A previous post looked at the medical aspects of Queen Square in Bloomsbury. This post does the same for the very attractive Georgian Fitzroy Square – a subsequent post will explore the many other features of the Square. Fitzroy Square was started in the 1790s but not completed until the early 1830s. It was a speculative development by the Fitzroy family (descendants of Henry Fitzroy, an illegitimate son of King Charles II and Barbara Villiers) on land that they owned. The design of the square came from the Adam Brothers who created the south and east sides of the square – the other two sides were developed later.
London’s initial medical centre from the early 1800s was in the area around Finsbury Square and Finsbury Circus in the City of London. But as the rich moved out of the City and into the West End, and as railways delivered clients from further afield into the West End, doctors and the associated institutions moved west. The first medical establishment in Fitzrovia was the Middlesex Hospital which was founded in 1745 and became a very large hospital dominating Fitzrovia, but lay to the south of Fitzroy Square (and was in the Westminster part of Fitzrovia). The second major medical institution in the area was University College Hospital founded in 1829, and still going strong today.
Fitzroy Square was the home of smaller medical establishments. Although they were small, the Square also holds a number of ‘firsts’ – including the first private hospital, the first nursing sisterhood, and the first school for podiatry. The square still has three buildings with medical connections.
Medical connections for buildings around the square
Links below go to more detailed sources on each establishment (usually the excellent Lost Hospitals of London website).
- 2 Oxygen Hospital 1897-1911 was based on ideas that came from the Zulu Wars in today’s South Africa – a surgeon Major George Stoker saw how quickly wounded Zulu fighters healed when they were carried up high mountains – and introduced the idea of helping wounds to heal by using Ozone. The Hospital also used Ozone to help TB patients.
- 2 Metropolitan Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital was founded in 1838, but was here from 1911-1947 (and treated many men injured in the first world war). In 1936 it acquired 1 Fitzroy Square but this building was bombed in the war. Moved elsewhere in 1947, and services now merged into the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
- 3/4 Willian House is the home of the British Association of Dermatologists named after Robert Willian who started to codify skin deseases.
- 7 Mount Vernon Hospital Outpatients Department the hospital was founded in 1881, but had an outpatients in the square from 1891-1902. Mount Vernon Hospital in Hampstead was an early user of X-rays, and dealt with TB and other diseases of the Lung. Before they moved into number 7 they were based in 41 Fitzroy Square, the current site that is now the Indian YMCA.
- 13/14 St Luke’s Hospital for the Clergy Hospital and charity founded in 1892, but moved to purpose-built building on the site of number 14 in 1907. The hospital was where private surgeons and physicians treated members of the clergy free of charge. In 2009 the hospital was sold, the charity continues, but now gives grants to the clergy in need of private treatment. The building now used by others including the Mya Cosmetic Surgery Hospital
- 15 was the Toc H Mark VII hostel – from 1923 until 1980s, developed by Pastor Tubby Clayton after World War 1, designed as a home for men coming to London but who had nowhere to stay.
- 16/17/18 Fitzroy House (1878-1966) founded by the Home Hospitals Association started with 24 beds in number 16 (the original home of Henry Mayhew) and was the first entirely private hospital opened in London in 1878. In 1966 was transferred to Nuffield Nursing Home in Bryanston Square. Before Fitzroy House opened, wealthy people would be operated on at home and looked after by their servants. But this hospital was designed for the affluent who lived in flats and didn’t have servants.
- 29 George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) the playwright lived here 1887-1898 and wrote many plays including the Doctor’s Dilemma. He had a friend who lived locally, Doctor Sir Almoth Wright of St Mary’s Hospital, and the play is about how to allocate scarce medical resources – could be said to be arguing for the National Health Service. Later this building was the home of Virginia Stephen (1882-1941) later Woolf, author and member of the Bloomsbury Group – she suffered from depression, and had some her teeth pulled out, apparently with the intention of curing mental depression. 30 Gavin Milroy (1805-1886) surgeon lived here from 1841 to 1854. He helped found the Hunterian Society, and also established the Milroy lectures at the Royal College of Physicians.
- 33 London Foot Hospital was founded in 1913, and here from 1929-2003, also took on 40 as well. Eventually moved to UCL, then UEL. This was the first school in the UK for podiatry. The house is also well known for its earlier role as the home of the Omega Workshop run by Roger Fry.
- 36 St John’s House (1848-1852) a religious community, but this was the first nursing sisterhood which helped to defined modern nursing and is associated with Florence Nightingale. They provided nurses for Kings College Hospital. The community has a long history, and is now a part of St Thomas’s Hospital. Religious Sisterhoods soon gave way to secular Nightingale Institutes (first at St Thomas’ Hospital, then elsewhere)
- 40 London Skin Hospital was founded in 1887, and moved to this site in 1891, staying until 1958 when the London Foot Hospital acquired the building. The novelist P D James briefly worked as a clerical assistant the London Skin Hospital before it closed. Rather sadly it is also remembered for a dreadful accident in 1929 when three brothers treated for ringworm sadly died due to a metric/imperial conversion error – resulting in a dose 10 times larger than prescribed. The London Skin Hospital hospital was finally merged into Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. The building is currently the home of the Advanced Hair Studio – among other things dealing with female hair loss.
If you want a group or personal tour of Fitzroy Square and Fitzrovia medical history, then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Camden History Society, Streets of Fitzrovia 2017 pp 48-51, 53-55
- Nick Black, Walking London’s Natural History, second edition, 2012 158-164
- Lost Hospitals of London website https://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/
- Wikipedia Fitzroy Square
- Survey of London, Volume 21, Fitzroy Square
- A London Inheritance, Fitzroy Square
- London Gardens Trust Fitzroy Square
- London Historians’ Blog Fitzroy Square, its Surrounding and its People
- London Sculpture Fitzroy Square
Featured Image at the top of this page is Fitzroy Square, (c) David Brown