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Remembering The Queen Elizabeth Hospital For Children

October 21, 2013
by the gentle author

Playing at Doctor – A Scene in the Hospital for Children, Hackney Rd, Bethnal Green

The former Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children in the Hackney Rd is a landmark of deep significance for generations of East Enders, yet a decision to flatten it and replace it with densely-built generic ‘new slums’ type flats has been made by Tower Hamlets Council, without any public consultation, dismissing the option of integrating the old building into the housing scheme. As the decision goes to the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, on Wednesday this week there is one last chance to save it. So today, I sketch a brief history of the tradition of care that had its home there for over one hundred and twenty years in the hope that this will not be erased.

In 1867 – Quaker sisters, Ellen & Mary Elizabeth Phillips, established a Dispensary for Women & Children in two rented rooms in Virginia Rd, Shoreditch. The previous year, at the time of the cholera epidemic in the East End, Ellen had worked in the cholera wards at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel through a connection to Elizabeth Garret, Britain’s first woman doctor. By 1871, the sisters had the lease at 327 Hackney Rd, on the site that would one day become their custom-built hospital to minister exclusively to the needs of sick children.

Just three years later, they laid the foundation stone for the building in adjoining Goldsmith’s Row, attracting Royal patronage and the support of Oscar Wilde who wrote a poem for their fund-raising publication. The attractive terracotta sunflower freizes upon William Beck’s building reflect the Arts & Crafts style of this era and, throughout the interior, details of iron work and ceramic tiled floors continue this decorative theme. In 1904, the building on Hackney Rd was added, defining the triangular shape of the complex which continued to expand, acquiring additional buildings to fulfil the needs of the hospital throughout the twentieth century.

Amalgamation with the Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital in Shadwell in 1942 delivered the name by which it was most commonly known. Charles Dickens was patron of this hospital, that he found operating in a sail loft in 1869 and for which he raised money to build a dedicated hospital building.

Thus, two nineteenth century philanthropic ventures combined to create an institution that was absorbed into the National Health Service and closed at the end of the twentieth century when the services it offered were fulfilled elsewhere, rendering it defunct. Yet in 1974, it was the largest children’s teaching hospital in Britain with three hundred students every year and Victoria Holt, General Practitioner, remembers her time there fondly – as the most inspirational part of her training.

“I worked there in 1988 when I was training to be a GP in Hackney. The Hospital served the East End but it was also used by Great Ormond St as the place where their nurses were trained – they had to spend some time ‘roughing it’ in the East End. What was so special about the Queen Elizabeth was that it was the opposite of Great Ormond St, it didn’t have a rarified atmosphere. You could literally walk in the door and be seen in the Accident & Emergency Department. It was a genuinely open door policy, whoever you were and wherever you came from – people who had grown up in the East End would bring their children there from Essex because it felt like home to them.

The complete range of all children’s illnesses came through the door and I learnt to distinguish between a not-very-ill and a very-ill child really quickly. I learnt so much there, it meant that even though I was incredibly young, I had this depth of experience in paediactrics. It was about an ethos – there was a collective wisdom in the community – people understood that you took your sick children there, because that hospital had looked after their families for generations.”

Sign the petition to save the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Building here

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The Queen Elizabeth Hospital closed in 1996

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital opened on this site in 1872

“Each nurse shall attend to the children with care and kindness, and use every endeavour to make them happy.” - from the Hospital Constitution of 1874

The Hackney Rd building opened in 1904

The Goldsmiths Row Building with its attractive sunflower freizes was opened in 1880

Victoria Holt is a GP who did part of her training at Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children in 1988 – “The complete range of all children’s illnesses came through the door and I learnt to distinguish between a not-very-ill and a very-ill child really quickly. I learnt so much there…”

Portrait of Victoria Holt © Colin O’Brien

Archive images courtesy Prof Rob Higgins

83 Responses leave one →
  1. October 21, 2013

    Signed, re-quoting this: “Boris Johnson says: “We must pay attention to quality as well as quantity” in his London Plan.”

  2. Paul Kelly permalink
    October 21, 2013

    What a shame…………If the go ahead to pull the building to the ground happens , could at least the chance happen that the stone arched window fronts and arched entrance with the keystones and decorative upper stonework be saved for posterity and placed opposite in the small park near Columbia Road as a keepsake/reminder for us all? It would be horrible if all trace work vanished.

  3. October 21, 2013

    How sad to see such a landscape go. This was a place that everybody knew and respected. Valerie

  4. Dianne permalink
    October 21, 2013

    Signed from Aust and sent on to others in the UK. Just appalling that another ugly future slum block should replace a building which could be renovated/restored or, at the very least, have the Victorian facade retained. Here in Brisbane successive Governments starting in the ’70s knocked down most of the lovely old heritage buildings in the city and are continuing to replace them with modern soul-less blocks. Now they are all trying to think of ways to bring tourists to the City because there is nothing for them to see!

  5. October 21, 2013

    I used to live locally and used the hospital on many occasion with my young twins (burns,bumps and bikes) it was a fantastic place just turn up and be seen sad to have seen it go to ruin hope it can be saved.

  6. October 21, 2013

    Flats yes, flattened no! Reuse this beautiful
    building, reinvent, give it new life as it gave life to so many.

  7. Bob permalink
    October 21, 2013

    I was diagnosed type 1 Diabetic here and spent 2 weeks in a second floor ward on the front of the building (it still has the glass ‘conservatory’ walls) in the hottest? summer; June 1976… as much as I hated being there (aged 9) I remember the lovely nurses, Columbia Road market and the noise of traffic along the Hackney Road. The sense of being in a very old Hospital were very tangible. I agree with Lee; it’s so sad to see it slowly fall into disrepair every time I pass it…

  8. Mat Thomas permalink
    October 21, 2013

    Appalling to see that this lovely building will in all likelihood be replaced with a nine storey lump of expensive flats that will both totally overshadow Hackney City Farm and Haggerston Park across the road, and also doubtless further enrich some people who do not live in the area.

    A real shame, walking and cycling along Goldsmiths Row between the hospital and the farm/park is a rare moment’s quiet pleasure…

    https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/boris-johnson-mayor-of-london-please-say-no-to-a-proposed-nine-storey-development-on-the-site-of-the-old-queen-elizabeth-children-s-hospital-on-the-corner-of-hackney-road-and-goldsmith-s-row-it-s-overbearing-ugly-and-not-good-enough

    http://queenelizabethhospitalsite.wordpress.com/

  9. Elli (Elizabeth) permalink
    October 21, 2013

    I really hope they don’t replace this old Victorian building with a bland modern tower block. Both my children were treated there at various times, a couple of times urgently rushed there in a pram from Roman Road, Bethnal Green. Fingers crossed Boris sees the sense in saving it.

  10. October 21, 2013

    I was born in Bethnal Green and was a patient at Queen Elizabeth’s Children’s Hospital a number of times as a child. My life was even saved there once. It was a wonderful hospital with a wonderful staff. As a doctor myself, I can appreciate the place both from a professional and a personal level.

    I have written about the hospital and my experiences at my website, East End Memories @ http://www.eastend-memories.org.uk – I am saddened that the hospital closed, but I suppose it was perhaps somewhat outdated today. However, I am horrified that it should be flattened for some gruesome, faceless building. Today, I thought it was the ‘fashion’ to maintain the shell of old buildings and to gut the interior. This is done extensively in Australia and to some extent in the US. It has even been done in Britain. Tower Hamlets has made a unilaterial decision to go ahead and flatten the place.

    The problem with Tower Hamlets is that it is run by those who have no memory or concept of the OLD East End. They not only lack a sense of LONDON HISTORY, they lack vision. This hospital holds a place in the history of the Hackney Road, which was once a very elegant and important road – not the mess that it has allowed to become today.

    I hope that reason will prevail and that the building will be maintained, albeit as a shell.

  11. Catherine de Visser (nee Holczimmer) permalink
    October 21, 2013

    I trained as Registered Sick Children’s Nurse in 1989 between Great Ormond Street and Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital, my first job on qualifying was on the neonatal surgical intensive care unit at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital which I remember with great fondness. A pride and a honour to have worked in such a wonderful institution ,with beautiful children and families & alongside such wonderful and dedicated staff xx
    the legacy of such an awesome place should be held in history not destroyed .

  12. Robert Green permalink
    October 21, 2013

    I was genuinely ASTONISHED to hear this news, The hospital has only been closed SEVENTEEN year’s and already Tower Hamlets council have made a decision on what to do with this building, Im no expert but it must surly be a record for Tower Hamlets council to have acted so decisively and most of all, SO QUICK ! ! people who live in the borough often complain about the cost of their Council tax but with such dynamic and energetic TOP EXECUTIVES running the council I feel I must now concede that they are obviously worth every penny that THEY TELL ME THEY ARE.

  13. sprite permalink
    October 22, 2013

    The hospital did not close down because it was outdated at the time but because for some weird political reasons a children unit was built at the Royal London on the site of the inner garden.

    With Bethnal Green hospital already destroyed, with part of the old Royal London already put to the ground with no consultation from the public either, surely at least this one should be saved.
    I’ve worked some Christmases at Queen Elisabeth as an Agency Nurse and in a very short time there learnt an awful lot about conditions not often seen in general nursing. It will be so sad if the adjacent City Farm looses it’s compagnon building across the road. Simply amazed on how developers have got away with so much recently (vital spaces of the flea market at Brick Lane lost to soulless high rises!).

    Sadly though as nurses we have to be busier nowdays trying to salvage our working condition and decent pay packages than salvaging old buildings dedicated to health… so hoping that others will have the time and dedication to help save that vital part of history.

  14. Jean locker permalink
    October 22, 2013

    Its very sad to see this familiar landmark disappear and to have no memorial to the wonderful service that this establishment provided. In 1959, my husband at the age of four suffered a severe injury to his wrist, cutting all the tendons and potentially losing all the movement in his hand. His father picked him up and ran to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital from Haggeston. After delicate surgery, knotting the tendons together and as a result of the excellent surgical and nursing care received at the hospital he regained complete use of the hand.

    We hope this building will be treated with the respect it deserves and these devastating plans to demolish it will be reversed.

  15. CHRISTINE TOWNROW permalink
    October 23, 2013

    I trained at Q.E.H. 1960_1963 and was as staff nurse and sister on Connaught ward.

    The experience I had was amazing , we worked hardand played hard and made many friends

    with whom I remain in contact to-day.

    My time working here stood me in such good stead for time spent at Toronto sick childrens

    hospital and 22yrs. as paediatric sister at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambrige.

    So sad to have seen this building lie derelict for so long,ssurely it could have been put to good

    use, is ther not a preservation order on the front façade?

  16. Anne Vincent Nee Brown permalink
    October 23, 2013

    What sad news,I did Pre nursing at the seaside branch at Cooden Beach,and started my Nursing at Hackney Road April 1960,we had such superb training and happy times,meeting lots of Eastenders,including the Kray brothers who where very supportive to the needs of the children despite their history!I left in 1963 and returned in 1967 as a Ward Sister on Bailey Ward,when I left in 1969 to Nurse in Canada, they gave me a Dolly which had been on the Ward since about 1900 .I presented this about 2 years ago to The Museum of London at The Barbican Museum with other Q E memorabilia and Christine Townrow and myself were invited to the reopening where we saw them displayed,we felt very privilaged!vc

    I feel that as the area around seems to up and coming with several of my friends children living in the area now,yuppie land,it would be wonderful to keep the front of the Hospital as it is important to the Eastenders. I would personally like to meet with Boris Johnson and vent my views!

  17. dorothy denton nee egan permalink
    October 31, 2013

    I was student nurse at qeh from September 1958 finishing in January 1962. I have to say it was one of the happiest times of my life. It would be a crying shame if that wonderful building with all it’s memories of all the sick children that redeveloped and all the nursing care that we Halloween there. I hope that the building can be saved even if it has to be converted into flats. So many people will still remember all that were helped there. Please add my name to the petition and if anyone who remembers me who I am not still in touch with please get in touch by e_mail.

  18. Susan Smith permalink
    November 1, 2013

    Most of my mother’s family came from around the Hackney/Tower Hamlets area and it seems such a shame to see historic buildings flattened. I wonder if my ancestors ever were treated in this place. If the building has to go, couldn’t at least the facade be saved.

  19. Dave EMBLEN permalink
    November 13, 2013

    Come on Boris,
    Give weight to the project to save the building.
    I was born & brought up in the East End and for many years worked all around the City.
    I havent lived in London for many years but every time I go back I realise how many more buildings have been lost to ” Progress ” the majority could have been saved by the use of modern technology and building techniques, dont do what “Adolf” started.

    What excuses do modern planners use, perhaps they should be made to take courses in ” Local History ” of the areas before they put forward their ideas and should be made to work with the Historians, the same as planners and builders have at present to with Archeoligists

  20. Emma permalink
    November 17, 2013

    Having spent a lot of my childhood in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital I think it would be a real shame if it is pulled down. They’re not all happy memories from there that’s for sure, however I do think the building is important to the history of the area. I hope someone stops Boris!

  21. Lesley Elliot permalink
    November 19, 2013

    The first 9months of my sick children’s nursing training took place at QEH back in 1973 /4
    A smashing place to start right in the heart of a friendly community . We lived in the nurses home on site and loved to visit the local market at bethnal green . I worked on Bailey ward as well as Barclay ward and observation unit were the isolation ward was . After wards I went back to GOSH for the rest of my time .

  22. Neil permalink
    December 10, 2013

    Having spent the first few months of my life in the Hospital (1964/65), I find it hard to believe in these ‘modern’ times that the facade of the building cannot be preserved and develop behind it.

  23. Isobel Yeomans (nee Matheson) permalink
    December 28, 2013

    I worked here during my training at GOS, first on Observation, then Queen Elizabeth, then A&E. I never saw it as ‘roughing it’, although life was certainly pretty harsh for many of the children and their families. However, the hospital was in poor repair in the 1970′s so, goodness knows what it was like in the 90′s. I thought it was rather neglected, always in the shadow of GOS itself (where I never had to chase cockroaches out of the sluice at night, unlike QE). It is a shame it closed, so many people had such affection for it, and most of us really enjoyed working here.
    I have recently returned to live in east London, and it’s interesting to see the changes that have taken place in 35 years. If we are to retain the living history of this amazing part of the UK, then at least keeping the exterior of QE would make a contribution. The wider issue of diluting specialist children’s services is for another comment, perhaps but, maybe the treatment of QE and the service it offered is a metaphor.

  24. Feral Hassan permalink
    January 15, 2014

    The hospital was my second home when I was growing up in the sixties and seventies. Born with an inherited blood disorder I was in and out of the QEHFC from the age of one right up until the age of eighteen, when I was deemed too old and had to move to the UCH.
    In fact my very earliest memory, ever, is of standing up in a cot in Elizabeth Ward and crying as I watched my mother and father approaching through the glass that partitioned off the several sections of the ward.
    I remember with affection the many Christmases I had to spend there, when Sisters from the different wards would visit each ward in turn, singing carols and handing out presents.
    And I remember with special affection one particular nurse, lovely Nurse Luxembourg, who epitomized for me, and still does, everything nurses used to be.
    I was there when the day the Queen visited the hospital and the crowd that was gathered blocked up the Hackney road.
    Although I now live in Norfolk and have not seen the hospital in the flesh, so to speak, for many years now, it would be lovely to be given the opportunity to visit it one last time as it is and have a look around the old place before it is changed, or destroyed, forever. But I know that it is closed off to the public.
    I hope that whatever decision they come to will be one that takes into consideration the feelings and memories of the many people for whom the hospital has meant so much in the past. And that at very least something of it will be left which will enable us to maintain a small connection with something special of our past which is steadily fading.

  25. Peter Snelling permalink
    January 28, 2014

    I worked at Q.E.H for 28 years, met my wife there.

    Started there as a cleaner in Sept 1978 and left as Portering and Security manager.

    Met some fantastic people there, both staff , Patients and their parents, a small friendly hospital.
    Best time of my life
    Closure, more to do with politics and money.
    A great great shame to lose the building, could not the frontage be saved and included into a
    new build ????

  26. Lynn Clark (nee Robinson) permalink
    February 1, 2014

    I also did a significant proportion of my post-reg. RSCN training at QEH (1983/84) and worked on Barclay, Bailey, Connaught and Queen Elizabeth Wards. After qualifying I worked as a staff nurse on QEH & Connaught & Observation ward (1984-1986). I left to work in sick children’s hospitals in Australia (Perth & Sydney) and Canada (Toronto) but nowhere compared to QEH. It really was a testament to all that is (was?!) good about the NHS. We cared for very sick children, but also provided a place of respite and safety to families who were struggling and walked in for advice and support. No-one was ever judgemental, I learnt so much about the art and science of nursing children. Notwithstanding the complex and challenging workload, there was such a sense of purpose and camaraderie. I dream of the hospital often & contacted the housing company to ask if I could look around but was told not ‘for health & safety reasons’! Given its history and legacy – let alone it’s aesthetic qualities – it would be criminal not to preserve the QEH building in some way.

  27. Carole Heath permalink
    March 20, 2014

    I know this hospital in Hackney road. I was in there as a child in the 1959′s to have a throat operation. I lived in Pritchards road in the council flats. I know it is no longer a hospital. It is a great old Victorian building I am pleased it has not been pulled down I think now though it is flats like Bethnal green hospital.

  28. Mary King (was Rowsell) daughter Elizabeth permalink
    March 31, 2014

    My daughter was rushed to Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital after her birth during the 1979 Winter of discontent . Our family spent many hours night and day on Bailey and Barclay Ward. I remember the hospital with great fondness and all the amazing staff that worked there. They were all unique and very special.
    I recall the long wooden benches in Outpatients, the night time quiet , cots with brass plaques and tape measures at the bottom of some baby’s cots to measure their head circumference. It is strange to find the things you remember.
    The staff had a wonderful spirit about them and you could tell how passionate they were about their work.
    I would love to see the hospital re-used in some way and not pulled down. I still drive by there occasionally and wonder exactly why it has been left. I would not like to come back and see a building site there. So much special history of the East End destroyed particularly the building facing Hackney Road.
    Some kind of energy resurrected The hotel at Kings Cross from a derelict state … please could this happen with this wonderful old building that has just been neglected and allowed to go to ruin.
    I remember all those wonderful nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and play therapists who cared for Lizzie in her darkest hours. She is a living testament to their care at 34 years old. Thank-you for all you did in that special hospital. A true testament to great things that can be done whatever the condition of the building and provision around you.
    Thank-you.

  29. Zenda Hedges permalink
    April 2, 2014

    I also was pre trained at The Little Folks Home in Cooden Beach in 1963 before starting my training at Banstead and Hackney. It was such a special time and I made many friends. The East End residents were welcoming and grateful for anything we all did to help their families. We worked long hours and were allowed to take a walk down the Hackney Road in uniform to get some fresh air at the end of the day. If locals saw you we were always approached and felt very much a part of the community. It would be a heartbreaking if the hospital building was not preserved.

  30. April 16, 2014

    I’m just trying to establish if Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children was also a specialist maternity hospital, for example complicated twin births. I would like to establish if it was birthplace for my elder twin brothers and myself. My mother who is still alive is a little vague about exact hospital, and living at the time in West London it is unusual for her to be giving birth at QE Hospital? in East London. Dates are 1960 -1962. Any info would be gladly received.
    Thankyou – Oliver.

  31. Angela permalink
    May 3, 2014

    I too did part of my GOSH training at QEH 1970-1 and found it a most valuable experience. “Roughing it” was a bonding of students, staff, children and families. I agree that the building should be saved as testament to the history of the community and its place in it. Gut the interior but save the shell.

  32. Lindsey Wharam (Sutton) permalink
    May 3, 2014

    Please save this building. I started my training coming from an abusive home I met the best people ever. The parents I met taught me to care and never to be judgemental and I had the best training ever. Have gone on to adopt 8 children with complex health needs. So thankyou to you all it was wonderful

  33. Francesca Syz permalink
    May 5, 2014

    URGENT! Does anyone remember the level of disrepair in the interior of the building between 1980 and 1988? In particular the pipe work in the basement corridor in the main building and the staff canteen that existed back then, just off it? I would be hugely grateful to hear from you ASAP if you have any memories at all concerning this. Or if you have any memories of any repair work being carried out in that area of the building at that time. Many thanks.

  34. gene webb permalink
    May 15, 2014

    What another mess, it should be opened as another hospital .

  35. Lesley peirson permalink
    May 27, 2014

    I remember the hospital so well I attended their from 1953soon after I was born I can still remember dr dobs my mother can even remember dr helem Mackey I can also remember sister jay staff nurse russal sister Lucas their names and faces have never left me I owe so much to these dr and nurses I used to have to go in to the hospital nearly every six weeks very unwell but as soon as I arrived I new I would be ok I do hope the hospital will not be demolished it was a very special place

  36. Lynn Clark (nee Robinson) permalink
    May 29, 2014

    I travelled down from Yorkshire yesterday and met a friend and ex-QEHC nurse/colleague who was visiting the UK from New Zealand. We took up post outside QEHC and tried to persuade the site demolition men to let us in for one last quick look around the wards – Observation/Princess Elizabeth/Barclay/Connaught and Bailey – but to no avail! They said there was asbestos removal going on and a H&S audit underway. So, we stood and chatted/reminisced in the drizzly rain – happy memories! The men (who were interested in our tales of the children/staff/wards) said the main ward area (minus the front façade) would be gone in around 4 – 5 weeks.

  37. Paul Stevens permalink
    June 6, 2014

    This hospital holds a massive place in my heart, as I had a few major ops here when I was a baby, and if it wasn’t for Doctor Sandown and his amazing staff at the hospital, I may well not have turned out quite as well as I have.
    I had to go back there in 1978 to get a shunt replaced, and they were fantastic. They diagnosed the problem within 12 hours of my being admitted (something Basildon Hospital hadn’t managed to do in 2 weeks), and within 2 days I had been operated on and on my way to recovery.
    It’s places like this that should be saved rather than keep throwing money at erecting new buildings.

    Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children, Shoreditch will always have a place in my heart and memories, and the building should be saved at all cost.

  38. Geoff Lynes permalink
    July 31, 2014

    This wonderful hospital has a big, big place in my heart too. I Started work there straight from school in 1974 in the biochemistry lab (part of pathology), situated in the (then) new Hayward building at the rear of the site overlooking the car park. With the exception of a couple of years training at Great Ormond St hospital, I finally left the site in 1996 when the labs moved up to GOS. I literally grew up there! I met the most dedicated, intelligent and caring people in all sections of the staff and given the small size of the hospital we had more than our fair share of brilliant (and famous) people work there. It was a wonderful experience and I am proud to have done my bit there.

  39. Jan walker(was Eastoe) permalink
    August 10, 2014

    I started my training here in 1968 after working at the little folks convalescent home.i have many happy memories working here.it will be such a shame to demolish this lovely building and hope that the powers that be will change their minds.

  40. Christopher Brown permalink
    September 20, 2014

    I recently drove passed the hospital and am heartbroken at what’s happened to that marvellous place. In the 70′s & 80′s it was practically my second home. I have Spina Bifida and spends many weeks and months on Bailey Ward on the 2nd floor.

    My memories are so vivid and almost 30 years since later I could still remember many of the wonderful staff and patients that I met during my time there.

    Sister Maureen Cavell I remember with particular fondness for her kindness and sometimes the odd telling off too!

    I would love to hear from anyone who may have been a patient or member of staff around 1975-84.

    Christopher Brown.

  41. Wendy Connew nee Flew permalink
    October 6, 2014

    I started at the Little Folks home at Cooden Beach in the bad winter of 1962. It was the convalescent home for the children who came from London . The children loved the country air and surrounding areas of the House. Many of them had never seen a cow or any other farm animal before. When I reached 18 I started my nursing PTS training at the Banstead branch in Surrey which was in a beautiful setting of 100 acres before transferring to continue on the wards at Hackney Road. Sadly I have heard that the land was sold for housing. I loved the East End of London, the people were friendly to us nurses and we felt part of the community. I still remember so many of the children I nursed and feel very sad that the the Hospital no longer exists. The building was a landmark of the area and has so much history, to destroy it is criminal

  42. Lynn Clark (nee Robinson) permalink
    October 10, 2014

    Hello Christopher, as per my entries above, I did my post-Reg. RSCN training Oct.1983 – Dec. 1984 working on various wards at GOS and QEH. Once qualified I worked at QEH from Dec. 1984 until Dec. 1985. I worked on Bailey ward although not for terribly long, I’ve just looked back in my diary, it was June 3rd to July 10th 1984. I remember the landing and turning left to the older children side and right to the baby side of the ward. I remember summer days (& nights!) with everyone – patients and staff – singing and dancing/jigging to Wham’s ‘wake me up before you go go’ which was in the charts!! I remember lots of trips to and from theatre, it was such a busy ward, such complex surgery, I learnt lots about spina bifida. I have such happy and vivid memories of that time, we all felt like one very close-knit family running up and down the stairs to borrow things, help out, do extra shifts etc. I feel enormously privileged to have worked there.

  43. Christopher Brown permalink
    October 18, 2014

    Hi Lynn,

    Yes, I remember that landing so well. I spent many hours waiting patiently at the top of the stairs for my parents to arrive and then watching them leave to go home without me with tears in my eyes.

    But I still maintain it was a happy time and have never felt the same attachment to any hospital since.

    If you want to email me directly you are more than welcome.

    chrisamu7@hotmail.com

    Regards,

    Chris Brown.

  44. Mary King (was Rowsell) permalink
    November 26, 2014

    Sister Maureen Cavell was there during the Winter of Discontent when my daughter Lizzie was rushed into Bailey Ward. I believe she left later and went to work in Waltham Forest … Wasn’t she known as Mo?
    Lizzie has Spina Bifida also Christopher and was in a Bailey award from Feb 1979 initially.
    Would love to get in touch and say thank you again to Maureen.
    Any other QE nurses out there from those days?
    Mary

  45. Paul Goodman permalink
    December 7, 2014

    I would like to hear from anyone who may know my name or remeber me as a baby, regarding a full cleft and hair lip.
    what i acutaally had done, who operated etc.. i was born october the 30th 1970, I went to this hospital on a regular basis for check up and reviews.
    Dr. Sackwild & Mr Walker i think.
    any info greatly appreciated.
    climbinginto@hotmail.co.uk
    thank you

  46. Taner Keskin permalink
    December 26, 2014

    i was diagnosed with diabetes at this hospital in 1993 when i was 10 years old. i wish they have never closed down this historic building. its really sad!!

  47. Heather Smethurst nee Clarke permalink
    January 2, 2015

    I worked at the QEH during my training(1983-7) and there as a qualified nurse (1987-88), first for a month on the baby speciality ward on the top floor and then (until I left) in the casualty. I was moved there as there was a shortage of staff but i was so glad I did go as I enjoyed all my time there. I remember the sister there, married to the head porter Nobby Clarke (both stalwart members of the staff community). I would be gutted to see the building destroyed, having watched the sadness my sister felt after the flattening of her alma mater-the Middlesex. One of the things i remember most, and would be interested to hear if anyone else felt it, was the ‘ghostly presence’ in the cloakroom by Goldsmith ward and the lifts to the theatres.

  48. Hazel Atherton nee Blandy permalink
    January 13, 2015

    I am answering the question from Oliver Gill. April 2014.

    QEH did not have a maternity unit but took sick neonates from a local maternity hospital, the name I cannot remember. These babies were usually nursed on Leonard Gibbs Ward on the top floor overlooking Hackney Road. If no beds were available the babies were sent to Little Folks Ward also on the top floor but at the side of the hospital overlooking Goldsmiths Road.

    I was a staff nurse on Leonard Gibbs ward in the early 60′s and remember a very sick baby admitted who was a member of the famous John Lewis family. He recovered I am happy to say.

  49. Francesca Syz permalink
    March 20, 2015

    My mum was resident child psychotherapist at QEH for most of the 1980s and loved her time there. She was diagnosed with Mesothelioma two years ago which she believes she contracted while working at the hospital as one of the reasons it remained derelict for so long was due to severe contamination from asbestos. An area we know was a particular asbestos trouble spot was the basement corridor with the staff canteen off it, where mum would walk on a daily basis, as presumably would most of the staff. We are trying to build a compensation case and are looking for people who worked there who might remember any detail of the disrepair of the the interior of the building/ the pipework on the ceilings, particularly the behind the scenes staff areas like this basement corridor, who might be prepared to submit witness statements saying what they remember it was like. It would also be really useful to know if anyone can remember building or repair work being carried out in that basement corridor or any other public walkways within the hospital as it is very often during building work that asbestos is disturbed and therefore at its most dangerous. Any thoughts/memories would be so gratefully received, either through the comment section of this site or by emailing me on mesoqeh@gmail.com. Many thanks for any help you can give me, however small.

  50. September 19, 2015

    I owe my life to the QECH. I was rushed there in1938 when a local doctor realised I was seriously ill. I had a burst appendix and was operated on for peritonitis. Without antibiotics it must have been exemplary nursing that saved my life. The signs of that time are very much in evidence on my body, A large scar lower right abdomen and another smaller one where a drain was needed. I am now 81 and hope to go on a bit longer.

  51. anthony sugg permalink
    September 22, 2015

    all these fine old buildings along with their importance to a once thriving east end community are being eaten up by the greed of business out of control.the next pound is all that matters not the history nor the architechure .the money so shareholders can count a little more each year on their investment.

  52. Deborah Hunt permalink
    February 1, 2016

    I spent the first 3 months of my life in QECH Dec 1976- March 1977 (Gibbs Ward) – Having had major stomach surgery, I owe my life to the Surgeons, Doctors and Nurses.

    I would love to hear from anyone who remembers me as a baby or who treated/operated/looked after me. I have a great interest in Psychotherapy, in particular attachment theory.

    DL7C@hotmail.com

    Thank you

  53. Vic Larcher permalink
    February 24, 2016

    Reading through the thread stirs the memory banks. I worked at Queens as a junior doctor to the late Tony Jackson back in ’74-75 and then as a consultatant paediatrician between 1983 and the closure aka “transfer of services” . It was a privilege to work there and be part of the sense of camaraderie and dedication that gave it an atmosphere like nowhere else I have ever worked. One feature I remember well was the annual panto written by the teachers and performed by volunteers on the basis of a couple of rehearsals in the Board room and then acting as Santa for some bemused young children on Christmas Day. I agree with all that’s been said about the range of experience and training that was all part of daily life at Queens. It was always our hope and intention that children who came to the Queens should have the same level and quality of care that they would receive in other better endowed hospitals and I hope we achieved our aim to the best of our ability. It was always a pleasure to go to work even braving the Blackwall tunnel traffic to do so.

  54. Lynn Clark permalink
    February 27, 2016

    P.S. – I should have said, the photograph is from Christmas 1984.

  55. Lynn Clark permalink
    February 27, 2016

    Not sure my last post sent correctly?

    I have a lovely photograph taken on Christmas Day 1984 on Princess Elizabeth ward featuring Santa, a bearded doctor in a tutu, and, as above, several bemused children! Happy to scan and email if you would like? Happy memories.

  56. Vic Larcher permalink
    February 29, 2016

    Not sure I remember a tutu so maybe I did the later years. Remember having to dress in the suit in senior nurses office and sellotape on the cotton wool eyebrows. My only appearance in a skirt was as Mrs Backfire on the panto a year or so before we closed but I don’t think there is photographic evidence of that after all it was before I phones etc!!! Just as well I suppose
    Vic L

  57. Linda Rodriguez permalink
    March 7, 2016

    I spent most of 1974 at this Hospital with my daughter Natalie Jane – they were so supportive and amazing the nursing staff, despite her having liver disease they did their utmost to try and find a cure, unfortunately transplants were not around then. The ward was LEonard Gibbs a baby unit at the top, the ward sisters were Margaret Wray and Barbara Robertson, the paediatrician was Dr.Broderick Brown and the surgeon was Mr. Dickson, all very amazing people, I kept in touch after Natalies passing and they sent me a lovely card when my second daughter Nicola was born in 1976, oddly enough she ended up as an outpatient under Dr.Brown with milk allergy. Such a shame its all gone, it haunts me to drive past there as I can see the room in the corner where she died. I also worked with a lady called Vera Johnson who worked in the laundry, she left as she saw an image one night, upset her so much she couldn’t carry on working there.

  58. Steve Wollington permalink
    March 30, 2016

    In 1966, I lived in The Crown & Shuttle pub in Shoreditch High Street.
    One Sunday lunchtime, due to a kitchen accident, my shirt caught fire.
    My father took me to The QE A & E (or Casualty as it was then known) and after a few days on a ward in Hackney Road, I was transferred to their specialist burns unit in Banstead, Surry where I stayed for three months.
    Sad to see the old building go

  59. Bronwen Anne Quigley née Brown permalink
    April 1, 2016

    I too did my nurse’s training at QEH from September 1958, and made some lifelong friends. We had some hilarious as well as some very sad moments with our young patients, and were treated very kindly by the Hackney Road residents. It was an appalling decision to close and then flatten a once great hospital, which should have been at least a Grade 2 listed building.
    Gone, but not forgotten.

  60. Allan Curtis permalink
    May 13, 2016

    I was born across the road in Guiness’ Buildings in 1949 and was a frequent patient. However, i never really left as I was a post reg student nurse in 1980. Taking over Goldsmith Ward in 1982. before that a charge nurse in Casualty. I have a photgraph on my desk in another childrens unit where I am the charge nurse/manager it is of me and some of my team on Goldsmith in 1983. The hospital was probably the place I have ever worked with probably the best people.

  61. Sarah Clayson nee Pharo permalink
    May 17, 2016

    I was part of the May 1966 set who trained as sick children nurses at Hackney Road and Banstead. We have just held our 50 year reunion and talked endlessly about the hospitals that were very special. We worked hard and played hard. I still remember many of the children we all helped to get fit again and it is a sad moment to see the hospital empty defeated.

  62. Bronwen Anne Quigley née Brown permalink
    May 19, 2016

    Flats have now been built on the hospital site, although the façade has been kept. The eldest son of a friend of mine lives in one. I thought , and hoped when I was nursing there, that the hospital would last forever.

  63. June 18, 2016

    Brilliant page I love it, well done

  64. Marie Forse (nee Fewell) permalink
    July 4, 2016

    Please don’t destroy our beloved Q.H.C. Building.
    I trained there in Sept.1955 – 1958.
    In 2005 a small group of our set met at Banstead on our 50th anniversary and were shown around the old hospital ( being turned into flats) but retaining the original building. The local press even gave us a page in the local paper.
    If there is anyone out there who remember me Marie Forse (nee Fewell) Please get in touch.rogerforse5@hotmail.com

  65. Patricia Lang nee Clayton permalink
    August 20, 2016

    I worked as Senior House Officer ( SHO ) at the Queen Elizabeth for a year from 1968-69, and lived in a small basement flat a few houses away in Hackney Road. A very busy year , on call every other night and weekend , but a year I will never forget . . I learnt so much . I am now 78 , probably no- one from that time who will read this . Happy memories !

  66. Lynn Clark permalink
    August 29, 2016

    Further to your post Allan (Curtis), good to hear that you’re still working in paediatrics and continuing the legacy of QEHC! Do you know what became of the nursing officers Mr. Alan Tiller and Miss Elizabeth Stewart? I worked there in the mid-1980s & have strong memories of them rushing from ward to ward sorting out problems. Whenever I see Prof. Robert Winston on television he reminds me of how, in my memory, Mr. Tiller looked! I remember Sister Elizabeth Lake on Princess Elizabeth ward (& Sister Patricia Hewitt on Connaught I think?). Fonts of knowledge & experience & with such high standards of paediatric nursing.

  67. October 5, 2016

    I worked on Bailey ward in the 1980 i loved my time on Bailey ward looking after very sick children .I worked with Suzy Tinker sister Elaine Pritchard JennyBull and a very funny nurse called Helin i cannot remember her sir name she was welsh and a good laugh.I can remember Cilla Black coming on Bailey ward and seeing myself on television on christmas surprize surprize good times and Adam Ant came to Bailey ward on christmas day to meet some of the kids on the ward.I was living in the nurses home in the hospital and then i moved down the road to that big house in pollard row i would love to hear from anyone who was working with me at that time.

  68. Alexandra saunders permalink
    October 5, 2016

    I would like to add that I was diagnosed in 1966 with a blood disorder here at QEH Barclay ward. I remembered things from the age of 2 yrs until I left at the age of 17. Have to add I had some bad memories here and still unfortunately have flash backs regarding my experiences here. Back in the sixties illness and diseases that were rare, children were used as guinea pigs, and I was one, we had matrons then that were strict and very stern! The NHS for children have improved immensely, because back in my days we had no toy or television or books to entertain ourselves, and we had to ask to go to the lavatory! Because of my frequent stays overnight having to return every two weeks for treatments, i would meet new children that came and went, some lived and some I knew well had passed! It can scar anyone! My only friend was the play leader Ruth, any body remember her? She was brilliant. I would kick up a fuss, never wanted to be treated because of the pain I had to endure, until Ruth came to my rescue. It was a shame for the nurses at the time who had to deal with me, but put yourselves in my shoes? as a very tiny child that couldn’t have her mother stay, very daunting. I’m still under going treatment and now a candidate to the society my illness funds, giving me strength and confidence.
    I have to say now nearing my 50 yrs, my experiences has made me independent, I have my own home my own business and a daughter who will be 20. So even though it was the worst thing having to go through what I did, I thank you! Now older and mature, the nurses then, did good, and apologise to those nurses and doctors who I made their jobs difficult. I’m glad the hospital is rid of and new flats are built, move on, I say! because I now have closure!

  69. Alexandra saunders permalink
    October 5, 2016

    Hi there again anyone remember professor Wood? He was my consultant then thanks

  70. October 7, 2016

    I indeed remeber Professor Wood. I was director of the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition which had a laboratory in the Hayward (?) research building.

    Dr Bernard Laurence was also there – he was secretary of the then Brisith Pediatroc Association and we published work to gether.

    I first knew Bernard when he came to run pediatrics at Makerere College Medical School in Uganda.

  71. Lynn Clark permalink
    October 9, 2016

    In response to Madeleine’s comment 5/10/16, yes I too remember Sr. Pritchard & Staff Nurse Suzy Tinker, there was also Scottish staff nurse Karen Spowart who I think still works in London in the field of paediatric diabetes. Such happy times. A very busy ward but lots of fun and laughter!

  72. Madeline Carling permalink
    October 10, 2016

    Hi Lynne Clerk and yes i do remember Karen from Scotland she became a sister and Suzy Tinker did too.Alan Tiler was a lovely man very funny we always had a good laugh with him when he came on Bailey ward.I am sorry to say he passed away some years ago.I will always remember Elizabeth Steward nursing officer as she interviewed me for my post on Bailey Ward with staff nurse Bowen .I always remember Elizabeth Stewart she would come on the ward every morning and had very high standards and great nurse i always liked her .I passed the hospital the only yesterday and see that it is going to be flats it will always be a hospital to me .

  73. Lynn Clark permalink
    October 12, 2016

    Hi Madeline, sorry to hear about Alan Tiller. Both he and Elizabeth Stewart ran the hospital like a tight ship didn’t they, racing around sorting out problems with good humour and professionalism. Elizabeth Stewart interviewed me too for my staff nurse post on Princess Elizabeth ward, then an acting Sister’s post on Observation Ward for a few months before i went to Australia. She wrote me a couple of references too (which i still have!), and I had the utmost respect for her. What a fantastic place it was.

  74. Madeline Carling permalink
    October 13, 2016

    Hi Lynne its so nice to remember a place in time where we both worked and remember with great fondness. I also remember Alan Curtis did he work on goldsmith ward and went out with sister Bowen I don’t know if you remember her but she was such a great nurse and really looked after me when I first started on bailey ward.

  75. Christopher Brown permalink
    November 28, 2016

    Reading all these posts from former staff and patients really does bring a nostalgic tear to the eye. Many of those mentioned on this page played a huge part in my childhood during the many weeks/months I spent as a patient on Bailey Ward. I have Spina Bifida and my Consultant during my teenage years was a wonderful Orthopaedic Surgeon called John Fixsen, now sadly no longer with us. Those staff who worked at QEH during the 70′s may remember him. He was succeeded by Mr Peter Webb, another marvellous man who I followed to the Royal National Orthopeadic Hospital in Stanmore once I turned 16.

    There are so many characters, both fellow patients and staff, who I rememeber with such affection and who left an indelible mark on me. On Bailey Ward there was an Irish woman who worked as a domestic called Mary Looney who became good friends with me and my family. I suspect she too may have passed on by now but I’ll never, ever forget her. She had the wonderful gift of cheering me up, even during very dark times when I was quite ill and in pain. Quite often she would sacrifice her own break to push me down to Sally’s tea bar in Outpatients for a cuppa, ham roll and a pep talk! I’ll be forever in her debt.

    I could write numerous stories about the many people I met during my time there and maybe I will. Meantime if anyone who spent their time there and wants to reminisce I’d love to hear from you.

    Chris Brown.

  76. Eleanor Avery (was mclean) permalink
    December 17, 2016

    I have strong memories of this hospital. As a baby I had necrotising enterocolitis and was looked after and followed up at the Queen Elizabeth for many years. If it wasn’t for them and a specific doctor who looked after me I don’t think I’d be here today. I can’t remember her surname but her first name was Victoria I think! I was born in 1983.

  77. Marion Walmsley (Nee) Davies permalink
    January 22, 2017

    At 17 years old I left rural Wales to go to work at the Little Folks Home in Bexhill on Sea. A lovely group of girls and to this day I am still friends with Tina. Would love to know what happened to Ann Beer who left. We had a great time looking after those children and with them enjoyed riding Jenny the Donkey on the beach and eatinghealthily from the veg garden. In 1967 I went on to train as a nurse at QEH and qualified as a Staff Nurse in 1970 and left in 1971 to pursue a different career in nursing. Still in touch with Linda Eagles .. sorry cant recall her maiden name. Would love to hear from anyone who was around during those years.
    My husband and I had a memory lane trip around there last year and so sad to see the Hospital in disrepair and the nursing accommodation in Pollards Row where I once lived looking very tired and run down.

  78. Jean Summers permalink
    February 18, 2017

    How wonderful to come upon this website and be able to join so many former patients and staff in their memories of the hospital. I was transferred to Goldsmith Ward in QEH from hospital in Essex aged 3 in November 1956, for surgery by Mr. Valentine Swain. I wonder if his name rings a bell with anyone ? Although so long ago, I can picture him, and the ward as clearly as if it were yesterday. The staff were all so lovely and caring towards me – a very frightened little girl. There was a lovely young junior doctor who used to sing “Incy Wincy Spider” to me, and in the mornings the nurses used to wake us up singing songs, too. I remember them singing: “A four-legged friend” – popular song at the time. In those days, parents’ visiting times were very restricted, and I used to pester the nurses to know how long it was until visiting time. I remember one lovely nurse actually gave me her watch to look at and follow the minute hand until it came round to the time. My head end of my cot was almost in front of a window – looking onto the side street, I think – and after my parents had left, I used to stand up and wave, gazing out into the darkness, knowing that they were out there, somewhere, and already wishing for them to come back. I don’t know any names of any of the Goldsmith Ward staff, but I do remember there was a patient called Coral who I played with once I was up and out of bed. We used to parade up and down pushing a doll’s pram.
    On the off -chance that any staff of Goldsmith Ward 1956 may read this: Thank you for your kind and loving care. I still remember you.

  79. Karen Spowart permalink
    March 3, 2017

    Came across this article today and saw my name mentioned! I worked at QEH and they were the best years of my career! Excellent staff and patients/ parents. Taner Keskin, think I remember you when you were diagnosed with diabetes! Eve and Maggie our “domestic angels”, hospital school staff and many more……!
    Madeline, the ” funny Welsh nurse” you remember was indeed Helen Johnson. Helen and I used to cycle to QEH together from our residence at GOS in those days, until Helen’s bike got nicked! It was a bit of a hairy route, particularly Old Street roundabout! I now work in West London in diabetes, funnily enough some old colleagues from QEH are there too! Paediatrics is a small world!

  80. Paula Magee nee Milway permalink
    March 13, 2017

    I spent many visits and long stays from the age of 3 months to 16 years as one of Dr Walker-Smith’s bananna baby’s, a coeliac. I stayed on Barclay ward my second home, with the play balcony and Conaught ward 1963-1978. We travelled an 80 mile round trip from Kent
    Such happy memories of Ruth the playleader, a lovely nurse called nurse Blacklocks ( I often wonder what happened to her, she’d be in her late 60′s now) and her friend Nurse Ann Elizabeth on Barclay ward who inspired me from a young age to become a nurse. The sister in out patients and of course Dr Walker Smith,who I was in contact with recently. I’m a matron now and achieved my dream but would have love to have worked at Queen Elizabeth’s. The nurses always let me help with the babies and feed them.I have a great fondness for this old building and the amazing work it’s contributed to, I hope it can be preserved.

  81. May 4, 2017

    Hello Pat I do remember you because I lived in the flat above you 68/69! We had our reunion last week and 3 of us went to Hackney Road by bus to see the Hospital,itlook okay, I also took a photo of the flat but could not remember my number so took 2 blocks! If you read this please get in touch!

  82. Christine cooper permalink
    July 2, 2017

    This hospital saved my sons life in 1973 he was born with half a food tube he was taken from whipps cross only a hour after birth they took a photo of him in the hospital magazine I can’t thank them enough I wonder if there’s any chance I could get a copy is there a site I could look up ,

  83. Alma Hardy permalink
    August 11, 2017

    I’m so sorry I’ve only just seen this fabulous web site. I was trying to contact Sister Barrett who literally saved my daughter’s life way back in 1970. Vicki was born August 1970 and went into St John’s Hospital, Chelmsford where she was diagnosed with chronic malnutrition following a bout of hospital gastroenteritis. Thankfully she was transferred to Hackney Road Hospital under the care of Sister Barrett – I think Sister Barrett went on to become Matron of the Hospital but I’m not sure. Vicki was in hospital for 11 months – in an infectious cubicle next door to ‘Kenny’ who also did not thrive – I often wonder what happened to him. At 11 months old we had her home weighing just 9lbs – the most she had ever weighed. She is now 47 with three children of her own…….thank you Sister Barrett – you were firm but hugely fair and I often think of you. The hospital was brilliant (apart from one consultant!!) – I wish it was still there…….I do hope I can find Sister Barrett – or at least know what happened to her.

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