Mary Wardell Convalescent Home for Scarlet Fever
Brockley Hill, Stanmore, Middlesex HA7 4LP
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1884 - 1917

In the spring of 1879 Miss Mary L. Wardell, working among the poor of London, decided that there was a great need for a place where patients recovering from scarlet fever and other infectious diseases could be sent to aid recovery by fresh air and good nourishment.

She consulted her medical and other friends about the need for such a convalescent home, and the proposal was met with great encouragement.  One of her friends, Dr A.P. Stewart, gave his hearty support and introduced her to a large number of the leading members of the medical profession so that she could ascertain their opinions.  The result of the inquiry was that almost all the doctors regarded such a home as a necessity, not just for the poor, but for all classes.

Miss Wardell therefore decided to establish a home for those recovering from scarlet fever, one of the most widespread infectious diseases (it was felt that patients recovering from other infectious diseases could not be safely accommodated in the same premises because of the danger of cross-infection).

In December 1880 a Committee was formed to promote the scheme and to form a deputation to the President of the Local Government Board, urging him of the need for such a home for convalescent paupers.   Fund-raising began to raise enough money to finance the project (after four years £12,000 had been raised).  One of the many difficulties faced by the Committee was that, although everyone in principle acknowledged the need for such a convalescent home, no-one actually wanted one located in their immediate neighbourhood or on their own property (on the termination of a lease, it would be impossible to find a tenant to succeed such an institution).  It would therefore be necessary to find a freehold property.

By January 1883, after a great number of properties had been visited, many of the obstacles had been overcome and a property with 4 acres of grounds was purchased.

The house - Verulam House - had been built for Mr Samuel Loomes, a successful pork butcher in Camden Town and Islington.  Mr Loomes had died in 1882 and the unfinished house had never been occupied. (It may be that Miss Wardell renamed it Sulloniacae when she purchased it, after the Roman site found on Brockley Hill.)  It was situated at the top of Brockley Hill, near Stanmore, about 450 feet (140 metres) above sea-level.  It was about 10 miles away from Marble Arch in a northwesterly direction.  It was suitably isolated and, in fact, a water supply had to be laid on from a considerable distance and at large expense.  An elaborate and costly draining system had also to be installed.

The Mary Wardell Convalescent Home for Scarlet Fever was officially opened on 14th July 1884 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, accompanied by their three daughters, Louise, Victoria and Maud.  The Princess of Wales agreed to become the Home's Patroness.

On the ground floor were a dining room and a drawing room, each with a southern aspect, for the use of convalescents paying for first-class accommodation - £3 gns (£3.15) a week.  The ordinary patients -15 shillings (75p) a week, 12 shillings (60p) for children - had a large Day Room, which look south, west and north.  Matron's office, a library and the usual servants' offices were also located on the ground floor.  The well-lit and ventilated basement contained cellars and furnaces for the central heating and hot water systems.

The first floor contained the bedrooms and bathrooms for the first-class patients, with a Play Room for children in inclement weather.  The ordinary (second-class) patients slept in dormitories on the top floor, which also contained one bathroom.

An annexe, built separately from the house, contained closets, a slop sink and a lift.  It had glazed brick walls and tile floors (for more perfect cleansing), and communicated with the house on each floor by means of a short corridor, sealed at each end by a swing door.

The intention was that the Home would have 40 beds, but the lack of funds meant that only part of it could be furnished, so the number of patients was limited to 12.

The Home owned a private omnibus, which fetched patients from hospital or from their own homes.  Thus, the public was protected from risk of infection and the patient spared a tiresome journey on public transport.  No extra charge was made for this service unless the journey was beyond the reach of one horse (about 25 miles for a return journey), in which case a second horse could be hired or the omnibus sent by rail, at the expense of the patient.  After each journey the omnibus was disinfected: the vehicle was tightly closed and a solution of hydrochloric acid was poured upon half a pound of chloride of lime and placed in an open pipkin inside it.

To prevent the spread of infection, attendants were not permitted to wear their scarlet uniforms outside the Home.  The bright colour had been chosen to prevent the wearer from going outside the gates without being immediately detected.  It was also reassuring to those members of the public who feared the highly contagious disease and who could thus avoid a brightly clad figure.

During the second half of 1886 the demand for places was so great that the Committee decided to  furnish the rest of the Home, despite the fact that the debt of £500 incurred for the initial start-up of the Home had not yet been paid off.  Despite the increase in accommodation, several applications had to be refused by the end of the year.

The fluctuation in the occurrence of scarlet fever made the efficient working of the Home difficult.  At one time, staff and housekeeping arrangements were in excess of the requirements of the establishment, while at another time they were barely equal to the demands.  Most scarlet fever outbreaks happened in the winter months, when the costs of heating and lighting entailed heavier expenditure.  It was also virtually impossible to obtain extra help from outside, and difficult to find servants who had recovered from scarlet fever and were thus immune.  The want of funds became a lasting and pressing difficulty in the running of the Home.

By 1888 some 750 patients had been admitted during the four years since the Home had opened.  The youngest had been three weeks old.  About one-third of the patients had been treated in hospital and the other two-thirds in their own homes or institutions.  Many of the children had been sent from charitable institutions, homes, orphanages, schools and refuges.  Some were blind, deaf and dumb, semi-paralysed, crippled or had scrofula (TB of the lymph nodes in the neck).

In 1889 some 211 were admitted, of whom one was under the age of 1 year, 74 were aged 7 years or under, while 65 were 12 years or under; 44 of the patients were adults aged 20 years or under and 27 were aged over 20.  Of the 211 patients, 106 had been previously treated in their own residences, 78 at the London Fever Hospital and 27 at other hospitals.  Of the children, 31 had come from homes, orphanages and other institutions, 51 were the offspring of mechanics, shopmen, labourers, charwomen, etc., 30 were the children of Post Office workers, police and other government officials, 31 of tradesmen, 17 of clerks and schoolmasters, etc., and 22 of professional men, private gentlemen and merchants.  The adult group comprised 5 trained nurses, 9 female servants, dressmakers, needlewomen, etc., 12 other adults and 3 nurses or relatives who had cared for scarlet fever patients during their illness.

In 1891 the Home was extended.  In 1899 some 193 patients were admitted for convalescence during the year.

In 1901 there were 217 patients, as opposed to 165 in 1900.  In addition to cases of scarlet fever, there were two cases of roseola (sixth disease), 4 of chickenpox and 11 of diphtheria.  During the year a servant had contracted smallpox, which added greatly to the difficulties of the administration.  The case was a mild one (all staff had been vaccinated), but the Home nonetheless had to close to new admissions for some time until all convalescents had been discharged, after which it could be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

In 1902 some 151 patients were admitted.

In 1911 a small smoking room was built for the patients to use when the weather was wet and cold.

During WW1 the Home initially became an auxiliary military convalescent hospital for wounded French and Belgian soldiers.  By July 1915 it had 56 beds for sick and wounded servicemen and was known variously as the Wardell Auxiliary Hospital or the Wardell Military Hospital.  It was later affiliated to the Fourth London General Hospital.

The Hospital closed in 1917, when Miss Wardell died at the age of 84 years.

Present status (May 2009)

The property was bought by the Shaftesbury Society at the end of the war.

In 1920 it was purchased by the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital for use as a country branch.

The original house (Verulam House) at the junction of Brockley Hill and Wood Lane has been demolished but the extension of the Home, built in 1891, still exists as Eastgate House, the administration offices of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital.
Eastgate House
Eastgate House is a locally listed building.
(Author unstated) 1884 Scarlet fever convalescent home.  British Medical Journal 2 (1229), 130.

(Author unstated) 1888
The Mary Wardell Scarlet Fever Convalescent Home.  Nursing Record, 15th November, 466-469.

(Author unstated) 1890 Nursing echoes.  Nursing Record, 15th May, 235.

(Author unstated) 1893 Nursing echoes.  Nursing Record, 16th March, 142.

(Author unstated) 1900
The Mary Wardell Convalescent Home for Scarlet Fever.  British Medical Journal 1 (2058), 1446.

(Author unstated) 1902 The Mary Wardell Convalescent Home.  British Medical Journal 1 (2159), 1248.

(Author unstated) 1911 The Mary Wardell Convalescent Home.  British Medical Journal 1 (2632), S424.

Beale A 1889 The Mary Wardell Convalescent Home for Scarlet Fever.  Girls' Own Paper, 558-559.


Return to alphabetical list
Return to home page