East London
Child Guidance Clinic
Jews' Free School, Bell Lane, Spitalfields, E1
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1927 - 1939

Mental (Our-Patients only)
The East London Child Guidance Clinic opened on 21st November 1927.  It had been established by the Jewish Health Organisation, aided by the LCC and the GLC, to help children who were perceived to have emotional, psychological and educational difficulties.  It was the first of its kind in the U.K. (a second clinic - the London Child Guidance Clinic - opened a year later in Islington).

The Clinic, located in the Jews' Free School in Bell Lane, Spitalfields, was under the direction of Dr Emanuel Miller (1893-1970).  Its staff consisted of a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a psychiatric social worker.

The majority of children attending were aged between 8 and 14.  Most (60%) were referred by School Medical Officers, head teachers and care committees, the rest by parents, hospitals and social agencies.

The most common cause for referral were forms of behaviour likely to bring them into conflict with adult authority - stealing, lying, unmanageability in the home or at school, and educational backwardness.  Next in frequency for referral were disorders of habit - speech defects, enuresis, and sleep and eating difficulties.  It was rare for a child to be referred for emotional disturbances, such as fear, anxiety, depression or excessive shyness.

Many of the children came from unhappy homes.  However, after a few sessions at the Clinic, thieving, spiteful and backward children were transformed into normal, happy youngsters.  The Clinic treated not disease, but mental attitude.    This enabled the children to face certain hard facts about themselves and their surroundings.  They were enabled to take up life and meet it on their own terms.

In 1935, of those referrals who were taken into custody for indictable offences, 26% were under the age of 17.  The largest age group of those charged with larceny was under 13 years.

By 1936 a total number of 572 cases had been referred to the Clinic since it opened.  Of these, 364 were boys and 208 girls - 288 were Jewish, 278 non-Jewish and 6 from mixed marriages.  Of the 238 cases of psychoneurosis, 158 were described as unmanageable, uncontrollable or cases of temper; 59 were referred due to theft; 65 due to backwardness at school; 27 because of sex difficulties; 14 due to failure at work, and 11 referred for wandering.  In many instances, one or other parent had required psychotherapy or had been an inmate of a mental hospital.  Interestingly, over 30% of those referred for general backwardness were found to be of normal or above normal in intelligence.

The Clinic closed in 1939 on the outbreak of WW2 (1939-1945), when the Jews' Free School was evacuated to Ely and surrounding towns in Cambridgeshire.

Present status (December 2017)

In 1941 the Jews' Free School building was destroyed by bombs.

After the war the Clinic reopened in the London Jewish Hospital. 

Site of East London Child Guidance Clinic
The School building was replaced by a 1960s office block, which in turn has been replaced by a 33-storey luxury student accommodation block - Chapter Spitalfields.

Site of East London Child Guidance Clinic
The site along Bell Lane from the southeast.

Site of East London Child Guidance Clinic
The site on the corner of Bell Lane and Frying Pan Alley.
References (Accessed 17th February 2018)

(Author unstated) 1934  Work of a Child Guidance Clinic.  British Medical Journal 1 (3818), 445.

Author  unstated 1936 East London Child Guidance Clinic. British Medical Journal 1 (3934), 1123.

Author unstated (1970) Obituary. E Miller.  British Medical Journal 3 (5718), 350.

Author unstated (1974) Obituary,  Augusta J Bonnard.  British Medical Journal 4 (5932), 475.

Davies HA 2010 The Use of Psychoanalytic Concepts in Therapy with Families: For All Professionals Working with Famliies.  London, Karnac.

Hendrick H 2003 Child Welfare: Historical Dimensions, Contemporary Debate.  Bristol, Policy Press.

Jackson M (ed) 2007 Health and the Modern Home.  Abingdon, Routledge.


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