Battersea General Hospital

33 Prince of Wales Drive,  Battersea Park, SW11 4BQ

Medical dates:

Medical character:

1902 - 1972


The National Anti-Vivisection Hospital was founded in 1896  by Mrs Theodore Russell Monroe, the Honorary Secretary of the Anti-Vivisection Society 'for the relief of human suffering by physicians and surgeons who are opposed to vivisection'.  The Hospital did not allow medical experiments on animals to be carried out on the premises and, indeed, did not employ any doctor who agreed to such practices.

The years 1896 to 1901 were preoccupied with raising funds and finding suitable premises for the Hospital.  Eventually a private residence - Lancaster Towers - was converted to a hospital in 1902, largely financed by Lady Headley, who felt strongly about animal welfare.

From 1903 in-patient beds were available - 11 for adults and 4 for children.  In 1906 the Hospital absorbed the Hospital of St Francis, another anti-vivisection hospital, at Darenth House, 34 Camberwell Green, which had closed in 1904 (this had previously been at 145 New Kent Road and had closed in 1903).  The Hospital of St Francis had been founded by Dr Joseph Oldfield, who then went on to establish the only fruitarian hospital in England, the Lady Margaret Hospital in Bromley.

In 1910 the Hospital was renamed with the ungainly title The Anti-Vivisection Hospital, The Battersea General Hospital.  The anti-vivisection movement had much support in Battersea, and the National Anti-Vivisection Society still exists today, with its headquarters at Millbank.

However, the efficacy of the treatments offered by the Hospital did not meet universal approval.  Applications to the King Edward's Hospital Fund for financial aid were repeatedly turned down as the Hospital did not comply with 'those general conditions which they consider should govern any hospital designed for the best form of relief for the sick poor'.

In 1914, during WW1, 20 beds were given over for military patients.

In 1928 the Hospital was involved in a legal case over a disputed Will.  Constance Edith Guerrier had bequeathed her estate to 'The Women's Hospital, Battersea'.  The Borough Council argues that the maternity home in Bolingbroke Grove was the only hospital solely for women in Battersea.  In the event, the South London Hospital for Women received the bequest.  The Anti-Vivisection Hospital, The Battersea General Hospital contested this on the basis that half their beds were devoted to women, with a special cancer ward, and previously the Hospital had been staffed entirely by female doctors.  They lost the case.

By 1935 the Hospital was in severe financial difficulties and the Governors decided that any reference to anti-vivisection should be dropped.  However, this change required the sanction of the High Court as the Hospital was bound by trust deeds.  While the legal process was initiated, a large part of the Hospital had to be closed because of lack of funds.  At the end of the year the High Court gave its approval for the change of ethos, making the Hospital finally eligible for grants from the King Edward's Hospital Fund.  It was renamed simply as the Battersea General Hospital.

During WW2 it joined the Emergency Medical Scheme with 85 beds.

In 1943 Sir Peter Lindsay, Managing Director of the Morgan Crucible Company, Battersea, became Chairman of the Hospital.

In 1948 the Hospital joined the NHS, coming under the administration of the Battersea, Putney and Tooting Group.  It had 79 beds.

For Coronation Day in 1953 Mr KM Hubbard, a local radio and electrical engineer, loaned 8 TV sets to the Hospital so that the patients could watch the ceremony.  By this time the cost per in-patient per week was £16 16s 1d (£18.80).  During this period there was a shortage of nurse recruits, because of the reduced birth rate in 1936 and the subsequent lack of 18-year-old girls for training.  This made life difficult for all hospitals, and patients had to be turned away when there were no acute beds available due to lack of staff.

The Hospital closed in 1972 following a reorganisation of the NHS.

Present status (February 2008)

The Hospital was demolished in 1974.  The site now contains a modern complex run by Servite Houses; it includes Sir Jules Thorn Court, a care home for people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and Mary Court and Joan Bartlett House, which offer assisted living.  A separate building, Edward Wilson House,  is run by the Family Welfare Association

Albert Bridge Road

The complex, as seen from Prince of Wales Drive

main entrance

The bright pink main entrance to the block

Prince of Wales Drive

The complex, as seen from Albert Bridge Road







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