Newham Maternity Hospital
Forest Lane, E7 9DF
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1913 - 1985

The origins of this Hospital lie in the Forest Gate Industrial School, which was built in 1854 on a 12 acre site once owned by Samuel Gurney (1785-1956), a well known Quaker philanthropist.

In 1890 a tragic fire resulted in the deaths of 26 boys, who suffocated because they were locked in their dormitories.  (This disaster led to institutions developing 'scattered homes' rather than barrack-style schools.)

Poplar Union continued to use the building as a training school until 1906.  It then closed temporarily, opening again in 1908 as a branch of the Poplar Union workhouse.

In 1911 the building was bought by West Ham Union workhouse.  It re-opened in 1913 as the Forest Gate Sick Home, with 500 beds.  There were 21 beds for mentally handicapped adults and 25 for mentally handicapped children, including epileptics.

In 1930 the West Ham Borough Council took over its administration.  The main buildings became the Forest Gate Hospital, with 500 beds for mental patients and the chronic sick, and 64 beds in the maternity unit.  A temporary building with 200 beds for the chronic sick was added in 1931.  By 1937 the Hospital had 723 patients.

During WW2 the Hospital suffered damage in 1940 from two direct hits, one a high explosive bomb.  Much of the accommodation for non-maternity patients was destroyed, and the patients were evacuated to the South Ockendon Colony (a mental hospital in Essex which had opened in 1932).  The number of beds was reduced to 201.

After the war, accommodation for 128 patients re-opened in 1945, and the building of a new maternity unit commenced in 1947.  In 1948 the Hospital joined the NHS, when it had 207 beds.  Further maternity wards were built in 1950.

In 1974 it was renamed the Newham Maternity Hospital, by which time bed numbers had reduced to 116.  By 1983 there were 106 beds.

The Hospital closed in 1985 when the newly built Newham General Hospital opened.

Present status (February 2008)

The back of the original Victorian main building was demolished and houses built on the site.  In 1993 the rest of the building was demolished apart from the front facade.

The Lodge survives as well as the facade of the original building, which is now an apartment complex.  The Lodge is used for education and other community activities.  Gladys Dimson House is one of the original maternity buildings; it has been converted into residential housing.

By popular demand most of the site was developed as Forest Lane Park between 1991 and 1994.

Gladys Dimson House  Gladys Dimson House entrance
Once the Forest Gate Industrial School and latterly the main block for the Hospital, the building has now been converted to residential housing and is now known as Gladys Dimson House.   It still retains its mid-Victorian institutional appearance, with the central block raised to form a small tower

old school  infirmary block  old school  infirmary block
The former infirmary for the Industrial School, also converted to residental housing

Lodge  Lodge
The Lodge at the entrance to the park

  new building in east  Main park entrance
Forest Lane Park, with new buildings on the east side

Park from the south
The Park from the south

  lake  lake
Gladys Dimson House from across the pond.  The statue of the nurse can be seen reflected in the water (right)
wooden nurse  wooden nurse  wooden nurse
Various views of The Nurse, a tall statue made of oak, which stands by the pond - a reminder that the site used to be a hospital
Readers' comments

From Baerbel Christel Vera Vahlpahl, SRN, SCM

"I was born in 1943 in Koenigs Wusterhausen, near Berlin, Germany.  Due to my professional and life circumstances, I had the advantage of being trained in midwifery in London during 1970-71.  

I underwent Part 1 of the training at Hackney Hospital from 1st May 1970 until 31st October 1970.

The Part II midwifery training took place at Forest Gate Hospital from 1st December 1970 until 31st May 1971.  In compliance with the rules of the Midwives Act, 1951, as part of this training,  I also  undertook 3 months of domestic deliveries as a resident student at Plaistow Maternity Hospital during the same period.

In September/October 2023 I visited London with the aim to have a look at what the Hospitals were like today, even if possible to find some things of remembrance from my old days while having been there as a student.

My visit to Forest Gate Hospital was on
Monday, 2nd October 2023.

Here is what I found:

Newham Maternity Hospital

Gladys Dimson House.

Newham Maternity Hospital

The rear elevation of Gladys Dimson House.

Newham Maternity Hospital

The wooden statue of the nurse is no longer there.  Ot has been replaced by a statue carved with ducks and other waterfowl.

Newham Maternity Hospital

The waterfowl statue, as seen from the back.

Newham Maternity Hospital

An explainer board in the park lists some of the creatures and flowers to be found there.  The history of the park is included, showing the main block of the Hospital  in 1970, exactly at the time when I was there.

Gamester ER 1954 The History of Forest Gate Hospital.  London, Friends of Forest Gate Hospital.


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