|LOST HOSPITALS OF LONDON|
Dollis Hill House
Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill Lane, NW2 6HT
|1917 - 1923
In 1916 the authorities of the Endell Street Military Hospital acquired Dollis Hill House for use as an auxiliary military hospital for its convalescent patients.
Dollis Hill House had been built around 1825 by a Willesden family, the Finches. It later became the residence of Lord and Lady Aberdeen, and a favourite retreat of the Prime Minister, William Gladstone (1809-1898), who came to stay for long periods between the years 1882-1896. In February 1900 the house and its grounds had been purchased for £51,000 by Willesden Urban District Council. In 1909 the grounds were turned into a public park, named Gladstone Park after the recently deceased politician, while the ground floor of Dollis Hill House was converted into tearooms.
To make the house into suitable premises for a hospital, electricity had to be installed, as well as a hot water supply, and bathrooms had to be built. The local population helped to raise funds for the improvements and to help pay for the running costs - heating, lighting, cleaning, laundry, drugs and dressings, and food for both patients and staff. People also donated recreational items, such as a piano, a billiard table and a gramophone. Appeals were made for spare clothing for the patients.
The Dollis Hill House Auxiliary Hospital opened in 1916 with 23 beds. It was classified as Class A, and cot cases (i.e. the bedridden) were accommodated in a ward on the first floor.
The Commandant, Mrs Aubrey Richardson, was the daughter-in-law of Sir Benjamin Ward Richardson (1828-1896), a pioneer of the benefits of fresh air, especially in the healing of wounds and as part of the treatment for tuberculosis. The ground floor wards opened out onto the verandahs and, in good weather, a few beds could be wheeled out onto the glass-roofed verandahs. Patients were supplied with warm clothing and hot water bottles. In particularly severe weather, sailcloth curtains would be drawn across the open french windows to protect the patients while still allowing fresh air to enter. The patients - post-operative and nerve cases - found the open-air treatment to be of great benefit.
The Lady Superintendent, married to a doctor serving at the Front, was a trained Sister. She had a staff of two trained Sisters, two masseuses and several members of the Middlesex/3 Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.). Two School Nurses from the neighbourhood also assisted in their spare time.
Following the erection of open-air huts at the beginning of 1917 the Hospital had 52 beds. One of the huts - the Newfoundland - was supported by members of the St John's Ambulance Association in Newfoundland, Canada (one of the nurses had fashioned - in cotton wool - a model of John Cabot's ship Matthew in which he discovered Newfoundland in 1497). Another hut was supported by the teachers of the various Council schools in the area.
By the end of 1917 the Hospital had 71 beds.
In May 1919 the Hospital was taken over by the Ministry of Pensions. It had 43 beds. The first pensioner patient was admitted on 12th June.
By 1920 it had 20 beds under the administration of the Ministry of Pensions and continued as a convalescent home until it finally closed in 1923.
Present status (March 2012)
Dollis Hill House later was turned into a restaurant - the Country House Restaurant - by the Council.
In 1974 the house was Grade II listed.
In 1994 it was declared surplus to requirements by Brent Council (which had replaced Willesden Urban District Council and taken over the property). In 1995 and 1996 the house was subjected to arson attacks and was greatly damaged.
Despite many attempts to preserve the building, it was finally demolished at the end of 2011.
It is planned to keep the footprint of the house itself, with low levels walls marking the outlines of the rooms, and to landscape the surrounding area.
Update: July 2016
The project has been completed; the Dollis Hill Performance Space opened in 2013.
Photographs obtained in March 2008
Dollis Hill House from the southwest, now a derelict wreck (above and below).
N.B. Photographs obtained in November 2010.
By 2010 the 2-storey building had deteriorated further.
The stables of Dollis Hill House have become the Stables Gallery and Arts Centre, showing works of local painters and craftsmen.
N.B. Photographs obtained in March 2012
The house has been demolished and its site is protected by a green fence.
Nothing remains of the house itself (left), but the stables continue in business as the Stables Gallery and Arts Centre.
N.B. Photographs obtained in July 2012
The site is fenced off. SAVE OUR HOUSE has been written on the fencing.
The site plan for the future 'open-air community space'.
N.B. Photographs obtained in May 2013
Low level walls, using reclaimed bricks from the demolished building, now outline the ground floor rooms of the house.
Benches have been inset into some of the low walls to provide seating.
A taller section has been built in one corner.
The taller wall bears a plaque.
The plaque reads "This house was a favourite residence of the Rt. Hon. W.E. Gladstone M.P. as a guest of the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Aberdeen G.C.M.G. from 1882 to 1896".
|References (Accessed 24th July 2016)
(Author unstated) 1917 Dollis Hill House Auxiliary Hospital. British Journal of Nursing, 13th January, 28-29.
(Author unstated) 1917 List of the various hospitals treatiing military cases in the United Kingdom. London, H.M.S.O.
Bridges JS 1920 Dollis Hill House Hospital - A Retrospect. Dollis Hill Hospital Administrative Committee.
Fenn CR 1919 Middlesex to Wit. London, St Catherine Press.
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