The old General Lying-In hospital in Lambeth

Do you remember last Monday I wrote about the Leake Street tunnel of street art?   Well there is a good reason why the street carries that name and that is because it is just round the corner from the old General Lying-In hospital which was created at the behest of Dr John Leake.

The General Lying-In Hospital was an initiative of Dr John Leake, a physician, and the site chosen was on the north side of Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth, then on the outskirts of London. Its foundation stone was laid in August 1765 and the facility opened as the Westminster New Lying-in Hospital in April 1767.

With a view to expansion, the governors bought a lease of a plot of ground with 100-foot frontage on the east side of York Road, Lambeth in the early 1820s. The new building was designed by Henry Harrison and was built at a cost of about £3,000. On 22 September 1828, the minutes record that “On Friday Morning a Patient was delivered of a Son in the New Hospital and the Committee met this day in the new Hospital for the first time.” The facility was incorporated by royal charter as the General Lying-In Hospital in 1830. A new ward and a training school for midwives was established in 1879.

The famed Joseph Lister became consulting surgeon in March 1879 and Sir John Williams and Sir Francis Champneys were appointed physicians the following year. Two houses on the north side of the hospital were converted into a nurses’ home (i.e. staff accommodation) in 1907; this facility was re-built between 1930 and 1933. The hospital was evacuated to Diocesan House, St Albans during the Second World War, but returned to Lambeth and joined the National Health Service under the management of St Thomas’ Hospital in 1946.

The hospital closed in 1971 and in subsequent decades the building fell into a state of dereliction. Happily it was restored and refurbished in 2003 at a cost of £4.27 million financed in part by a grant from the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. Since March 2013 the building has comprised part of the Premier Inn Hotel Waterloo, though I have never been fortunate enough to have a look around here. The modern elements of the hotel were nominated for the 2013 Carbuncle Cup for bad buildings and sadly I have been fortunate to visit there!

The Lying-In hospital which is just across the river from the Houses of Parliament as you might be able to guess from the road sign.

The Lying-In hospital which is just across the river from the Houses of Parliament as you might be able to guess from the road sign.

If you’re wondering what Lying-in means, it doesn’t refer to having a bit of extra time in bed one morning as we use it today and is actually archaic term for childbirth.  Lying-in refers to the month-long bed rest at one time prescribed after giving birth to a child whether for the health and well-being of the mother or as is still the case in some parts of the world for cultural/religious reasons.

As with the Leake Street tunnel, the Lying-In hospital is one of the places we visit in my new Lambeth Walk Tour 

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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