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From the archive: Queen Mary open's new outpatient building in 1938

The Mayor of Shoreditch leads Queen Mary through a parade of Mildmay nurses.
The Mayor of Shoreditch leads Queen Mary through a parade of Mildmay nurses.

The original Mildmay Hospital building was a relatively small one in comparison to other important London hospitals, having a complement of 50 inpatient beds in three wards, with an outpatient department that was always busy.

Opened in 1892 to accommodate 15,000 patient visits a year, by the mid-thirties, the outpatient department was trying to meet the needs of 52,000.

The need for an extension to the outpatient department was acute, and in 1938, thanks to the generosity of supporters of the hospital, a new outpatient department opened, including additional consulting rooms, a women’s surgery, an operating theatre and a large waiting hall.

Cheering crowds as Queen Mary arrives in SHoreditch

In May 1938, Queen Mary visited the hospital to open the new Outpatients, drawing national attention to Mildmay. Her visit was a huge public occasion, with the narrow, cobbled streets around the hospital lined with cheering crowds barely kept in check by the police.

Queen Mary toured the hospital and afterwards took tea in the nurses’ dining room. She expressed great interest in everything she saw, and asked whether the new extension was opened ‘free of debt’. Although more than £11,600 was raised to construct the new building, there was a shortfall of £3,400. Mildmay continued its fundraising campaign to secure the balance.

Police hol back the crowds as Queen Mary arrives at Mildmay

Queen Mary visits with patients in Mildmay Hospital

It’s not clear whether the hospital was ever able to clear its overdraft, as in 1939, the country went to war. During the Second World War, the hospital’s inpatient work was ‘curtailed’, but its outpatient department stayed open to care for the sick and the injured of the East End, so heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe.

After the War, in 1948, Mildmay joined the NHS, which most likely meant it could benefit from State investment. Although the NHS closed the hospital in 1982 at the end of a round of closures of smaller, ‘cottage hospitals’, it reopened as an independent charitable institution once again in 1985, and to this day, serves the NHS by providing specialist services such as rehabilitation for patients with HIV-related neurological conditions and the homeless population of London.

Mildmay is part-funded by the NHS, which contracts us to provide specialist services. We rely on donations and fundraising to supplement this NHS funding - which does not meet all the costs of running a modern hospital. Charitable support is the only way we can continue to provide quality care to people living with HIV/AIDS and the consequences of homelessness.

Without the support of the public and many charitable trusts, foundations and churches, we would not be able to offer our vital services and care to those who need it most.



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