Bearsted Memorial Hospital

85 Lordship Road, Tottenham, N16 5HE

Medical dates:

Medical character:

1947 - 1974


In 1937 plans began to build a new hospital to replace the small cramped Jewish Maternity Hospital  in Whitechapel.  A site in Stoke Newington was favoured as by this time a large number of the Jewish younger generation had moved away from the East End to north London.  Considerable amounts of money had been raised for the project from pennies subscribed by poor Jews in the East End as well as from many wealthy donors, including Viscount Bearsted, after whose family the Hospital was named.

Building work began in 1939 but almost immediately had to be deferred because of the outbreak of WW2.  Additional premises were acquired at Hampton Court; this annex became known as the Bearsted Maternity Hospital.

In 1945 permission was granted for part of the new Hospital to be built in Lordship Road.  This first section was finally completed in August 1947 and officially opened in December by Viscountess Bearsted, the president of the Hospital.  It had 30 beds, including 6 private patient rooms, plus 28 beds at its Hampton Court branch over 20 miles away.  Until the rest of the building could be completed, the Hospital made arrangements with the Prince of Wales General Hospital to use their X-ray, pathological and dental services.  In fact, in time, the medical staff in obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics served both Hospitals.

The Hospital joined the NHS in 1948 and, while still mainly catering for orthodox Jewish mothers (some 80%), also admitted women of other faiths.  

By 1954 the building had still not been completed, although the Minister of Health had promised in 1952 it would be.  Labour wards and operating theatres had been installed for a hospital that would eventually have 100 beds, as well as kitchens and heating and steam facilities.  

By 1969 the Royal College of Obstetricians had withdrawn recognition of the Hospital for postgraduate medical training because of the lack of sufficient beds, and  this lack of beds also threatened withdrawal of the midwifery training school by the Central Midwives Board, who believed that a minimum of 50 beds was necessary for satisfactory training.  The Hospital sought permission to add another storey so that there would be 68 beds, but this was denied.

By 1971 the decreasing Jewish population of the area and subsequent reduction in the number of Jewish mothers admitted to the Hospital affected the training of mohelim, who performed ritual circumcisions there (17 were performed in 1971, compared to 33 in 1970 and 37 in 1969).

In November 1974 the Enfield and Haringey Area Health Authority ordered the Hospital to be closed, ostensibly because of staff shortages.  However, the real reason for the closure seemed to be that there was a large surplus of maternity beds in the district when the new maternity wing at the North Middlesex Hospital opened.  (Government policy at this time, following a major NHS reorganisation, was that maternity units should be placed in a district general hospital rather than be stand-alone units.)

Protest over the closure of the unique Jewish maternity hospital was made by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Chief Rabbi and the Jewish Chronicle, as well as a petition signed by over 2000 people, but this made no difference.

The Department of Health and Social Security handed the Bearsted Memorial Hospital back to the Jewish community for 'social service purposes'.

Present status (January 2008)

The site now contains the Bearsted Centre, a health centre with various support groups for orthodox Jewish mothers and babies provided by City and Hackney Teaching Primary Care Trust, Jewish Care and Norwood.  The Hackney Jewish Family Service provides mental health care and a Day Hospital.

Bearsted Centre Bearsted Centre

The Bearsted Centre, as seen from across Lordship Road

Wellbeing Centre

The entrance to the side of Wellbeing at Bearsted, opened by Cherie Blair in 2008.

Interestingly, in 1947, the cost of an in-patient per week at Lordship Road was £23.00, whereas it was £12 13s 10d (£12.69) at Hampton Court.


http://hansard.millbanksystems.com (1954)
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com (1974)

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