Freemasons' Hospital
and Nursing Home
237 Fulham Road, SW3  6JB
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1916 - 1933


The foundation of a hospital and nursing home for patients with a connection to Freemasonry had originally been contemplated in 1911 by a committee which included a number of prominent City men, supported by an influential medical advisory body.

The outbreak of WW1 in 1914 delayed the project but, in 1916, the building which had housed the Chelsea Hospital for Women became available when that Hospital moved to newly built premises in Arthur Street.

By this time enough money had been raised and the Masonic Nursing Home Committee arranged to rent the vacated building for two years, with the option of buying the freehold at a reasonable price.  However, the premises were immediately offered to the War Office, through the British Red Cross Society, for use as a military hospital for the duration of the war.  The offer was accepted.  The Freemasons undertook to bear the charges for equipping the hospital and the maintenance of its 77 beds.

The Freemasons' War Hospital opened in September 1916 as a section of the Second London General Hospital.  It was designated as Class A (that is, both ambulant and bed-ridden cases were admitted). 

The wards on the first two floors were small, containing 3 to 5 beds each.  The bathrooms and WCs were those of the original Hospital and, though old-fashioned, were considered to be adequate.  A pulley from the ceiling over the bath enabled patients to haul themselves up and climb out more easily.  The operating theatre was on the top floor.  The Hospital was also equipped with an X-ray Department and massage rooms.  The ward kitchens were commodious and each was fitted with a gas stove.

The nursing staff consisted of a Matron, four Sisters and four Staff Nurses, assisted by V.A.D. probationers and voluntary help.

Later, Cliff House in Caversham, near Reading, was taken over as an annexe to the hospital.  It had 25 beds for convalescent patients.

At the end of the war the Freemasons' Hospital and Nursing Home was finally established.  The building was renovated and the first patient was admitted in 1920.  Patients were charged according to their means.

By the mid 1920s, the buildings had become inadequate.  In 1925 some 481 patients had been admitted, compared to 427 the year before, while the number of operations had increased from 374 to 449.  The Hospital had only 59 beds, with a usual waiting list of 40 patients.  It was decided the building needed to be extended.

However, in 1931, plans were made to build a new hospital with 180 beds.  In 1933 the Hospital moved to its new premises in Ravenscout Park, and soon after was renamed as the Royal Masonic Hospital

Present status (July 2010)

In 1937 the 6-storey building was sold to Mr A. Chester Beatty (the proceeds of the sale contributed to the building of a new Nurses' Home at Ravenscourt Park).  

In 1939 Mr Chester Beatty presented the newly equipped building to the Royal Cancer Hospital for use as a research institute.  The former Hospital building became the Chester Beatty Institute (later renamed the Institute of Cancer Research).

 Former Freemasons' Hospital
The former Freemasons' Hospital and Nursing Home. 
Between 1938 and 1939 the building was extensively remodelled, and little trace remains of its original 19th century Renaissance-style facades.  

ICR buildings
The building is joined to its neighbour by a bridge.

new ICR building  ICR building
A new £18m building for the Institute of Cancer Resarch was built in 1996-1998  beside the  Chester Beatty laboratories (left).  The new building is designated as 237 Fulham Road (right).

N.B. Photographs obtained in October 2017

ICR, Fulham Road
No. 237 Fulham Road in October 2017, looking remarably uncharged.

ICR, Fulham Road
The foundation stone, laid by the Princess of Wales, on 16th July 1880.

References (Accessed 4th May 2018)

(Author unstated) 1916 The Freemasons' War Hospital, London.  British Medical Journal 2 (2898), 90.

(Author unstated) 1917 List of the various hospitals treating military cases in the United Kingdom.  London, H.M.S.O.

(Author unstated) 1925 The Freemasons' Hospital.  British Medical Journal 1 (3346), 328.

(Author unstated) 1933 The Freemasons' Hospital and Nursing Home.  British Medical Journal 1 (3775), 840-841.
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