT training. I worked on Ansell Ward right at the back from about 1995-97. It felt really run down even then with loads of disused, boarded up areas. Amazing building though but not so nice to be a patient!

  25. July 17, 2013

    I’m fascinated by both abandoned buildings and issues relating to mental health, and I’d love to collate people’s memories about St Clements for a short film project. If anyone would like to contribute or assist with the short film, please contact me on fleurdisney@yahoo.co.uk
    Thanks!

  26. Wendy permalink
    July 20, 2013

    I did one of my student nurse placements at St Clements hospital between 1994-1997. Its a shame these old historical buildings become disused and no longer fit for purpose. I lived in the old nurses home in Stepney Way, Whitechapel and it broke my heart when I visited to see it had been knocked down and with it all the history erased (like the famous walkway which was built during the Jack the Ripper times so the nurses could reach the nurses home safely. It has now been replaced with the new skyscraper hospital. Im sure the facilities are now excellent, but it brings a little sadness to see these many buildings, which have so much history flattened.

  27. Mary Woods (nee Bell) permalink
    August 29, 2013

    As a student nurse at The London Hospital between 1973-1976 I was allocated a 3 month placement at St Clements.
    I remember enjoying my time there despite feeling very naive regarding mental health. My eyes were open to the sufferings of those with mental health issues. Some shifts were very intense as the ward I worked on was an acute ward and patients were often admitted in crisis.
    The Occupational Therapy department stands out in my memory as being very dynamic and most patients enjoyed the activities available.
    Yes, it would be lovely to preserve something of St Clements and it’s history.

  28. Zohaib Tasawer permalink
    October 10, 2013

    Is it possible for me to go and visit this hospital and possibly go in aswell to take photos? I think what is going on inside is great, I’ve always had a passion for photographing old abandoned buildings.

  29. Patricia Davies permalink
    March 20, 2014

    I hope they leave the building on the main road as it is, and build around it.
    It could be a lovely building if brought back to life.

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