Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1986.
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'St. Mary Abbots Hospital', in Survey of London: Volume 42, Kensington Square To Earl's Court, (London, 1986) pp. 343-364. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol42/pp343-364 [accessed 1 March 2024]
CHAPTER XXII - St. Mary Abbots Hospital
The plot in Marloes Road immediately north of Lexham Gardens, now containing St. Mary Abbots Hospital, has been continuously occupied since the mid nineteenth century by a number of institutions catering for the poor and sick not only of St. Mary Abbots parish, Kensington, but also of the adjacent parishes. It was the centre of parish provision under the Poor Law Act of 1834 from the middle of the nineteenth century until the creation of the National Health Service in 1948. Its rather complex history is shown most clearly on figure 139.
The History of the Site
Initially the northern part of the site was developed by the Kensington Board of Guardians as the Kensington workhouse, and the southern part as an out-parish workhouse for the Joint Vestry of St. Margaret and St. John, Westminster. In due course, the Westminster parishes were incorporated in the large St. George's, Hanover Square, Poor Law Union, and their site sold to the Kensington Vestry for the expansion of the Kensington workhouse. This site therefore contained the major provision for the poor of Kensington, though there was also a workhouse for the 'able-bodied poor' at Mary Place in the northern part of the parish, which also housed a number of men from adjacent parishes like St. Marylebone.
In 1844 the site was an eight-acre plot known as Broomfield, recently occupied as a market garden by John Thomas Foster, with a cottage in the south-west corner, and the Kensington Sewer running across it in an open ditch from South End. (fn. 1) It was purchased in 1832 for £1,600 by Robert Gunter from George and Georgiana Battye, their inheritance from John Battye, who had acquired it in 1793. (fn. 2) It was approached only by a cartway from Barrow's Walk, a north-south route which occupied the southern end of modern Marloes Road, a street with a somewhat confusing history. (fn. n1)
The Kensington Parish Workhouse 1846–69
In 1778, the Kensington Vestry had built a workhouse to the design of Thomas Callcott in Butt's Field on land belonging to the Campden Charities (now part of Kensington Gate). (fn. 3) Under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, a Board of Guardians was set up in 1837 to cater for the west London parishes of St. Mary Abbots, Kensington, St. Luke's, Chelsea, Fulham, Hammersmith and Paddington, increasing the pressure on the Kensington workhouse, (fn. n2) and leading to friction both with adjacent occupiers in Hyde Park Gate, (fn. 4) and with the Campden Charities, owners of the site. In 1841, a separate Board was established for St. Luke's, Chelsea, and in 1845, a Fulham Union for Fulham and Hammersmith, and a separate Board of Guardians for Paddington.
The Kensington Vestry considered the problem, and adopted the advice of a special Committee who advised that to continue with the existing leasehold building would be more expensive, and that the parishioners should 'raise a sum of money (say £12,000) for the purpose of purchasing a freehold site, and erecting a new Workhouse thereon'. (fn. 5)
However, a 'long and violent struggle' over the best course for the Parish continued between the Guardians, who wished to build a new workhouse, and a party on the Vestry, who wanted to continue to rent the old. (fn. 6) The dispute rumbled on until work had started on the new building, culminating in deputations to the Poor Law Commissioners, and threats of petitions to Parliament. (fn. 7)
The Acquisition of the Site
The Board considered a number of sites including the northern part of Broomfield, an orchard adjoining Gloucester Road belonging to Thomas Broadwood, who refused to sell, leasehold property belonging to H. B. Alexander, and some two acres with a dwelling house 'in the Earl's Court Road' belonging to George Yates, but decided on Broomfield in March 1846. (fn. 8) The Poor Law Commission advised them that the most satisfactory solution was a new workhouse, and that one adequate for the needs of the parish could be built for about £10,000. The Guardians looked at the thirty-five metropolitan workhouses recently built for various sums ranging from £4,761 to £17, 499, to accommodate 300 to 500 persons, and decided that a workhouse for 400 would cost the parish £8,974 11s. 8d.
An anonymous letter to the Poor Law Commissioners, from the owner of 'two small cottages in North Row Earl's Court', attacked the choice of site suggesting that sewerage was non-existent and that the Guardians were economizing, ending with the comment: 'To a Parish rapidly increasing in wealth, the cost of a site to enable the decrepid and worked up Poor to finish their days in a pure atmosphere, and the Children to arrive at maturity in health and strength ought not to be a consideration'. (fn. 9)
In July 1846 the Vestry wrote to the Poor Law Commissioners saying that the site for the new workhouse was 'situated in a low and swampy locality through the centre of which an open Common Sewer passes, and surrounded by open ditches communicating with the sewer, producing thereby a most noxious effluvia'. (fn. 10)
The Board of Guardians responded by consulting Sir James Clark, the Queen's personal physician, and by asking the local architect, John Blore, to survey Gunter's land for building. The two reports were satisfactory; Blore stated that the upper soil at the western extremity was 'a hard, dry, stiff clay, and excellent brick earth varying to a mixture of compact gravel at the northern side where there is generally a good gravel foundation and excellent building sand …'. Clark took the opportunity to comment unfavourably on the existing poorhouse in Butt's Field, which had no sewer, no water laid on, and stood on ground saturated with cesspools. There was too little space for the proper classification of the inmates, or to provide them with room for air and exercise. (fn. 11)
The proper classification of the inmates was a prime requirement of the Poor Law Commissioners, and indeed the story of the site in Marloes Road is its gradual division to serve the various intentions of the Commissioners for the different classes of inmate. These were originally seven, children under seven years of age, and six segregated classes of older children and adults—boys, and girls from seven to thirteen, able-bodied youths and men under sixty, and women and girls of the same age group, and aged and infirm men, and old women. Various advances in Poor Law theory and practice like the increased interest in sanitation, the provision of receiving wards equipped with bathrooms, separate 'Foul' and 'Itch' wards for contagious diseases, together with workshops for the ablebodied for repetitive labour like picking oakum, splitting firewood, and breaking granite for road-metal, all made demands for expansion. Extra space was also required because of the annual increase in the population of Kensington.
Despite problems over the provision of an access road, the parish went ahead with the purchase, acquiring some four acres of back land in May 1847 together with land to make a forty-foot roadway. The following year a strip of land on the west of the site, fronting Barrow's Walk (modern Marloes Road), intended by Gunter as a site for 'small cottages', was purchased by the Board, partly to avoid the creation of more inadequate housing. It was used as a site for parish offices for the Relieving Officer and a porter's lodge, and also partly as a garden. Finally in 1873, a small portion of the land on the north-west of the site originally intended for a roadway was conveyed outright to the Guardians. (fn. 12)
The Building of the Workhouse
In May 1846, the Board advertised for plans from architects for the new workhouse. The cost of the building was not to exceed £9,000. 'Plans, Elevations and Sections, giving the figured height of Stairs and Dimensions, upon a scale of 1/8 of an inch to the foot together with a specification and estimate to be sent to the Clerk's office. That a Premium of £50 will be paid to the Architect of the most approved Plan unless he be employed to superintend the erection of the Workhouse, in which case he will be paid the usual percentage.' A second premium of £20 would also be paid.
There was to be no cellarage, the ground floor was to be five feet above the level of the ground, and generous room heights were stipulated in line with the prevailing interest in ventilation and the Poor Law Commission's insistence on the provision of so many cubic feet per inmate. The building was to face south and a suitable room accessible from all parts of the building was to be provided for Divine Worship. (fn. 13)
On 10 July the Guardians chose four plans 'superior to the rest' from the twenty-three sets submitted. (fn. 14) A belated attempt to add those of 'Veritas' at a cost of £13,700 was rejected on the grounds that the estimate was too high, and finally the plans by 'B(Black)' and 'Labore et Honore' were chosen. It is not without interest for the student of the Victorian architectural competition that 'B(Black)' turned out to be the local architect, John Blore, of 8 Michael's Place, Kensington, who had approached the Board with plans and a suggestion for a site immediately the idea of building a new workhouse was mooted. (fn. 15) 'Labore et Honore' was Thomas Allom (1804–72) of 14 Hart Street, Bloomsbury. (fn. 16)
'Veritas' heard of the proceedings, and wrote to the Board saying that an article in the Daily News had predicted the workhouse would cost £30,000 before it was finished as estimates always doubled—he undertook to finish it for the estimate he had given. (fn. 17) Blore got cold feet when asked to stand by his estimate, and withdrew altogether, pointing out to the Board of Guardians that he had been '… 20 years in the study and practice of my profession of an architect', and that the criticism to which he had been subjected '… appears to me like the action of a school master to his junior pupils, and were I a mere Tyro just entering on my profession I could scarcely have expected to have been thus tutored'. (fn. 18) The Builder took a rather different view, congratulating the Board on having called Blore's bluff and having rejected his plan when it became clear that it would cost nearly double the stipulated £9,000. (fn. 19)
The Board turned to Allom who guaranteed that his scheme would cost only £9,000. His original plans do not seem to have survived, but the Poor Law Commissioners' comments throw some light on them: their major objection was that neither a 'parish office', from which outdoor relief could be administered, nor a chapel had been included, though they accepted that these could be the subject of a separate contract. They wanted two receiving wards, separate lavatories for each class instead of the general 'wash-house' for each sex, and they wanted the boys' and girls' yards extended. They also suggested that it was 'impolitic' to provide accommodation for married couples who could be given outdoor relief. They were not convinced that Allom's scheme could be executed for £9,000. (fn. 20)
Problems of access also troubled the Building Committee, since Robert Gunter's ability to provide a carriage road from Earl's Court Lane via Stratford's Lane (now Stratford Road) was called in question, and he had to undertake to provide access from Gloucester Road instead if called upon, guaranteeing a sum of £2,000 to pay for this. At the same time the Board made arrangements for a new sewer to replace the existing open stretch of the Kensington Sewer.
On 17 October 1846, the Building Committee decided to advertise for tenders in The Times, The Builder and the Engineer and Architect's Journal, receiving a total of sixteen tenders, all over £13,500. Allom blamed the increase in cost on a number of stipulations made by the Poor Law Commissioners, improved sanitary provisions and the effect of the new Building Act.
Nevertheless, in April 1847 the Board decided to go ahead, and further changes resulted in a satisfactory tender being received from Thomas Burton of Aldersgate Street (later of Burton's Wharf, Commercial Road, Lambeth) for £11,020 including the drains to the sewer, waiting rooms for the Poor, an office for the Relieving Officer and some additional ornamental brickwork. (fn. 21)
It was June before work commenced but by the end of the year Burton had been gazetted bankrupt, apparently because of his involvement in 'railway business'. However, his assignee, his brother John Burton of Moorgate Street Chambers, was prepared to carry on the work under his supervision. It was not completed until the following year and to the original contract price of £11,020 had to be added £264 for the sewer, £584 for a wall to enclose the lane, architect's and solicitors' fees, and other extras totalling some £2,500, and further works of an essential nature like boiler and steam apparatus, 'Cundy's Stoves', and ordinary register stoves, and other fixtures and fittings. 'Extra Buildings' cost a further £600. The Board do not seem to have held this escalation of cost against Allom, with whom their relations remained excellent. (fn. 22)
The Kensington workhouse earned praise from an unlikely quarter. C. O. Parnell, reporting to the London and County Bank on the value of the property opposite, observed that though the presence of a workhouse normally 'deteriorates all the property immediately around it … I am however bound to observe that the present Workhouse from its Palace like appearance and ornament [sic] ground in front so far from detracting from the value of this land positively adds to it. . . .' (fn. 23) The main workhouse building (Plate 137a), a large part of which remains, known as Stone Hall, was a handsome three-storey building in the Jacobethan style, with a taller 'E'-shaped central block, complete with projecting wings enlivened by bay windows and crowned by Flemish gables with stone finials. Ornament was necessarily limited by the strict restraints of the Poor Law Commissioners, but Allom used a lively red brick for the body of the building, cleverly substituting cheap white bricks for the more orthodox stone quoins on projecting wings and round the windows and doors. An open arcade emphasized by diaper brickwork in red and white running along the ground floor served the double purpose of providing access to the different parts of the building, and uniting the composition visually. He made as much play as possible with his elaborate patterned chimneys in moulded bricks and stone finials to the gables, and the whole was crowned by a distinctly eclectic open turret which housed a clock. This last extravagance caused concern to the District Surveyor, who called in the Official Referee, Professor Hosking, whose report expressed doubts about the structural soundness of the design. The turret was finally allowed, (fn. 24) but the District Surveyor was vindicated by its later collapse which may be briefly recorded here. It first caused concern in 1875 when the stonework was found to be unsafe and needing repair. (fn. 25) In July 1887, the then architect to the Guardians, Henry Hewitt Bridgman (1845–98) was instructed to take it down, and to provide plans for rebuilding. (fn. 26) However, the Guardians finally rejected his design in wood and iron in favour of instructing John Wells, a jeweller, of 12 Kensington High Street, to clean and re-fix the clock in the gable of the building, where it is today. (fn. 27)
Behind this impressive façade, almost a parody of a country house, were two large courts, divided by the body of the workhouse, and flanked by lower, more utilitarian buildings (fig. 139). In the front was the Master's accommodation—parlour on the ground floor, and drawing-room and sleeping accommodation above, with separate access from the ground floor. Together with the Matron's accommodation it provided a solid division between the male and female paupers. Behind was the dining-hall, now demolished, a two-storey building with a balcony, which served also as a chapel in the early years. On the south side were the women's wards and dayrooms, with the laundry and other workrooms for their use. Similarly the men's wards on the north side were linked to workshops where book-binding, shoemaking, tailoring and other useful trades were carried on.
A modest infirmary, subsequently extended, occupied the north-east corner of the site. The frontage was occupied by an extensive garden, laid out in a formal design, with a detached porter's lodge and 'receiving room' flanking the gateway in the north-west.
Thomas Allom presented the Guardians with a drawing of the workhouse as it would '… appear when complete … set in a very handsome Gilt frame', which is still in the possession of the Hospital (fn. 28) (Frontispiece). Other views show it as rather less pretentious but still impressive and indicate the pride and sense of responsibility felt by the Guardians of Kensington parish, who seem to have taken more interest and made more provision for their poor than did adjacent parishes.
In May 1860 the Guardians asked John Blore to furnish plans and specifications for enlarging the infirmary. Four new wards were requested, two on each floor, to occupy the space 'between the present Infirmary building and the convalescent ward over the Coal Cellar'. Blore's plans were presented to the Board and duly approved, but no record of their appearance has survived. The building was erected by J. T. Pickard, of 4 All Saints' Place, Caledonian Road, Islington, the lowest tenderer at £1,557. (fn. 29) Despite a 'long frost' the new buildings were completed by April 1861. (fn. 30) Some six years later, the Guardians were again forced to enlarge the infirmary, and in November 1867 they advertised for tenders for a 'temporary iron infirmary' to be erected to the design of Thomas Allom. (fn. 31)
The Workhouse of the Joint Parishes of St. Margaret and St. John, Westminster
The plot immediately to the south became the site of the workhouse of the parishes of St. Margaret and St. John, Westminster, whose Joint Vestry discovered, as did other central London parishes, that it was impossible to find an adequate site within their own boundaries.
The creation of Victoria Street by the Westminster Improvement Commissioners necessitated the demolition of the existing workhouse in Dean Street (modern Great Smith Street). (fn. 32) The idea of a new workhouse was welcomed on the grounds that it would 'afford the opportunity of obtaining a new building at a comparatively small cost to the Parishes, with the requisite arrangement for proper classification, instead of the present workhouse, many parts of which are old and dilapidated'. The major problem was to find a suitable site and prolonged negotiations followed. Finally, a compromise was agreed by which the Commissioners were to provide for the erection of two workhouses for the parishes, one on the site of Vandon's Almshouses in Petty France to accommodate the 'casual poor', and a much larger one in Kensington with room for 650 paupers. (fn. 33)
In April 1850, the Commissioners offered the Vestry the site immediately to the south of the Kensington workhouse, described as 'three acres of Freehold land well drained by a new sewer and free from all claim in respect of any right of way'. (fn. 34) Together with a site in Horseferry Road, this was offered in lieu of the £5,000 payable as a first instalment of compensation, and was to be followed by a further £10,469 less five per cent, and another £1,000 for disturbance, when the existing workhouse was surrendered within eighteen months.
The land was purchased in June 1851 from Robert Gunter by the Commissioners on behalf of the joint parishes. (fn. 35) The following month the parishes appointed a committee to procure plans for the new workhouses. They sent a deputation to visit several newly built metropolitan workhouses with a view to considering the best plans, types of accommodation and cost.
The Building of the Workhouse
Four architects were approached to produce plans in competition: H. A. Hunt (1810–89), the well-known surveyor of Hunt and Stephenson, who had already acted for the parishes over the valuation of the old workhouse; William Richard Gritten, a surveyor of 15 Parliament Street, who later worked for St. George's Union; Stephen Henry Ridley, later architect of the Metropolitan Benefit Societies' Asylum in Ball's Pond Road; and James Howell, a local architect who withdrew in a huff. (fn. 36) The three remaining competitors presented their plans to the committee in August 1851.
Hunt was the winning architect, and he provided an explanation of the ideas behind his design. His priorities were 'Simplicity of Arrangement, Complete Classification and Inspection, and finally, Perfect Ventilation, both natural and artificial'. He went on to expound his views on 'classification': 'I have … arrived at the conclusion, that in order effectually to carry out a judicious and moral Classification of Paupers, that the Children should be entirely separated from the Adults, and that these latter should be subdivided into three Classes of each sex; with this view I have suggested that a separate establishment should be erected for the Children, … by which the contamination of evil habits and bad language is avoided, and an opportunity given for that moral training, which in due time will be the means of rescuing the offspring of the pauper population from their hitherto degraded position, and of fitting them for a faithful discharge of those social duties which in all probability their parents have either neglected or despised.' (fn. 37)
His plan was symmetrical and indeed extremely simple: fronting the lane, now Marloes Road, was the schoolhouse, with the main workhouse and a separate infirmary building behind (fig. 139). Economy was an important matter, and the proposed style, a stripped-down Italianate neo-classical carried out in grey stock bricks, relieved by white or red bricks in the 'Projections and Cornices', was certainly calculated to embarrass the ratepayers as little as possible.
The schoolhouse (Plate 137b) incorporated the entrance to the workhouse, which consisted of a central archway large enough for horse and cart to pass, with a porter's room and a waiting-room. The three-storey central block contained most of the accommodation, with single-storey wings behind, containing the children's lavatories and water closets. The accommodation was strictly segregated—boys on the north, supervised by the Schoolmaster, girls on the south together with the Schoolmistress's room.
In the three-storey workhouse building proper on the south of the site overlooking the gardens, the living accommodation was clearly defined. The first class, in Hunt's words 'being chiefly the aged and decrepit', were given the whole of one wing at either end of the building, with dayrooms on the same floor. The second class were given accommodation on the first floor with a ground-floor dayroom. 'The Third Class', he went on, 'we suppose will be principally those who will be engaged in necessary labor [sic], such as cleaning, repairing, cooking and so forth, and to them therefore the Airing Courts in rear [next to the Kitchen] are appropriated', together with sleeping accommodation on the second floor.
The ground and first floor of the return wing on the west were given over to the chapel, with separate access on the first floor for the children, while the east wing provided accommodation for eight married couples, 'so as to enable the Guardians to grant indulgencies to those who have toiled honestly together through life, and yet are compelled to seek an Asylum such as this in the evening of their days'.
The floor construction was on a 'fire-proof principle with wrought Iron Girders and Tile Arches', while the staircases were constructed out of Yorkshire stone (fig. 140). Hunt considered that corridors were expensive and useless, so he planned open wards, with a complex artificial ventilating system, but dependent on windows for the great part of the fresh air. The tendency of the inmates to close the windows as soon as supervision was removed led to the breakdown of the system and to the muchdreaded lack of ventilation in the wards. (fn. 38)
The dining-hall and kitchens stood apart from the rest of the workhouse, part of a long line of single-storey buildings forming the northern boundary of the Westminster site. On either side of the lofty dining-hall, flanked by the boiler-house, scullery and kitchen, were store rooms, larder, bread store and coals, and then a cart-shed and workshops, tailor's, shoemaker's and carpenter's on the men's side, and washhouse, laundry, mangling room, and drying room on the women's. A grim appendage to these low wings was the group of refractory cells, some ten feet by six.
The infirmary and lying-in wards (Plate 139a) were separated from the main building in the south-east corner of the site, and were planned to take some eighty-four patients, just over ten per cent of the total, a proportion of sick to healthy paupers which was to alter radically later in the century. A little group of 'Probationary' wards was tucked away on the cramped southern boundary of the site. In the opinion of the architect, the whole of this complex could be erected for some £21,000.
The Poor Law Board had some comments on the accommodation provided, but Hunt reported to the Vestry that he had 'been able to embody all the requirements of the Commissioners without interfering with the integrity of the design'. (fn. 39)
The probationary wards were omitted from the plan and in due course the area was laid out in a garden, the Vestry planting shrubs like privet, laurel, and aucuba, purchased from John T. Foster, of Devonshire Cottage, Wright's Lane, the former occupant of the ground. (fn. 40) In 1859, the Vestry purchased a triangular slip of ground, some threequarters of an acre in extent, on the south side, from the Edwardes estate, which too was laid out as a garden. (fn. 41)
The building was put out to tender, and the successful tenderer was George Myers of Belvedere Road, Lambeth, a builder better known for his association with the Roman Catholic church architect, A. W. N. Pugin, but whose firm carried out a large number of secular contracts as well. Myers' original tender of £22,374 was above the architect's estimate, but the price was lowered by discreet omissions. (fn. 42) The final cost was £21,294, to which the Vestry had to add the payment of £691 7s. 6d. to Burbidge and Healey for baths, cooking apparatus and laundry fittings, and certain extras like the £70 contribution to the new sewer being constructed by the Kensington Guardians, £100 for the house and materials already on the land, and fees to the architect and clerk of work. (fn. 43)
Myers fell behind with the work, a matter of concern since the workhouse in the line of Victoria Street had to be vacated by Christmas 1852. On 7 December, the clerk of works reported that much of the plumber's work remained to be done, and that the carpenters had several floors to lay including the laundry. The other trades were fairly advanced and the whole, he surmised optimistically, might be finished by 31 December, though the painting of walls and ceilings could not be done till next year because the walls were too wet.
The building was handed over on 24 March 1853, four months late, though Hunt, in a special report on the matter, mentioned in Myers' defence that the price of bricks had risen in the spring, that he had had difficulty in obtaining stone, and had had inclement weather to contend with. It was not until the beginning of April that the Master of the workhouse could send 'four able-bodied male paupers supplied with Soap, Pails, Brooms, Mop etc.' up to Kensington, to be followed a day later by ten female paupers, to prepare the buildings for occupation.
The equipment of the workhouse was very up-to-date, mains water was laid on from the West Middlesex Water Company rather than from the well originally intended, and sixteen baths were provided, though some members of the Committee thought this might be excessive for 650 people. The buildings were lighted by gas from the first, with apparatus supplied by Henry Lewis for £278. (fn. 43)
In the event, the Guardians had to reinstate some of the omitted works, notably the 'probationary wards' which were ultimately sited near the dining-hall. They were the subject of a separate contract with T. D. Carter, of Dartmouth Street, Westminster, for the modest sum of £313 8s. 10d. The Governors of the Poor, the parish body actually managing the workhouse, whose relations with the Joint Vestry did not always run smoothly, carried out the painting and papering themselves for £15. (fn. 44)
Only the infirmary has survived intact ( Plate 139a), together with the east wing of the three-storey workhouse block. From these one can admire the quality of the brickwork and the ingenuity exercised to provide an interesting building at minimal cost. Distinction is given by fourcourse brick quoins, and a ground floor rusticated in bands of brickwork four courses high and projecting half a brick's width. The windows, either single-light sliding sashes or three-light with brick mullions, are surrounded by raised brickwork and four-row brick quoins. The original east wing of the workhouse, notably easier to maintain after 125 years than the post-war buildings, is now used as a nurses' home.
The Governors of the Poor took the opportunity to promulgate a new set of rules and regulations for the management of the two workhouses, governing the lives not only of the inmates but also of the officers. At Kensington these were the Master and Matron, as was usual in early days of the Poor Law, a married couple, William Burridge, originally a coal merchant of Crooked Billet Wharf, 12½ Millbank Street, a former Governor of the Poor and a Vestryman, (fn. 45) and his wife Eliza. The other officers were chaplain, schoolmaster and schoolmistress, porter, cook, two nurses for the sick, and one nurse for the children. The schoolmaster was resident, and was responsible for the entire management of the boys, for supervising their getting up and going to bed, for reading 'family prayers' with them, as well as for their lessons and discipline, a fairly onerous schedule which the first appointee failed to carry out: he had to be dismissed for inefficiency. The schoolmistress had the same duties: her charges also learnt reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as needlework, 'making and mending', but it was emphasized that the prime objective was to fit them for domestic service. (fn. 46)
As in Kensington, the paupers were classified into the usual seven categories, and communication between these classes was kept to a minimum except in the case of elderly and infirm married couples who were allowed to share sleeping accommodation. Even in the case of families, meetings were supposed to be held in a room set apart for the purpose. (fn. 47)
A number of minor improvements were made to the fixtures and furniture of the house on the advice of the Poor Law Inspectors, who concerned themselves with the comfort of the poor, on one occasion directing the parish to provide a picture alphabet, 'ball frame', animal prints and a clock face for the children's lessons, and illustrated books for the elderly to read. (fn. 48)
The erection of the new workhouses did not solve the problem of accommodating the poor for the Joint Vestry of St. Margaret and St. John. Though it is clear from the cholera statistics of 1854 that Kensington was healthier than Petty France, there were problems in having two establishments which led to lack of flexibility, and greater running costs. In addition, the accommodation in Westminster itself was inadequate, particularly for 'the vagrant and undeserving poor', such as tramps. The Governors of the Poor were always concerned that the needs of 'our own permanent poor' should not be prejudiced, and though they tried initially to keep the Kensington house for them this was not always possible.
A scandal about the management of the Kensington house in 1861 revealed too close a relationship between solicitor, medical officer, and matron. The parishes of St. Margaret and St. John were later attacked by The Lancet, not so much for the management of the house, as for the lack of interest taken in their remote poor. (fn. 38) By 1864, the joint parishes had to appoint another Committee of the Vestry to 'provide proper wards and other places of reception for destitute Wayfarers, Wanderers or Foundlings'. This body came to the conclusion that the two houses together were inadequate and recommended the purchase of land in St. Ermin's Hill from the Dean and Chapter of Westminster.
In the event, in 1870 the joint parishes were brought into the St. George's, Hanover Square, Union, which in 1876 extended its much admired infirmary in the Fulham Road, now St. Stephen's Hospital. (fn. 49) This was ready to accommodate the 'In Door Poor' by Lady Day 1878, and with their removal the connection between the Westminster poor and the Marloes Road site came to an end. (fn. 50)
The Creation of the Kensington Infirmary
The Lancet Report and the Metropolitan Poor Law Act of 1867
In July 1865, The Lancet published a series of reports on the state of metropolitan workhouse infirmaries, which was to have profound repercussions on the whole question of workhouse provision in London, including the development of the Marloes Road site. 'The present workhouse system', it observed, 'is a thing of shreds and patches, which has slowly grown up to its present form with all manner of miscellaneous additions and alterations from time to time'. The Lancet could see the potential benefits of change both to the poor and to society generally. 'With proper management, what magnificent clinical hospitals might our workhouse infirmaries become', it pointed out, also underlining the waste of public resources in treating the temporarily ill poor as permanently destitute paupers. It examined the situation of the infirmary buildings, the condition of the wards, their medical officers, their nursing staff, or more particularly the lack of it, the management of patients, and the diet provided, and came up with some horrific conclusions. The report divided the metropolitan workhouse infirmaries into three classes—those totally unfit, those which might be improved, and a third class, in which both the Kensington workhouses were included, of 'infirmaries which possess a really good situation, and are so far built upon the main principles of scientific hospital construction that they might be developed into first rate hospitals, serving the needs of large districts for the treatment of the more important and acute diseases, both surgical and medical'.
Even where the buildings were in reasonable condition, the infirmary patients were still treated as paupers subject to the Master of the workhouse, not under the control of the medical officer. Many of the infirmary doctors were part-time, underpaid, often forced to find drugs and dispense them at their own expense, and 'habitually placed in an entirely false position, by having twice or three times as many persons under their nominal charge as they can possibly do justice to'. (fn. 51) The quality of nursing care was another problem: though some workhouses, including both of those on the Kensington site, had trained paid nurses, others relied entirely on pauper nurses, the majority of whom were 'aged and feeble, and past work, or have strong tendencies to drink'. (fn. 52)
The Lancet's criticisms of the nurses were supported by those of Louisa Twining, a remarkable woman concerned with the training of nurses, who had given evidence to the Select Committee on Poor Relief in 1861, recommending the employment of educated women in workhouse infirmaries—'the one hopeful remedy is a higher and constant supervision by educated, conscientious and responsible women'. (fn. 53)
Following The Lancet's revelations, two Government inspectors were appointed, and on their report was based the Metropolitan Poor Law Act of 1867 which provided for infirmaries separate from the workhouses in administration, buildings and staff. Though the staff of workhouse infirmaries were still inferior in status to those working in the voluntary hospitals, this was the first official recognition that workhouse infirmary patients were hospital patients, and entitled to the advances in accommodation, nursing and medical attention being promoted by sanitarians like Douglas Galton, and by Florence Nightingale. (fn. 54)
The President of the Poor Law Board, Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy (1814–1906), summed up this change: 'There is one thing that we must peremptorily insist on, namely, the treatment of the sick in the Workhouses being conducted on an entirely different system; because the evils complained of have mainly arisen from the workhouse management, which must to a great extent, be of a deterrent character, having been applied to the sick, who are not proper objects for such a system.' (fn. 55)
This Act had profound effects on the development of the Kensington site. Under it not only were workhouse infirmaries given a higher standing, there were also a number of changes in workhouse administration. The metropolitan workhouse parishes and unions were divided into six districts under the Metropolitan Asylums Board, whose responsibility it was to provide specialized accommodation for lunatic and other psychiatric cases, for infectious diseases, and to combine other infirmary accommodation so that care for the sick poor could be carried on in fewer and better establishments. In 1868 the idea of a Kensington Asylum District was mooted to cater for the sick poor of Kensington, of St. Margaret and St. John, and some of the other western districts. A proposal to build a large new infirmary on the boundary between the two workhouses so alarmed the ratepayers that the district scheme was abandoned. This led to the absorption of St. Margaret and St. John into the larger, wealthier and better-run St. George's Union. The parish of St. Mary Abbots, Kensington, remained independent.
The Building of the Kensington Infirmary
By 1869, the Medical Superintendent of the Kensington workhouse, Dr. John Belgrave Guazzaroni, was again warning the Guardians against overcrowding, and in October a special committee was set up to consider the problem. (fn. 56) In fact, the Guardians had to undertake a series of additions and improvements throughout the next twenty years, as the growth of the pauper population in Kensington, and newer methods of tending the sick, dictated.
The Infirmary and New Workhouse Wing of 1871–2
With the collapse of the scheme for a District Infirmary, the committee decided to combine both objects, and to build an infirmary and another workhouse wing for the able-bodied poor. They held a competition, early in 1870, between three nominated architects, Saxon Snell (1830– 1904), then practising from 36 Chancery Lane, a former pupil of James Pennethorne, and beginning to make a name as a specialist in institutions, and Gordon Stanham (1828–1902), an architect and surveyor with an office in Gresham Street, who had trained at Somerset House under C. J. Richardson and in the office of Hunt and Stephenson, and had just finished the nonconformist schools in Allen Street (see page 391). (fn. 57) The third, and successful, competitor was Alfred Williams (1832–1922), of 17 Onslow Gardens, the District Surveyor for South Kensington. This commission seems to have laid the foundation of his practice, largely in Kensington buildings. These included a house in Hyde Park Gate, the rebuilding of Harrod's store after a fire in 1884, and the London and County Bank premises in Kensington High Street in 1884–5 (see page 76). (fn. 58)
The original scheme was for the accommodation of 181 sick men and boys, 141 sick females, 48 aged women and 240 able-bodied women, to be accommodated in four large and one small isolation blocks. Williams won the competition, because his scheme at £22,500 plus £3,000 for 'engineering', that is boilers and heating equipment, was the cheapest. (fn. 59) He stipulated to the committee that he would like to work with Snell, which supports the statement in Snell's obituary in The Builder that Snell was the architect. However, though Snell might have been concerned in the design, Williams is the only architect whose name occurs in the Guardians' records, and Snell did not include any mention of the building in his work on workhouses and institutions. (fn. 60)
As in all Poor Law matters, the advice and authority of the Board had to be sought before building began. The plans were vetted for the Poor Law Board by Uvedale Corbett and Dr. John Henry Bridges, one of the best known and respected Inspectors who served from 1869 to 1894. (fn. 61) They demanded numerous improvements and the final building provided for 300 able-bodied poor in the workhouse, accommodated in large dormitories of 33 beds with two large dayrooms, together with an enlarged dining-hall holding 410 instead of 210 as originally planned. The infirmary accommodation was increased to 375, with a far higher proportion of 'single wards' for the sick, a more expensive but more hygienic arrangement. Each ward contained 32 beds, recommended by Florence Nightingale as the optimum number for supervision by a single nightnurse. The vast majority of beds provided for 'chronic cases'—96 for men and 128 for women—and for 'bad legs'—32 for men and 48 for women—with smaller wards for 'itch' and venereal cases. The lying-in accommodation was kept separate (fig. 141). (fn. 62)
There was a laundry costing £1,000, a new basement kitchen, with enlarged coal vaults and subway access, four refractory cells for unruly inmates, and a day and night nursery for 32 children.
The greater importance of the new infirmary was reflected in the provision of accommodation for a resident medical officer, and for ten nurses, who were to be paid professionals rather than able-bodied paupers drafted in to look after their companions. There was a new dispensary to serve both infirmary patients and the poor on outdoor relief in southern Kensington. At the same time the Guardians were employing the architects James Broadbridge and Josiah Houle to design a dispensary for the northern part of the parish on ground at Mary Place, Notting Hill, purchased from William Bird. (fn. 63)
The revised plans estimated at £29,000 (fn. 61) were approved by the Poor Law Board at £33,233 in April 1870. The successful tenderer was John T. Chappell of Little George Street, Westminster.
Williams chose a Jacobethan dress for his two fourstorey pavilions, separated internally, as one served as the infirmary and the other was part of the workhouse to which it was connected. He proved rather less ingenious than Allom at providing architecture at workhouse prices, but what architectural pretension he could afford is expressed on the long northern elevation overlooking the main entrance to the workhouse, and on the gable end to Marloes Road (Plate 138a). For these façades he used expensive red bricks diapered with blue brick, while the southern 'back' elevation is carried out in cheaper red bricks interspersed with London stocks, with white bricks used on the return angles to give the illusion of stone quoins. On both elevations he used Portland stone lintels, mullions and transoms for the high Elizabethan windows which light the wards from both sides. The building was arranged as two eight-bay pavilions, each served by a fivestorey staircase block, placed slightly off-centre. These provided access for each ward from the stairs, supplemented by hydraulic lifts, (fn. 64) and did away with the need for corridors. The staircases provide a strong vertical emphasis for the northern elevation, each having twin towers with an open balcony on each floor, most now filled in. The towers were crowned with an ogee roof surmounted by decorative ironwork. The windows throughout the towers are round-headed with cement arches, except for the three-light Elizabethan window on the top storey. The balconies were all designed with elegant Jacobethan columns, some supporting an open strapwork tympanum. The staircase towers were surmounted by a heraldic achievement with the royal arms carved in stone, a motif which also appears on the gable end overlooking Marloes Road. Flemish gables over two of the windows on the north elevation, and a band of diaper work between the second and third floors, give interest to what is otherwise a repetitive and dull façade.
Residential accommodation was provided for infirmary staff on the Marloes Road front in a building altogether more domestic in scale with lower storey heights. A buttressed chimney stack and some diaper brickwork are used to give distinction to its Marloes Road elevation. The chimneys on the main building, also carefully detailed and grouped to give interest, have since been removed.
Williams provided an elaborate system of ventilation shafts so intimately linked with the chimneys that defects manifested themselves by 1877. He readily offered to help in putting matters right but claimed that any problems were due to the builder's failure to follow his drawings correctly, pointing out that it was the duty of the clerk of works, an employee of the Guardians, to supervise the builder and to check the 'details of concealed work'. (fn. 64)
In March 1872, the workhouse inmates were transferred to their new buildings, (fn. 65) though the infirmary was not complete till June. Inevitably there were a number of extras, which both delayed the completion of the job and inflated the final cost to the Guardians. (fn. 66)
In May 1871 the total anticipated bill for the improvements was £33,500, which the Guardians planned to borrow from the Provident Clerks' Mutual Life Assurance Association on mortgage. (fn. 67) Considerable embarrassment was caused to both Board and architect by the extra cost of the infirmary contract, which by November 1872 totalled £43,174, including a final payment to Chappell of £38,780, commission to Williams of £2,000, and a payment to the clerk of works of £262 10s. The Board was forced to borrow more money, some from private sources, including the Rev. A. D. Hilton of Uxbridge Moor, who lent them £1,300 at four-and-a-half per cent. (fn. 68)
The workhouse and infirmary were visited by two Persian princes in 1873, apparently an uncle and a cousin of the Shah. They expressed their approval of the buildings by writing in the visitors' book: 'All praise to the nation which thus provides for its sick and indigent poor'. (fn. 69)
The acquisition of the splendid new infirmary brought other troubles for the Guardians. It appears to have been too large on completion, and they considered various solutions, including using only one of the new kitchens, and advertising for the sick poor of neighbouring parishes. (fn. 70) Staffing the new infirmary also caused problems, since against the advice of the Local Government Board the Guardians wished to continue the joint management of the two institutions, appointing the Master of the workhouse House Superintendent of the infirmary, in charge of stores. (fn. 71) They were finally persuaded to appoint a separate House Steward by the Local Government Board, who also took a firm line over the question of nursing staff. The separate Matron's department was headed by a new Matron of the infirmary, now to be appointed on her own merits rather than, as traditionally, because she was conveniently married to another member of staff. The original intention had been a complement of ten paid nurses, and the Board insisted that these should be supported by twelve assistant nurses, rather than by 'able-bodied paupers', pointing out that the Metropolitan Poor Law Act was 'intended to ensure the appropriate treatment of [sick indoor paupers] in a building, and by officers specially adapted for and trained to supply their special wants'. (fn. 72) The first full-time residential Medical Superintendent, Dr. W. B. Whitmore, was appointed at an annual salary of £250, together with a dispenser, aided by a dispensary boy, who also filled prescriptions for the assistant medical officers looking after the sick 'outdoor poor' of southern Kensington.
New Buildings 1872–8
The next two years saw the expansion and improvement of the workhouse buildings, sometimes inspired by directions from the Local Government Board, who took over from the Poor Law Board in 1871, occasionally by suggestions from the architect, who proposed, for instance, that the Guardians should build their own bakery. (fn. 73) Even before the new blocks for the infirmary and the workhouse were complete, the Building Committee was putting forward new projects. In January 1872, they produced a report recommending that Williams should prepare 'plans in block' for the division of the grounds into airing yards, for a new lodge for two lodge keepers, a waiting-room and two Relief offices for the two Relieving Officers responsible for the southern part of the parish, together with accommodation for the Clerk and Registrar, then at 1 Devonshire Terrace, on the western side of Marloes Road. These were to be erected in 'one group in the front of our ground but not before the western front of the new Infirmaries'. The existing offices and lodge were to be converted into receiving wards (fig. 141). (fn. 74)
A site for the new offices was found at the north-west corner of the site on land originally intended for a road, and fresh negotiations with the Gunter estate were required. (fn. 75) Permission to build over the sewer was obtained from the Metropolitan Board of Works. Williams's solution was to unite the two sets of offices, thus effecting economies, and the new plans were sent to the Local Government Board for approval at the end of 1872. Approval was duly given, and tenders received early the following year. The successful tenderer was Hook, of Cowley Wharf, Kensal Green Road, at £3,000, a figure which rose to £4,373 including architect's commission. (fn. 76) A temporary iron lodge on wheels was purchased for the porter's use for £26. (fn. 77)
Though Williams carried out a number of smaller commissions for installing boilers and so forth, (fn. 78) when the idea of a new Board Room was mooted in 1876, other architects were asked to send in plans. The Clerk selected the brothers Arthur Harston (1841–1912) and Christopher Harston, of 15 Leadenhall Street, and F. F. Mullett, of 16 Essex Street, Strand. The Chairman of the Building Committee, Joseph Stanislaus Hansom, architect son of the Roman Catholic architect Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1803–82), criticized the treatment of Williams, who refused to compete against the other two. Williams alone was asked to prepare alternative schemes for altering the existing Board Room, or for building anew, (fn. 79) but at a later meeting the Board decided to reject the idea of alteration, and to invite competitive designs from Williams, the Harstons, and any other architects nominated by members of the Board. Henry Radclyffe of 18 Harcourt Terrace, a solicitor, suggested the name of M. E. Power, of 14 Redcliffe Street, partner of the firm of Power and Wheeler, later of 63 Queen Victoria Street, (fn. 80) who was ultimately successful with his design, estimated at £1,400. (fn. 81) When Williams finally challenged the Board over their intention to use his designs in June 1876, he was paid off with twenty guineas rather than the £40 for which he had asked. (fn. 82) The contractor for the new Board Room was a builder called W. Smale, of 57 South Lambeth Road, whose second tender of £1,533 was accepted. He went bankrupt the following year, possibly because the Board were late in paying their bills. (fn. 83)
When the need for married quarters became pressing in 1876, Power and Wheeler were asked to prepare plans for quarters for six married couples to be erected on the site of an existing 'iron house' used as wards for women. (fn. 84) Smale was again the successful tenderer, at £688 10s. (fn. 85)
The Board had no preferred architect at this time, since in May 1877, when the Board Room and new offices were completed, and planting was being carried out round the new married quarters, they turned to the two Harston brothers, and William Christopher Leonard, an architect of Wellington Square, to submit plans for new vagrant wards at Mary Place in northern Kensington.
The lack of a 'dead house' not only for the workhouse and infirmary but the parish of Kensington generally was an irritant to the Guardians, who felt that the parish authorities were 'evading their evident duty' and that they should provide one, and not bring alien corpses into the workhouse. (fn. 86) Finally, in March 1878, the Harstons were asked to supply plans for a new mortuary 'to be fitted up in the most approved method', a modest building executed by Cook and Company, at a cost of £182. (fn. 87)
The Chapel of St. Elizabeth
The original specification for the workhouse had required not a chapel but a suitable room in which divine worship could be held. Pepperell, visiting the workhouse in March 1872, found the provision totally inadequate, pointing out that the Reverend George Frost, part-time chaplain to the institution for the last twenty-five years, received only £60 a year. He had been appointed when the inmates numbered 150, since when they had risen to more than 700. (fn. 88) However, on 28 February 1872, the Visiting Committee had already recommended the appointment of a full-time chaplain. (fn. 89) He was the Reverend J. Pilditch, a middle-aged Cambridge graduate with seven children, appointed in October 1873, formerly curate of St. Mary's Walton, but then living at II Church Buildings, Clapham. (fn. 90) Frost retired from his post at the workhouse somewhat ungraciously two years later, having extracted a year's salary from the Guardians. (fn. 91)
The formal duties of the first full-time chaplain were no more onerous than those of the part-time. He was required to reside within a mile of the workhouse, he had to conduct a service every Sunday for the officers and such paupers 'as may be disposed to attend', and he was to be responsible for religious instruction in the workhouse, and for providing comfort to those dangerously ill. (fn. 90) However, in due course Pilditch put forward a scheme for more elaborate observances, which included a full service every Sunday, Good Friday and Christmas Day at 9.30 a.m. for the workhouse paupers, and at 4 p. m. for the infirmary officers and such of the residents as could attend. On Wednesday evenings there was to be a service for the workhouse, and on two afternoons a week services in the wards of the infirmary. This last provision caused trouble with the Roman Catholic Guardians who demanded that Roman Catholic patients should not be required to be present unless their 'instructor' was given the right to hold a service immediately after his Anglican colleague. This interdenominational friction may explain why the Anglican and Roman Catholic patients were segregated in different wards as late as 1896. (fn. 92)
In June 1874, one of the Guardians, John Frederick France, of 2 Norfolk Terrace, Bayswater, (fn. 93) a member of the Society of Antiquaries and a local J.P., offered to provide a chapel 'to be erected free of all cost to the Guardians'. His wife, Eliza France, had left £2,500 in her will for the purpose. (fn. 94) Though the Guardians set up a Chapel Committee to manage the matter, France chose his own architect, A. W. Blomfield, and his own builder, Dove Brothers. (fn. 95) The site, just to the south of the receiving wards on the north of the gateway, had to be approved by the Board, as had the plans, but both these matters proceeded very smoothly.
The drawings of the chapel have survived, though the building itself was demolished about 1974, after damage during the Second World War (Plate 138b). It was a modest building in the Early English style, built of London stock bricks with some red brick and some stone banding, some ninety feet long overall by forty feet wide (fig. 142). There was no tower, but a bell was provided within a flèche, sited above the junction of chancel and nave. The nave was lit by four lancet windows, and the chancel by a two-light window on the south side. On the north of the chancel was the vestry, with its separate entrance, and an adjacent organ chamber. The organ was provided by Messrs. Jones, who were called in to repair it in 1890. (fn. 96) The chapel was entered through a south porch, with a carved stone relief of St. Elizabeth over the entrance. It is significant that when Blomfield suggested replacing the stone mouldings round the doorcase by brick, this was done for the exteriors of the windows and for the door to the vestry but not to that for the main entrance.
Blomfield and his patron included stalls at the west end for the officers, and an elaborate treatment of the east end with three Early English lancet windows with stone mouldings and separate stone shafts, piscina, credence and sedilia. The sanctuary was approached by six steps and enclosed by a wrought-iron rail, similar to that provided for Hughenden parish church, on which Blomfield was working at the same time. Encaustic tiles for the east wall and for the chancel were supplied by Godwin of Lugwardine Tile Works, near Hereford, a maple leaf design in red, black and yellow bordering the chancel floor of plain red tiles, and a yellow rosette on red with black banding for the east wall. The font, of which the designs have survived (Plate 138d), had an elaborately carved top of Caen stone, on a shaft of Devonshire marble, with a Portland stone base. (fn. 97) One member of the Board, John Durrant, suggested that the final cost was double the original estimate, (fn. 98) but Dove Brothers' records give the total as £3,565. (fn. 99)
The contract drawings were ready at the beginning of 1875, and the foundation stone was laid on 17 April. It was intended that this should be done by Prince Leopold, fourth son of Queen Victoria, and later Duke of Albany (1853–84), but in the event it was done by his sister, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria (1848–1939). (fn. 100)
The matter of consecration, which France wanted, posed several problems. In November 1875, the Local Government Board declared that if the chapel was dedicated in pios usus it would have to be conveyed to Trustees, leaving the Guardians with no control, while the Guardians could only alienate the chapel under the provisions of an Act of 1835 which required its sale for a valuable consideration. (fn. 101) The chapel consecration committee came to the conclusion that 'while being unanimously of the opinion that the consecration of the new Chapel … was desirable, they find the legal difficulties are such as to oblige the Committee reluctantly to advise the Board to abandon the proposal'. (fn. 102)
The chapel was opened on Tuesday, 21 December 1875, with a service at 11.30 a.m. for visitors with a sermon preached by Archdeacon Augustus Hessey, the offertory being collected for the Samaritan Fund. An evening service was held for the inmates at 6.30 p.m.
Failing full-scale consecration, France pinned his faith to an explicit Deed of Gift, declaring that he did 'hereby hand over and present the said Chapel together with the Furniture, Ornaments and Utensils thereof to the Guardians and their successors trusting that the Worship of Almighty God will be continually celebrated therein according to the Doctrines and usage of the Church of England to the comfort and edification of the aged and afflicted poor'. (fn. 103)
The increasing importance given to the religious welfare of the inmates is indicated by the succession to Pilditch. He resigned in 1880, having obtained an Essex living in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and the Vicar and Rural Dean of Kensington, the Reverend and Honourable Edward Carr Glyn, later a royal chaplain and Bishop of Peterborough, stepped in. On being consulted on the choice of a suitable successor, he offered to take the chaplaincy on himself, 'performing the duties practically', as he explained, 'by means of his curates'. (fn. 104) This unusual arrangement was only reluctantly sanctioned by the Local Government Board, who insisted on the appointment of a named deputy, the Reverend Dr. Rice. (fn. 105)
By 1893, when the Reverend Alfred Howarth Blake was chaplain, the Guardians found it necessary to put an end to certain High Church practices about which some members had complained, establishing a modus vivendi which they hoped would meet the views of all sections of the Board. The chaplain was asked to abandon the procession of the choir outside the chapel, the use of a processional cross on certain occasions, and the use of wafer bread, though he was allowed to use lighted candles at early morning communion in recognition of 'the good and earnest work' he was doing. (fn. 106)
The Roman Catholic population of the two establishments were catered for by a Roman Catholic 'religious instructor', only given the title of Roman Catholic chaplain in 1892, (fn. 107) usually a priest from the Pro-Cathedral, Our Lady of Victories. After complaints that conversions to the Roman Catholic faith were taking place, one instructor, the Reverend W. C. Robinson, was called in and reminded that he was only to minister to professedly Roman Catholic inmates. The Medical Officer was then requested to segregate Roman Catholics and Protestants as much as possible. (fn. 108) The Roman Catholic chapel was converted from disused wards, relocated on several occasions as the building operations of the Guardians dictated. There were regular bills for redecoration, and in 1887 the Guardians purchased a new font for £6. (fn. 109) During the extensive alterations of 1893, the workhouse architect, T. W. Aldwinckle, included a design for a new Roman Catholic chapel, but the Guardians suggested that the former infirmary kitchen and scullery freed by the new premises could be converted for £300, (fn. 110) a contract finally tendered for at £655. (fn. 111) The chapel remained there in the basement between the 'A' Block and the night nurses' accommodation south of the original Allom workhouse until the Second World War.
In 1897 a Roman Catholic religious instructor was appointed to minister to the able-bodied poor at Mary Place, the first appointee being the Reverend Joseph Tasker of St. Francis of Assisi, Pottery Lane. (fn. 112) The nonconformist inmates were not identified or given their own pastor and weekly service until 1895, when thirty-seven were recorded in the workhouse. No formal meeting place ever seems to have been provided for them in either the main workhouse or Mary Place. (fn. 113)
The Acquisition of the Westminster Site
On the removal of the Westminster paupers to their new home in the Fulham Road in 1878, the Joint Vestry of St. Margaret and St. John was free to dispose of the Kensington site. The parish property committee, 'having regard to the large amount of speculative building in progress in the immediate neighbourhood' and a 'recent heavy failure in the building trade' (probably that of Messrs. Corbett and McClymont on the Redcliffe Estate), (fn. 114) decided not to sell but to lease the buildings to the Kensington and Chelsea School Board for the pauper children of the parish. They hoped to get an annual rent of £2,500 but settled for £1,800 for the next two years. (fn. 115)
In 1869, together with the parish of St. Luke's, Chelsea, Kensington had joined the North Surrey School District, somewhat reluctantly because, as the parish with the highest rateable value, they were liable to subsidize the poorer parishes. By 1876, the school buildings at Anerley, near Penge, were overcrowded, and Kensington, in an unwilling partnership with Chelsea, formed a separate school district for which they built a school at Banstead. Twenty-seven acres of land were purchased for £7,400, and on it a complex of twenty-three cottage homes, together with administrative buildings, infirmary, laundry, swimming-bath, bakery, chapel and shop were erected, accommodating some 400 children. The Banstead establishment cost the parish over £73,000 before it was opened in September 1880, and it was considerably extended again between 1884 and 1894. Together with a pioneering establishment at Marlesford Lodge, King Street, Hammersmith, which was a reception centre for the children, where health and educational progress were assessed before their dispatch to Banstead, this provided for all the pauper children of the parish. After its opening in 1883, as few children as possible were lodged in the workhouse, being sent to Marlesford Lodge for health checks, the elimination of body vermin and the treatment of ophthalmia and other contagious diseases, and where necessary specialized remedial teaching. 'This School acts as a sieve, or stepping stone to the union school at Banstead, preventing unsuitable children from being admitted there, and at the same time avoids the necessity of retaining children for any length of time in the workhouse.' (fn. 116)
Lack of adequate accommodation was a recurring complaint from both the Master of the workhouse, and the resident Medical Officer. By November 1880, they reckoned the workhouse and infirmary population had increased by ten per cent over the last four years. (fn. 117) This demand rose regularly every winter, much more so in times of unemployment or epidemic. During the smallpox outbreak of 1871, the Board had to erect a temporary 'iron hospital' to accommodate thirty patients at the stoneyard at Notting Hill, purchased from Kent, a builder of No. 297 Euston Road, at a cost of about £310. (fn. 118) From time to time other accommodation was found by the Guardians, like Kensington Hall, Fulham, taken in 1869 and again in 1880, (fn. 119) or Plaistow Infirmary. The relocation of elderly paupers who were not very mobile, but who did not need nursing, from the infirmary to the workhouse, where there appeared to be more room, was one solution, as was the moving of some to Mary Place. Though a few able-bodied men were kept in the stoneyard at Notting Hill, increasingly the paupers in the workhouse were elderly or infirm, and needed some medical supervision, if not nursing. (fn. 120)
Under this pressure from overcrowding, it was not surprising that the Kensington Board of Guardians cast an envious eye on the Naboth's Vineyard to the south. In August 1880, afraid of the coming winter, the Chairman, the Reverend C. J. Darby Reade, Rector of St. John's Church, Holland Road, proposed that the Guardians should take the adjacent premises, about to be vacated by the transfer of the Kensington children to Banstead. The Vestry of St. Margaret and St. John turned down the request, (fn. 121) forcing the Kensington Guardians to consider building on the north of the site, where the Harstons thought that a block of 60 beds might be built for £2,500, and at Mary Place, where 240 patients could be accommodated for £20,000. (fn. 122) Finally, Kensington lost patience and decided to apply to the Local Government Board for 'compulsory powers of purchase' of the premises, (fn. 123) pointing out the greater convenience and, above all, the greater economy of running the premises on the same site.
The St. George's Union, and the Westminster Vestry, whose main motive seems to have been a desire to replenish parish funds by selling the land for building, capitulated in December 1880. It is not clear whether it was because of the threat of Local Government Board intervention, or whether the market for building land in Kensington was still in a state of collapse. Their price, to which Kensington agreed, subject to the Local Government Board, was £55,000 plus interest from the time of taking possession. (fn. 124)
Expansion and New Buildings 1880–96
Kensington was a wealthy and responsible parish, whose record in the field of public health seems to have been creditable. Dr. Thomas Orme Dudfield, formerly the Medical Officer of the St. Margaret and St. John Workhouse, became Medical Officer of Health for Kensington, and his annual report was frequently commended by The Lancet. The correlation between ill-health and poor living conditions was a matter of concern to the Guardians, and in April 1874 the Board passed a resolution proposed by Captain de Kantzow, to the effect that 'the unhealthy condition of the dwellings of the poor is a source of sickness and pauperism, and the necessity of enforcing such measures as will secure healthy homes for the people should be earnestly represented to the Government'. (fn. 125)
The demands made on Poor Law authorities show a distinct trend in the course of the century. In Kensington, as elsewhere, though the pauper population had more than doubled between 1849 and 1886, the infirmary grew much more than the workhouse. Because of the deterrent nature of the 'workhouse system' and the uncongenial tasks provided, the able-bodied poor increasingly avoided the workhouse. The population of the workhouse itself became made up largely of the aged and infirm, geriatric and chronic sick cases. The proportion of infirm was higher since some chronic sick were usually accommodated in the workhouse. The 'test' workhouse at Mary Place, North Kensington, complete with a stone-breaking yard, open also to the able-bodied of other parishes, held only some thirty-eight Kensington paupers. The average nightly occupancy of the Marloes Road workhouse in 1886 was about 730 persons at an annual cost to the parish of £5,682 2s. 6d., and of the infirmary about 470 patients at a cost of £8,118 18s. 4¼d. A further £757 16s. 3¾d. was expended on outdoor relief. The economic absurdity of the Poor Law is amply demonstrated by the relative costs per head: £7.70p. a year for each workhouse inmate, £15 for an able-bodied pauper in the 'test workhouse', and only some £2 per head more for the infirmary patients at £17.30p. (fn. 126).
The Lying-in Wards
In 1886, a post-natal fatality from puerperal fever led the Guardians to reconsider their provision for maternity cases. (fn. 127) They rejected the idea of mere redecoration of the existing wards, and in March 1887 commissioned their current architect Henry Hewitt Bridgman (1845–98), trained in his native Torquay and then building up a City practice, (fn. 128) to prepare alternative designs in brickwork at an estimated cost of £2,350, and in wood framing with corrugated iron at £2,200. They selected the former, and instructed him to prepare the necessary 'elevations, section, etc. for a building of a perfectly plain character' to be sent to the Local Government Board for approval. The lowest estimate was £3,067 from Messrs. Lamble, obtained in April 1888. (fn. 129) The new wards were erected on the southern side of the Westminster buildings, provoking some objections from the inhabitants of Lexham Gardens, who protested about the smoke nuisance from open fires, asking the Guardians to use gas heating. This was done in the sculleries, but the Board refused to do it for the wards, presumably because open fires were held to provide necessary ventilation. The Guardians were uncongenial neighbours because the workhouse and infirmary complex boasted a steam engine for the laundry and cooking, as well as a disinfecting apparatus for the wards, both of which provoked further complaints. (fn. 130)
The new wards, more interesting for their planning than for their architecture, proved very satisfactory, as the Medical Officer reported in April 1890. They were designed expressly to avoid cross-infection, with two parallel oblong wards, some 50 feet by 27, each holding five beds on each side of the room. They were 75 feet apart with an administrative block in the middle, detached but connected by an open corridor. The walls and floors were 'impervious' and were respectively painted (rather than distempered) and polished (rather than scrubbed) to keep them so.
'Heating', explained the Medical Officer to the Guardians, 'is maintained by means of hot water pipes and two open fires; ventilation admirably regulated by air bricks, Tobin's tubes and windows between the beds. The furniture is reduced to a minimum and is washable. Bedsteads are of iron with woven wire spring mattresses, and the bedding consists of pine shavings saturated with eucalyptus oil enclosed in ticking, macintosh, under and upper sheet, blankets and open work counterpane. The pine mattress, even if slightly soiled, is emptied, shavings burnt, and ticking disinfected and washed, otherwise after purification used for two cases. When all beds in a ward have been used, the ward is sealed and fumigated with sulphurous acid, then cleansed while opposite ward is in use. All linen is soaked in creolin [sic] before going to the laundry.' (fn. 131)
Even the maternity staff — a midwife, two probationers, who paid £10 each for their training, and a ward maid— were segregated from the other infirmary staff. The result was that during the previous year there had been no cases of puerperal fever or of septic poisoning. Of the 147 deliveries there had only been four maternal deaths and five still births, a particularly good record since 117 of the births were illegitimate and unmarried mothers were always more at risk.
Part of these extremely plain brick buildings, thoroughly renovated internally, are now used as the Nolan laboratory block.
The Administrative Block and the New Infirmary Wards
In October 1888, the Infirmary Committee, concerned about overcrowding, appointed a sub-committee to report on the best solution, and to ask Bridgman to prepare plans. (fn. 132) It was the unsatisfactory nature of the administrative and staff accommodation which particularly worried the Guardians, and Bridgman proceeded with plans for a £20,000 block. (fn. 133) The sub-committee reported in July 1889. Their solution was to retain 'A' Block for the patients and for as much administrative and staff accommodation as possible. New administrative accommodation was to be built on the site of the old Westminster schoolrooms and children's accommodation facing Marloes Road, with infirmary accommodation for 100 patients erected to the south on the boundary with Lexham Gardens. They recommended that Bridgman should be paid off, and six architects asked to enter a limited competition with a first prize of one hundred guineas and a second prize of fifty. The architects suggested were William Jacomb Gibbon of 36 Great James Street, WC; H. A. Hunt (1838–1904) of 45 Parliament Street, son of the architect of the original Westminster workhouse; (fn. 134) the brothers A. and C. Harston of 15 Leadenhall Street, then entering on an extensive practice as asylum and hospital architects; (fn. 135) Delissa Joseph (1859–1927) of 18 Basinghall Street; (fn. 136) Francis James Smith, 50 Old Broad Street; and the Manchester firm of Pennington and Bridgen, 8 John Street, Adelphi. The name of T. W. Aldwinckle (1844– 1920) of East India Avenue in the City was added to the list by Mr. Bostock, seconded by the Reverend C. J. Darby Reade. He was already well-established as a workhouse architect, having designed the infirmary for St. George-inthe-East and the Lambeth and Clapham workhouse. (fn. 137)
The sub-committee made various proposals for reorganizing the existing accommodation and for new accommodation, later formalized into the requirements for the competition. These included using the existing matron's house for the night nursing staff, and putting staff into the 'separation block' for contagious diseases together with some patients. Beds were allocated to sufferers from the following diseases: timea, impetigo etc. 18 beds; ophthalmia 20; measles 8; scabies 8; whooping cough 11; chicken pox 11. The sub-committee suggested that the new administrative block should contain accommodation for Medical Officer, Steward, and Matron, Assistant Matron and Needle Mistress, a committee room for 20, offices for Matron and Medical Officer, and the Chief Steward, individual bedrooms and sitting-room for 14, later 16, staff nurses, cubicles for 10 male and 10 female servants, separate mess rooms for 50 to 60 medical staff, for male and female servants, and a clothing store and a general office for the Steward. A gate porter's lodge with a twenty-foot frontage to Marloes Road was also needed. On the south side of the new administrative block there were to be new wards for 80 to 100 men, but the architects were asked to design for maximum utility since the Infirmary Committee were aware that the 'iron house' built some thirty years ago was not likely to last much longer. (fn. 138)
The directions to the competitors were clear: 'The elevations of any new buildings facing the Marloes Road should as far as possible harmonize with the existing buildings, but with this exception every part of the buildings is to be of the plainest description consistent with being thoroughly substantial and suitable for the purpose required.' (fn. 139)
A special committee met to consider the entries, which had been assessed by Thomas Worthington (1826–1909), best known as the architect of the Albert Memorial and other buildings in Manchester but also responsible for Chorlton Union Hospital (1865), and for the Royal Bath Hospital, Harrogate (1888–9). He had been engaged by the Infirmary Committee at the suggestion of the President of the R.I.B.A. He received 75 guineas for assessing the eight plans, two from Aldwinckle and one each from the others. Aldwinckle won the competition with Delissa Joseph as runner-up.
The Guardians considered three schemes for the ward pavilions: a scheme with the administrative block and with only one pavilion would give them 102 beds for £19,000, with two pavilions 218 beds for £25,000, and with three 334 beds for £32,000.
These figures included some extras on the original specifications such as teak floors instead of pine, and slightly longer wards holding 26 beds instead of 24. The largest scheme would have given the infirmary 750 beds, while returning some 150 to workhouse use, but finally the decision was taken to build two pavilions only. The Local Government Board made some suggestions about a new operating room, and finally refused to sanction the proposed pavilions of four floors each, instructing the Guardians to substitute three pavilions of three floors, a solution which worried the infirmary authorities because of the loss of both present and potential accommodation. Tenders were not actually received until 1892, being opened on 14 January in the presence of Aldwinckle, who prudently came furnished with a letter explaining why the prices would be higher than those estimated some two years before. The lowest tender came from Messrs. Johnson of Wandsworth Common, at £38,560, and to this had to be added fees for the architect of £2,000, quantity surveyor £500, clerk of works £300, preliminary plans, valuation of site, premiums to competitors, a figure for contingencies of seven-and-a-half per cent—a total of £45,000. This estimate had to be approved by the Local Government Board, and the Guardians hoped to borrow from the London County Council. (fn. 140) About one hundred patients were sent to the redundant Plaistow Infirmary in the Borough of Poplar to make room for the demolition of the street frontage of the Westminster workhouse. (fn. 141)
Architecturally Aldwinckle followed Allom's lead, and his prominent administration and residential block continues the Jacobethan tradition. The building has two symmetrical gabled wings containing houses for the Medical Superintendent and the Steward, with a single-storey entrance block in the middle, whose appearance was drastically altered in the post-war period. Again red bricks are used on the entrance elevations with broad bands of terracotta tiles moulded with a sunflower above the firstand with a Tudor rose above the ground-floor windows, an element used again above the dormer windows (Plate 139b). The chimneys are freely arranged to suit the domestic use of the building, and, together with the Flemish gables topped with stone finials which crown the ends of the building and the dormer windows, are arranged to provide as much interest as possible.
The mullioned and transomed windows are designed in a variety of widths from single bays for service rooms to five bays for the Medical Officer's drawing-room. The rear elevations are inevitably more economical, built in stock bricks with the only ornament some white bricks used for the chamfered corners at the rear of the building. Moulded bricks are again used for the chimneys, but the more traditional sliding sashes are used under simple brick relieving arches instead of the Jacobethan windows of the street elevations.
Aldwinckle's designs for the pavilion blocks are more difficult to identify since they have been considerably altered. Originally they were three parallel three-storey blocks, with large single wards holding some 25 beds on each floor. Each block had its own staircase, lift and kitchen, and the water closets and bathrooms are in curious additions on either side of the ward blocks. A single-storey covered way on the ground floor gave access to the three blocks and to the modest 'operating room' placed between two of the blocks. Again plain brickwork and sliding sashes are used for the back blocks, while the elevation visible from Marloes Road boasts a gable-end and ornamental terracotta frieze just below the roof.
There were a number of minor buildings, including a Porter's Lodge, whose frontage to Marloes Road was a matter of prolonged negotiation with the London County Council, who were endeavouring to widen and straighten the road. (fn. 142)
The erection of the Porter's Lodge gave the opportunity
to provide a public drinking-fountain, a project which had
first been mooted in 1874 by the Clerk to the Guardians,
E. H. Draper, who offered to try and raise a subscription
to pay for it, if the Guardians would give their permission. (fn. 143) The project lapsed until 1891, when the Vicar of
Kensington wrote asking the Guardians to allow the erection of a drinking-fountain at the expense of the Church
of England Temperance Society. (fn. 144) The matter then
foundered because the St. Mary Abbots Temperance
Society refused to proceed if the Guardians insisted on
conditions affecting the design. A compromise was agreed
by which the Society promised £30, and Aldwinckle was
to make a design to that price. However, some two months
later a design for the wall of the Lodge was provided by
Phillips Figgis (1858–1948), an architect and designer
trained under G. E. Street and John Belcher. This was
approved by both the Guardians and Aldwinckle, and subsequently submitted to the London County Council in
March 1893. (fn. 145) The drinking-fountain is still extant but
no longer supplied with water. On the wall behind is
engraved an appropriate verse ending with the lines:
Teach them True Liberty
Make them from Strong Drink Free
Let their homes happy be
God Bless the Poor.
Various additions were made to the laundry which was proving inadequate to the demands made upon it. Some friction was inevitable because the workhouse operated the laundry which worked for both establishments. Frequently enlarged and updated chiefly because of the growth of the infirmary, it remained under the control of the matron of the workhouse. In 1891, the complaints about the amount of washing sent over by the infirmary were so great that accord was only partly restored by the intervention of the Guardians. They engineered an agreement by which the number of articles laundered each week per bed was reduced from 21½ to 16, abolishing the use of day or night caps for patients under 60, and banning frilled night caps altogether. (fn. 146)
The opportunity was also taken to create a network of subways between the administrative and service buildings and the ward blocks to provide covered access for stores and food, inmates and patients throughout the site. A number of other technical improvements were added. Hydraulic lifts, supplied by the Hydraulic Power Company, were installed in the new buildings instead of the older manually operated type. (fn. 147)
In May 1893, when it was decided that 'C' Block behind the main workhouse was inadequate, the Workhouse Committee recommended reconstruction rather than repair. Aldwinckle advised this course, suggesting that it could be rebuilt on the site of the existing block, now fifty years old, the stable and part of the married quarters, to provide accommodation for 200 aged inmates for £8,500.
Because of the current high unemployment in Kensington, a deputation sponsored by Lord Thring, a former parliamentary counsel (1818–1907), lobbied the Guardians to use direct labour on the building, and thus employ local workmen. (fn. 148)
However, the lowest tender figure was over £11,000, and the successful tenderers were Johnson Brothers. Reductions were achieved by the replacement of red facing bricks by plain stocks, and the omission of glazed brick dadoes in the dormitories. The result was a plain workmanlike three-storey building with two bays to light the inmates' dayrooms, which has survived despite some damage in the Second World War (fig. 141). (fn. 149)
The Guardians decided to rebuild the married couples quarters also, and Aldwinckle provided the plans and drawings for this, a red-brick building now used as a nurses' home and known as Cavell House, estimated at a cost of £3,700, and executed by Johnson Brothers for £3,450 in November 1894.
The fact that the Committee itself took the decision over the builders rather than immediately accepting Aldwinckle's recommendation was a sign of a growing lack of confidence in their architect due to very grave overspending on the works undertaken since 1890. The Infirmary Enlargement Committee, which had sat since May 1892 under the chairmanship of Percy Wells, one of the most prominent Guardians, was dissolved, and the matter taken into the Board's direct control. A Special Committee, advised by the surveyor, T. M. Rickman of 8 Montague Street, at a fee of ten guineas a day, presented a report in November 1894. This listed some £100,000 worth of recent building work, of which the largest item was the administrative building and the new ward blocks, together totalling some £62,000. 'C' Block cost about £14,000, the new married quarters £3,700, and a number of smaller buildings—the workshops, remand wards, the Roman Catholic chapel and the subways— totalled £3,000. Repairs and extensions to existing buildings, new furniture and so forth, new roads and airing yards accounted for the rest. John H. Rutherglen, the Clerk to the Guardians, took the opportunity to point out that the supervision of £100,000 worth of construction was beyond his usual duties, and was awarded a bonus of one hundred guineas. Both the Vestry and the Local Government Board inquired about the extra expenditure in the course of 1895, resulting in the appointment of another Special Committee to investigate. (fn. 150)
The committee report, when it arrived in March 1896, cannot have made comfortable reading. The Guardians had been forced to extend the infirmary and workhouse by the rise in the numbers of the 'Indoor Poor' from 665 in 1870 (when the population of Kensington was 120,000) to 1,700 in 1895 (in a population of 170,000). However, no great control had been maintained over capital expenditure, and on the administrative and pavilion blocks contract of January 1892, at a tender price of £38,560, Aldwinckle incurred a further £9,133 of extras about which he consulted the Board, and a further £10,258 of which they were unaware. These extras were partly additional facilities like a padded cell, enlarged and more powerful boilers and higher chimneys (necessary as the surrounding buildings caused downdraughts), the subways, new fittings in the mortuary, and partly dearer and more hygienic finishes like harder plastering, pointing in cement rather than mortar, paint instead of distemper in the wards, and polished hardwood rather than scrubbed softwood floors.
'The Guardians were not unnaturally much surprised and annoyed', reported the Special Committee, 'at being unexpectedly called upon to pay so large a sum.' They could, however, comfort themselves with Rickman's assurance that the 'ratepayers have received full value for the £10,000 which had been expended without the knowledge and authority' of the Board, and that the building was 'more substantial in its construction and more perfect in its equipment' than had been contemplated. Under the circumstances their reproof seems very mild: 'Your Committee feel bound to express in the strongest terms their opinion that however desirable these additions, alterations and improvements, may have appeared to the Architect he was wanting in his duty to his Clients, and breaking one of the fundamental conditions of his engagement, in giving orders to the Contractors for their execution without having … given the [Guardians] the opportunity of saying whether or not they considered such additions of sufficient value and importance to justify such a large additional expenditure.'
The report concluded that it was due to excess of zeal on Aldwinckle's part, and was able to explain that he had 'expressed his great regret that in his anxiety to secure a more perfect building than he himself had contemplated in his original Competition Designs, he allowed himself from time to time to give orders for works the magnitude and cost of which he at the time scarcely realised'. 'The Guardians', they concluded somewhat contentiously, 'have bought an experience which they know how to put to account.' (fn. 151)
Though Aldwinckle remained until the extensive programme was completed, even putting in hand further alterations and improvements to the existing buildings, he seems to have been dismissed as official architect. He was asked to repay some £226 to the Guardians for extra costs incurred on the Johnsons' contract because he omitted to warn the Board about a higher schedule of prices agreed with the contractors.
Nonetheless, the Guardians seem to have been very pleased with their new buildings. Initially, they were able to board some hundred paupers from other parishes, first from Fulham, and then from Islington. (fn. 152) But the accommodation turned out to be none too generous, as three years later the problem of overcrowding was again being discussed. This was made more severe by the strict segregation of the inmates, the term used for paupers after 1897, which meant that if the numbers of either sex rose disproportionately, as in a hard winter with much male unemployment, then accommodation throughout the building had to be reorganized.
Workhouse and Infirmary 1899–1929
Undeterred by their recent overspending, in February 1899 a Special Committee advised the Guardians to launch into a new scheme to 'sweep away the old comfortless and insanitary Blocks' known as 'H' and 'L' (the former Westminster Infirmary) and to 'erect a new three-storey block on the site'. 'H' Block, the report pointed out, 'was originally built as a Tramp Shed, … while 'L' Block, now used as a nursery for little children, instead of being as it should, the most cheerful, is about the most dismal draughty and disconnected block on the Workhouse premises'. New accommodation should be provided for twenty nursing mothers and children, twenty children under three years of age, twenty girls 'awaiting removal' to the district schools or to the police court, and some 150 aged and infirm women. (fn. 153)
A group of the Guardians objected on principle to the proposal to rebuild, protesting that mere age was 'a very extravagant idea to admit as a reason for pulling down these buildings; it would imply that about every 50 years all buildings might have to be rebuilt'. (fn. 154) In anticipation of the rebuilding the Guardians had selected a new architect, Ernest Flint (d. 1923), from a short list which included Delissa Joseph, the Harston brothers, and Young and Hall. (fn. 155) Flint, whose practice worked for the Guardians until they handed over to the London County Council in 1930, estimated a figure of between £10,550 and £13,400 for the new building. Curiously enough, the nursery wing suffered shortly after from a serious fire, but was only reinstated, not totally rebuilt.
These extensions necessitated an increase in staff accommodation since all the medical staff were resident at the time, and there was even an attempt to find living accommodation for the chaplain. William Brimblecombe and his wife, Master and Matron of the workhouse, occupied the original accommodation in the centre of the workhouse, and in 1903 he put forward an abortive suggestion to the Guardians that they should build a separate house in the grounds, rather than merely modernizing his existing apartments.
The Guardians made strenuous attempts to raise the quality of their nursing staff. Advertisements for trained nurses in 1880 stipulated that they should be able to read, while in 1895 the Board of Guardians were considering giving the title of 'sister' to nurses in charge of wards because this ensured a superior class of nurse. (fn. 156) By 1892 advertisements were appearing for 'ladies desirous of being trained as nurses … Applicants must be between 21 and 30 years of age, well educated, strong and healthy'. The 1893 extensions led to an increase in the number of probationers, and the school also gave training in midwifery and surgical cases to nurses from other institutions. Specialist staff reflect medical advances, a 'massage sister' was appointed in the 1890s, and a nursery nurse to deal with the nursing mothers and children joined the staff in 1920. (fn. 31)
The growing concern with tuberculosis led to the appointment of a special Phthisical Committee in 1908, which recommended that patients of good character in the early stages of the disease should be sent to sanatoria, while chronic and incurable patients should remain in the Infirmary, where special verandah accommodation in iron and glass was erected for them.
The massive additions of the 1890s satisfied the need for space, and the building works of the last thirty years of the Kensington Guardians' occupation of the site reflect improvements in hospital planning and hygiene, rather than the need to accommodate more inmates and patients. Thus in 1899 new lifts operated by the mains supply of the London Hydraulic Company replaced the existing ones which 'involved an enormous waste of water for each journey'. Electric light was installed in the chapel and Guardians' offices in 1909, in the Infirmary in 1912, but in the workhouse only in 1923. Patent 'Armadek' and 'Doloment' flooring was laid in the wards, and extensive replastering took place throughout the building together with the installation of new lifts and better bathrooms.
During the war of 1914–18 the Kensington Guardians catered for the two adjacent parishes of Hammersmith and Fulham, and also accommodated a number of Belgian refugees from the centre run by the Metropolitan Asylums Board at the Empress Theatre, West Kensington. (fn. 157)
Some changes reflect the improved conditions for the inmates of the workhouse, known as the Kensington Institution after 1912. Thus in 1919, the Master announced his intention of closing the female dining-hall in the old Westminster building and allowing all the inmates to eat together. (fn. 158) In the same year, the ablebodied workhouse in Mary Place was sold to Kensington Borough Council as a housing site, and casual vagrants brought to Marloes Road. One of the entrances was closed, not only to save a porter's wages, but to underline the unity of the service provided by the two establishments. From 1923 onwards, the Infirmary became known as St. Mary Abbots Hospital, and this reflected the desire of the Guardians to improve the service available to the inhabitants of Kensington generally.
The Infirmary was now a general hospital used by the public for all accident cases, and for all cases of mental illness before referral to specialist establishments. These changes were increased by the desire of the Guardians to amalgamate the two establishments, formally expressed in 1927: '… St. Mary Abbots Hospital be developed on the lines of a General Hospital with specialist departments … and … application be made to the Minister of Health asking him to sanction the proposed amalgamation'. (fn. 159) This was partly humanitarian and partly practical since nonpauper patients bitterly resented being sent to the Institution wards to convalesce.
The Mortuary Chapel
In 1923 the decision was taken to improve the postmortem room and mortuary chapel, a building erected in 1892, and recognized as inadequate in 1913. Flint was asked to provide drawings which would incorporate a scheme to redecorate the mortuary chapel. Miss Agnes Mary Alexander, of Aubrey Lodge, Campden Hill, a wealthy Guardian, offered to pay for the chapel employing as her architect, A. L. N. Russell (b.1887) of the firm of Knapp-Fisher, Powell and Russell. He seems to have been responsible for the internal decorations which included a dado with shelf, reglazing of the entrance door, and redecorating in appropriate colours. A Della-Robbia faience plaque and roundels were designed by Harold Stabler (d. 1945), a noted designer and goldsmith who worked with his wife Phoebe at the Poole pottery on important commissions (Plate 138c). This building was reorganized internally after the London County Council took over the Hospital. (fn. 160)
The chaplain, the Reverend A. Lombardini, was able to report to the Guardians in June 1924 that he had 'received many expressions of warm appreciation of the adornment of the Mortuary … The relatives … feel that there is such an inspiring atmosphere … When I am at the cemetery on Tuesdays and Fridays mourners continually tell me how satisfied and grateful they are about the present conditions.' (fn. 161)
Another major improvement was the conversion of the old Westminster workhouse buildings to a nurses' home in 1926, work carried out by Flint's partner and successor, Alfred J. Hodgeman, L.R.I.B.A., at a tender price of £20,916. (fn. 162) On its completion Miss Alexander, by then able to describe herself as 'one of the oldest guardians', offered to provide a hard tennis court for the nurses.
In 1926 the Guardians decided to employ a pathologist on the premises, rather than a part-timer working at St. George's Hospital, necessitating the provision of a laboratory in the converted porter's lodge, and accommodation for guinea-pigs behind the laundry. A new operating theatre was also required so that septic cases could be segregated, but in fact this was only carried out by the London County Council in 1935.
The Transfer to the London County Council
Under the Local Government Act of 1929, the control of St. Mary Abbots Hospital and the Kensington Institution passed from the Kensington Guardians to the London County Council. The economic difficulties of the period followed by the Second World War meant that only minor alterations or additions occurred during the eighteen years of control by the London County Council. Most of these were in fact improvements which the Guardians had suggested in the 1920s.
A survey made on transfer by the London County Council shows the different uses of the buildings on the site (fig. 143). The wards used by the Institution were basically the original Allom block, which housed female inmates on second and third floors; living accommodation for the Master and Matron was on the first floor in the centre of the main block with separate access. The Master's parlour and the Clerk's office occupied the ground floor at the front, with offices for Master, Matron, and needle mistress behind; at the rear, flanked by kitchen, pantries and sculleries, was the double height dining-hall, overlooked by a first-floor balcony. On the south side of the Allom block were the female mental wards, together with bedrooms for the night nurses, and a children's ward, each ward with its own kitchen. In the basement was the single-storey Roman Catholic chapel, and a room for the Roman Catholic chaplain, the electrician's store and an entire room housing the soda-water machine. Above was the Anglican chaplain's room, and the female padded cell.
The north side of the block contained accommodation for male inmates, and a wide range of workshops, both for the useful occupation of the inmates, and for general maintenance purposes. These reveal the self-supporting nature of the establishments on the site: thus there was a Labour Master's office, and shops for shoemaker, tailor, blacksmith, plumber, carpenter, painter and bricklayer, with accommodation for woodcutting, book-binding, and corngrinding, together with a flock room for mattress repair.
The Guardians' offices, at No. 28 Marloes Road, served as the Public Assistance Offices until the creation of the National Health Service in 1948. They also contained the office for the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths for Kensington. Beside the chapel were receiving wards with both male and female accommodation. On the north and east sides of the boundary, Block 'D' provided a dormitory and dayroom, together with workshops, for casual vagrants.
The 1871 Infirmary contained the female patients, and accommodation on the ground floor had been considerably extended over the subway and the vaulted coal cellars. A glass and iron verandah over this balcony area was provided for one of the female wards on the first floor. Male patients and some of the children occupied the three pavilion blocks on the south connected by a covered way to the single operating theatre.
On the extreme east of the site were two important services, a large laundry block with washing rooms, dirty laundry sorting rooms, and drying room and two ironing rooms—to provide the starched authoritarian cleanliness necessary in the era before disposable hospital uniforms and sheets. Beside the laundry resided the guinea-pigs, indispensable members of the staff of the pathological laboratories, which now occupied the southern porter's lodge.
The senior medical staff were still resident in the Aldwinckle administration block. The eastern end of the original Hunt block had become a nurses' home, with lecture room and recreational facilities for the nurses, while the single-storey dining-hall of the Westminster workhouse was designated a concert hall. The original Westminster infirmary was used for young children and infants.
The residential blocks were connected to each other, and to the operating theatres and administrative and service wings by a network of subways, which carried the heating and water services, and which were also used for the movement of staff and patients in inclement weather. (fn. 163)
In March 1930, the Public Health Committee recommended to the London County Council that St. Mary Abbots Hospital should be recognized as an 'A' type hospital dealing with the acute sick, and the Kensington Institution should become a type 'B' hospital for the chronic sick, and the aged and infirm. (fn. 164) On the retirement of the Master of the Kensington Institution in September 1931, the opportunity was taken to put the establishment under the control of the Medical Superintendent, (fn. 165) and it was renamed the St. Mary Abbots Hospital (Institution) in 1933, to deal with patients' objections to being placed in a Poor Law institution. (fn. 166) In 1935, the original workhouse buildings were absorbed into the hospital proper and the accommodation made available for the chronic sick. (fn. 167) This change was finally codified in 1938 when the institution was renamed St. Mary Abbots Hospital (ii). (fn. 168)
The facilities at the hospital were improved along lines put forward earlier by the Guardians. In 1932, a new pathological laboratory to serve not only St. Mary Abbots but also a group of local hospitals was created in the eastern wing of the building originally erected as lying-in wards in 1886. The maternity patients were moved to the 1871 infirmary.
In 1935 the London County Council added two up-todate operating theatres on the south side of the site, incorporating the western wing of the original lying-in wards. The single-storey block included an anaesthetic room, recovery room, sterilizing room and X-Ray developing room (Plate 139c). (fn. n3)
The Second World War and Wartime Damage
There were three 'incidents' in the Blitz but the hospital suffered relatively little. The first was on the night of 7 October 1940 when a bomb fell in Marloes Road; a more serious affair was on 14 November when Block 'C' was rendered unusable, four people were killed, a water main was disrupted and the hospital damaged. In the early hours of 11 May 1941, the last night of the Blitz proper, the hospital was again hit, this time in the centre front, but the official report noted 'No d. No bad casualties. Staff carrying on.'
Very different was the effect of the first PAC (Pilotless Air Craft) to hit Kensington. At five minutes past four on the morning of 17 June 1944, a flying bomb scored a direct hit on the junction of the 1871 infirmary and the original Allom workhouse. By five o'clock, Heavy and Light Rescue parties, ambulances and a hearse had been despatched, together with repair parties for gas and water mains. The bomb struck the nurses' home and a children's ward, and the ultimate death toll was five nurses, six children, and seven other patients, mostly men. Thirty-three other casualties were sent to St. George's Hospital, and the rest of the patients were evacuated. (fn. 169)
A Kensington resident who went to see the hospital the next day recorded the damage: 'Went along Marloes Road … great piles of glass marked the route. Heavy Rescue lorries were driving in and out gathering up the debris. All one roof of the Hospital gone.' (fn. 170)
The connecting link between the original Allom workhouse, now known as Stone Hall, and the 1871 infirmary was totally destroyed together with the Roman Catholic chapel, and the night nurses' home. The eastern end of the infirmary itself was also demolished, together with part of the domestic accommodation to the south. The hospital was totally closed by the incident, but gradually brought back into use until all the wards of the hospital proper were again available. Repairs to the fabric were still continuing on the hospital's transfer to the National Health Service in 1948. The nurses' home was reopened in July 1948, (fn. 167) and 'C' Block restored during the year 1949–50.
St. Mary Abbots Hospital since 1948
On the whole, the post-war period has been more remarkable for its demolitions than its additions (fig. 141). In 1951, No. 28 Marloes Road, the original Guardians' Board Room and offices, was refurbished by Ronald Ward and Partners as a maternity clinic and casualty department. (fn. 171)
In 1966–7 a new psychiatric unit was erected immediately to the west of the entrance to the original workhouse block. It was designed by Richard Mellor, Architect to the South Western Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board, as a light-weight single-storey block to accommodate short-stay patients. (fn. 171)
However, in 1974, the former Board Room and offices and the chapel were demolished to accommodate a geriatric day unit, over half the cost of which was raised by a local charity. (fn. 163) It was designed as a two-storey loadbearing brick unit with concrete beams by Derek Garnham, (fn. 163) of the Hospital Design Partnership of 21 Bloomsbury Square. (fn. 171) Unfortunately, located as it was on the north side of the 1871 infirmary across the original entrance to Allom's workhouse, it has destroyed the architectural unity preserved by the Kensington Guardians over their eighty-year occupancy of the site. (fn. 171) A new inter-denominational chapel was built immediately south of Stone Hall, a modern red-brick building, of which the executive architect was John Wade, Building Officer of the then Area Health Authority. (fn. 163) A light-weight two-storey works block has replaced Block 'D' of the former Institution, which occupied the north-east corner of the site.
These changes reflect the use of the site in the 1980s, since there is now no casualty department, and only very limited surgical facilities, for which patients are usually now sent to St. Stephen's Hospital. Most of the patients are geriatric, chronic sick, or psychiatric cases, and the hospital concentrates on its work for the elderly, both resident and out-patient. There are currently proposals for the building of a new general hospital on the site, or alternatively for the housing of patients from Banstead. Either proposal could lead to the demolition of all the older buildings on the site.