King Albert's Hospital for Convalescent Belgian Soldiers
(No. 1)
Staffordshire House, South Crescent, Store Street, WC1E 7BL
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1914 - 1919

Convalescent (military)
King Albert's Hospital for Convalescent Belgian Soldiers opened on 4th December 1914, the first of five such establishments.

The Hospital was located in Staffordshire House in Store Street, a building which had been placed at the disposal of the War Office by Walter William Bourne and Howard E. Hollingsworth, who also owned an eponymous department store - Bourne and Hollingsworth - in Oxford Street.

The building consisted of five storeys and a basement.  It had been completely equipped by Messrs Bourne and Hollingworth, who also paid certain maintenance costs for the building, as well as the charges for the lighting and salaries for some of the staff.

The basement contained the kitchens and the common parts - a vast Refectory and a large Recreation Hall, which also served as a chapel.  The bathroom area contained 32 separate baths.

The ground floor contained military and medical administration offices (which later included the General Secretariat for the five Hospitals), a Dining Room, an Officers' Mess, the clothing stores and, later, a pharmacy and laboratory.

The Hospital had a bed complement of 280, divided into wards with 2, 3 or 4 beds, depending on the size of the room.  The first floor contained wards for medical cases, the second for minor surgery, the third for those with eye, nose, throat or ear disease.  The fourth floor contained a dental surgery and beds for those with skin or venereal disease.

Although initially intended to be a convalescent facility, it was soon required to provide more active interventions and, to make the building into a first-class hospital, certain alterations had to be made.  On 15th January 1915 an operating theatre was installed on the fifth floor.  Two larger wards, of 16 beds each, were created - one to accommodate major surgery cases and the other for the gravely ill.  This floor also contained the X-ray Department and treatment rooms for electrotherapy and light treatments.

By the spring of 1915 a central pharmacy had been established at the Hospital to serve all five Hospitals.  A small laboratory was also installed for microbiological research and analyses.

In the first year of its operational life, some 1,979 patients had been admitted to the Hospital, of whom 3 had died and 33 deserted (soldiers dying at the Hospital were buried in St Mary's cemetery, Kensal Green).  On the last day of 1915 some 215 beds were occupied.

The medical staff consisted of 8 Belgian military doctors.  The Matron, Miss Ravenor, who had been provided by the Local Government Board, was English.  The nursing staff comprised 3 English and 21 Belgian nurses (the latter were later militarised and placed under the authority of the Service de Sante at 76 Gower Street).  In addition there were 30 Belgian nurse probationers.  Other staff included 6 masseurs and masseuses, 53 administrators and 31 domestics.

As the patients gradually began to be discharged on 15th January 1917 the Hospital moved to smaller premises - Nos. 74, 76 and 78 Gower Street,  also provided by Messrs Bourne and Hollingworth - where there were only 34 beds.

The Hospital closed on 1st May 1919.

Present status (October 2013)

During the late 1930s Staffordshire House became a Royal Air Force Volunteers Reserve Centre for the London District.

After WW2 it was used by the Court of Protection.

Today it is known as the Imagination Building, containing offices for the creative communications agency Imagination.

Nos. 74-78 Gower Street are now student apartments for the University of London.

Imagination House
The Imagination Building, formerly Staffordshire House.

74-78 Gower Street
Nos. 74-78 Gower Street, the second home for the Hospital.
References (Accessed 5th November 2013)

(Author unstated) 1915 Nursing echoes.  British Journal of Nursing, 5th June, 489.

(Author unstated) 1932 The Belgian Memorial at Kensal Green.  The Tablet, 17th December, 32.

May P 1915 King Albert's Hospitals.  Rapport de l'Exercice 1914-1915  [in French].  Document BEL 10 1/7 Women at Work Collection, Imperial War Museum, London.

May P  1916 Les "King Albert's Hospitals".  A Book of Belgium's Gratitude.  London, John Lane, The Bodley Head. Pp. 65-66.

Pardoe M 1917 Correspondence giving further information about King Albert's Hospitals.  
Document BEL 10 1/4 Women at Work Collection, Imperial War Museum, London.

www.1914-1918.be (1)
www.1914-1916.be (2)
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