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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

49 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:

  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,


  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.


    acute ward –
    staffing level here too


  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 – 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

  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.

  30. Darren Owen permalink
    October 4, 2014

    As from the 1st October 2014, the transport company I am a truck driver for have started hauling away the foundations and brickwork from the wing on the right side which is now flattened (this was the wing which was bombed in WW2). I don’t know whether the whole of the hospital will be flattened for new housing but it’s a shame because it is a place of character.

  31. peter scott permalink
    August 24, 2015

    I worked in this place putting the gas on for the new builds, 19/08/ 2015. they found a tunnel from the hospital going to the grave yard behind the building, and was told to block it up quick, if anybody finds this place someware to live with all that’s gone on here then fair play to you, ps don’t call me call a vicare

  32. Rose Mulvey. permalink
    September 8, 2015

    Am currently researching psychiatric nurse training, at St Clements hospital in the late 1980;A/1990. As a qualified R P N, myself from ireland,I would be grateful for any assistance, on this subject. London holds such history,especially the east end, so I hope someone out there Willread this request. At St Patrick’s psychiatric hospitlal
    spital Dublin this quotation can be found, “He gave what little wealth he had, to build a house for fool;s and mad, and showed by one satirical touch, nation wanted it so much.”Johnathan Swift”.

  33. lorna drummond permalink
    October 18, 2015

    My son is currently working on this building,he sent me some pics of the older part of building. It looks from the outside to have been an impressive building. Shame it couldn’t be restored as a complete project instead of flats. Maybe a museum or small hotel or hostel.

  34. Michelle permalink
    December 9, 2015

    Wow, seeing these pictures really brought back memories for me. I did several placements there as a student nurse on Green ward and Lansbury ward between 1993-1996. In fact, it was here that I decided I wanted to go into mental health nursing rather than general nursing. I have many memories of this place and whilst it was a bit run- down even then,it had such character and it was here that I learnt such a lot from all the staff and patients that I met. Wish I could’ve had a wander round before it all got knocked down, just for nostalgia sake.

  35. February 13, 2016

    I was one of the youngest pationts there in the early seventeys i was seventeen i remember being really scared but i had no choice i had to stay there they did look after me well aprart from putting me on traunquilizer witch i was addicted to for ten years and practilly ruined my life and you did get intertutioalized excuse my spelling seems so creepy then again it was

  36. Dawn Reynolds permalink
    May 2, 2017

    Hi Tracey,

    Thank you for your comments on this feed- I was just thinking as I scrolled down through the experiences of professionals associated with St Ckements… what about patients? And up you popped!! I hope you are doing well… Dawn

  37. Gary Spinks permalink
    April 1, 2018

    I have just moved into the St Clements development. I have enjoyed reading the comments on this site. The developers have done a good job keeping the features/fixtures and lines of the building.
    It is a robust building and will surely stand the test of time and be a tribute to its mixed past (Bow Institution, Asylum, Hospital). Originally attracted to the building now called the Lodge (it was the Morgue) , now in one of the older blocks with a turret tower and plenty of long windows. I too wonder what happened to the feet and the ‘white chair’?

  38. gerald Brown permalink
    April 17, 2018

    lovely such a shame

  39. Catherine Morris permalink
    April 19, 2018

    They have kept the most beautiful parts of the building and it does look nice. I’m not sure I could live in a place that held such unhappiness but that is probably just superstition. Mind you, I did hear that one of the builders said that, after working on the development, you couldn’t pay him to live there 🙂

  40. Kaz permalink
    April 29, 2018

    I still live Opposit the St Clements building. They broke it down in a rush and made new building but my main question is that. Why didn’t these photographers go underground or were they not aloud? In our childhood we always hear and see it in my time visiting there once for a friend that was a patient all the doors or stairways were locked down or blocked. Heard creepy stories how last stage patients used to get finished off there. I wonder if that bit is still left abondoned and did they clean it up? Heard so many creepy stories about that place and every time I walk pass it reminds me of the old building. I would love to talk about that building in one of my Vlogs. My YT Channel is Kaziology Vlogs btw if anyone has any stories to tell plz get in touch with me I will feature you in a video on telling stories. Contact me

  41. Jan lewis permalink
    September 1, 2018

    This is a long shot but does anyone remember Dr Ruth Smith who worked there in the early 1970s. I would love to be able to get in touch with her but do not think will be possible.

  42. michelle westburgh permalink
    November 9, 2018

    My mum was a patient in St.Clements Hospital, she
    was so young at the age of 28 and so much to live for. She had taken an overdose, a cry for help and
    she ended up there and never recovered. Such
    a devastating and traumatic time for her and the family. I have never liked black/white square floor
    tiles, looking at one of the pics above I now know

  43. selva permalink
    December 23, 2018

    I trained at St.Clements 1972 to 1976 before going on to other studies.I wonder where Clive Andrewes,Breeda and my former wife Ismay whom I met at St.clements are.And John Tartaris and,Anne Elizabeth Edwards my real love that I was a complete idiot to are.Anne is actually from the same area.Well we are all old now ,not long now so my heartfelt sorry if in anyway I was nasty young fool then.What happened to Sister Tina Chivers of Ansell ward.

  44. Ian Ford permalink
    March 23, 2019

    I worked at St.Clements between 1990 and 1998 and have only the fondest memories of this hospital at a transition phase between an “institution” and a move to community. Psychiatric care at that time was a mixed bag, it helped so many and let down so many too, but everything moves on, hopefully for the better. I miss its atmosphere, its people and whatever its legacy proves to be I can only say it will be forever in my heart.

  45. Maggie V. permalink
    April 26, 2020

    I too was a student psychiatric nurse who worked on several of the wards and lived in the student accommodation there . It was much more relaxed than the nurses homes up the road at the Royal London site where wardens manned the front doors and visitors of the opposite sex were not allowed up to your room. I was there at the same time as Selva and Ismay N-P as she was before her marriage to Selva( see previous post). To be reminded of old friends from our small set , the two lads Clive and ?, Hilary, Margaret A , Sally, Katherine B and sister K. Fortune and the lovely Irish lass, Breda brought back fond memories. We always went down to the canteen before starting shifts and were served with the thickest porridge imaginable. Yes the building was old even then in the early 1970’s but some of the talking treatments and community ethos were leading edge in their day.

  46. June 18, 2020

    I used to visit my Uncle here in the late 80s and I must say that the thought of St Clements does not make me feel at ease although it does bring back varying feelings of nostalgia for my long gone Uncle. The imposing front entrance of the building to my young eyes was something to be afraid of and that fear and sense of unease has never left me, I believe that it’s a mixture of the poor souls of time gone by and those who were in current need that my young mind could not comprehend (I still experience this feeling now when I visit certain places), my Uncle was never the same after spending time here, along with that and the unpredictable nature of some of the more acute inpatients, I remember particularly an ex-soldier who used to march continually on the spot inside the front entrance door as if he were still on guard, I was fascinated by him as he seemed completely harmless yet terrifying at the same time (does that even make sense!) it was always a fascination to me along with the thought that this could befall any of us at any time! although my Uncle is long gone and I have not returned for probably 30 odd years this place has left a lasting impression on me that I still can’t really explain to this day. One thing is for sure though and that is I couldn’t live here even if you gave me all the money in the world!

  47. Steve Davidson permalink
    January 8, 2021

    I trained as a nurse at St Clements ( RGN/ RMN ) between 1981 – 5 and worked on most of the wards These photos bring back a flood of memories – good and bad – a real institution – I’m sad that I didn’t keep in touch with the people I trained with – would love to be in touch

  48. May 24, 2021

    Wow! This thread about St Clements has really brought back memories!
    I was a student nurse on the Intigrated nursing course, which meant you trained in psychiatric nursing and general nursing concurrently, between 1971 and early 1976. I had many placements at St Clements over this period, plus one long stay placement at Goodmayes hospital in Essex.
    My first placement was on Pinney ward. Obviously I felt nervous about what to expect, but the ward sister had a brilliant attitude and told me just to speak to the patients as I would anyone else. From then on it was easy to form a therapeutic relationship. The patients spent time playing card games, going on outings and attending OT sessions, as well as individual sessions with psychiatrists, but a lot of the time they were just with us and we chatted, listened and tried to be supportive. On that ward we even put on a show for the whole hospital, patients family and friends and staff. It was a wonderful example of patients and staff collaborating together. I have many happy memories.
    Coburg ward was a locked ward where patients were more closely supervised to prevent them harming themselves. Again the Sister and staff on the ward had a fantastic attitude, and helped me learn to cope with any difficult situations. We did ECT on this ward, which has become controversial since then, but everything was done meticulously and patients were treated with such care. I can remember some patients with chronic depression coming in and begging for the treatment because it was the only thing that helped them.
    I worked twice on Lansbury ward, which was ahead of it’s time being run as a therapeutic community. There were group meetings of staff and patients every day, and I learnt a lot that helped me as my career developed. I remember working with a severe case of puerperal depression where we had to look after the mother and baby too..
    I spent time in the OT department. I think it was quite innovative. I remember they had kitchens and helped patients with cooking and daily living tasks before they went back into the community. They ran relaxation classes on Lansbury ward, and I remember having to take these classes myself. I still use some of those techniques to this day.
    I spent time with the psychiatric community team, again very advanced for it’s time, so saw a lot of how people lived in the East end at that time.
    I recall watching Princess Anne’s wedding in the nurses home at St Clements, and many lively discussions in the staff dining room. I remember Ismay P – in fact met my first husband through her, and our third daughter is also called Ismay!
    I learnt such a lot at St Clements and throughout my training I totally think it set me up for life. I understand some patients and relatives on this thread have bad memories having recently had a relative admitted to a psychiatric hospital it is always a dark period in their lives, but I truly believe there was a kindness and professionalism at St Clements.
    I went on to live in Scotland and trained as a
    Health visitor, a job at did until retirement a few years ago.
    Must come down and visit all these old buildings, although I won’t recognize Whitechapel, Mile end and Stepney as they are today.

  49. Selva permalink
    February 15, 2024

    Amazing, just looked at this St clements, spitafield and saw Margaret. V’s entry. I thought itbwas Margaret. C. Ah well.. It was Clive and Edwin. You must be well retired by now. AS for Carolyn. B am still scraching my memory but sweet you named your childbafter my ex Ismay. Bye for now snd take care. Write if able, where is breeda these days and Clivy. Will check spitafield soon.

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