British Hospital for
Mothers and Babies

Samuel Street, Woolwich, SE18

Medical dates:

Medical character:

1905 - 1984


Three young midwives - Miss Alice Gregory, Mrs Lelia Parnell and Miss Maud Cashmere - decided to open a maternity home and midwifery school in order to increase the supply of trained midwives.  They purchased two old houses in Wood Street (now Woodhill) in Woolwich and founded the Home for Mothers and Babies, which opened in 1905. The Home had 8 beds, but midwives also attended patients in their own homes. Patients paid according to their means.

Known locally as the 'Wood Street Home', its motto was 'Esto sol testis' (let the sun be my witness).

A derelict piece of wasteland in Samuel Street had been purchased at a bargain price in 1912 as the site of the new Hospital, but in the same year a proposal was received from the British Lying-In Hospital in Endell Street, Covent Garden, which was in financial difficulties, concerning an amalgamation. The British Lying-In Hospital closed in May the following year, but the Charity Commission finally approved the merger in January 1915. A Management Committee was formed with representatives from both institutions and the Home became the British Hospital for Mothers and Babies.

Building work began on the new Hospital in 1920, with the foundation stone being laid by Princess Christian. The money from the sale of the Endell Street building financed a specially designed and much larger hospital; the Ministry of Health contributed £30,000. The first stage of the new Hospital, with 40 beds and staff accommodation, was opened by Queen Mary in 1922. The second stage opened in 1929, when there were 62 beds. The Wood Street building, which had been kept on until the administration block was finished, closed the same year.

The addition of a 10-bedded self-contained unit in 1936 increased the bed accommodation to 72.

During WW2, in September 1940, a bomb fell on the corner of a ward block, completely destroying half of it. At the time the nursing staff with 60 patients and 56 babies had been distributed in the basement and passages. With the lying-in wards put out of action, patients were immediately evacuated to their homes or to a hospital at Farnborough. Within a week 36 beds had re-opened in the Out-Patients Department, the Lecture Room and Nurses' Sitting Room. The Ministry of Health provided 40 beds at Pednor House in Chesham, Bucks, and some patients were evacuated there.  However, the Ministry demanded that Pednor House be administered by Buckinghamshire County Council. Rather than allow this, after five months the hospital moved again, this time to 'Moatlands', a privately owned house in Paddock Wood, Brenchley, Kent.  ('Moatlands' was eventually purchased in 1945, as the bomb damage would take a long time to repair.)

In 1944 a temporary wing with 14 beds, built on the ruins of the ward block at Samuel Street, was opened by the Princess Royal.

In 1948 the Hospital joined the NHS under the control of the Greenwich Group Hospital Management Committee, part of the South East Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.

In 1951 it established one of the first Premature Baby Units, with nine cots, becoming a local centre for the treatment of premature babies.  In 1960 the Unit expanded to 12 cots in an up-to-date building.

In 1953 'Moatlands' was sold and the patients moved to a ward in St Nicholas Hospital, Plumstead.  This ward was staffed and controlled by the British Hospital for Mothers and Babies, and became an annexe of it.

In 1974, following a major reorganisation of the NHS, the Hospital came under the control of the Greenwich District Health Authority, part of the South East Thames Area Health Authority.

In 1984, despite a long battle to keep it open, the Hospital finally closed.

Present status (December 2007)

The Hospital was demolished in 1984 and has been  replaced by new housing.

Some of the artifacts from the Hospital Chapel can now be found in the nearby St. Mary Magdalene Church, Woolwich.

Woodhill Court

The original Hospital building in Wood Street is now Woodhill Court, Nos. 173 and 175 Woodhill.

Woodhill Court

The back of the building, as seen in Woodrow, had far fewer windows than the front.

Samuel CourtCarr Grove

The main driveway of the second and final Hospital site off Samuel Street (left) is now Samuel Close (right).

Carr Grove

The back drive off Prospect Vale is now Carr Grove.

Carr Grove

Looking south along Carr Grove, the site of the Hospital is on the left side of the image.

Carr Grove

The site of the Hospital in Carr Grove.



The tondo from the Hospital has been preserved and is now mounted on the west wall of St Nicholas chapel in the Memorial Hospital, Shooters Hill.

The Chapel of the Nativity opposite the entrance hall had been a permanent memorial to the three young founders of the Hospital.

Mrs Parnell had been the first Matron and Miss Cashmore the Senior Sister; Miss Gregory, as well as performing her midwife duties, became the Honorary Secretary. Following Mrs Parnell's death in 1931, Miss Cashmore succeeded her as Matron.

Both Miss Gregory and Miss Cashmore retired in October 1945, having served 40 years at the Hospital.

References (Accessed 15th September 2013)

(Author unstated) 1946 History of a Hospital and It's (sic) Founders. London, British Hospital for Mothers and Babies.

Vartan K 1985 The British Hospital for Mothers and Babies. Midwife Visit Community Nurse 21 (5) 153-156.



Return to alphabetical list
Return to home page