Institute of Ray Therapy
152-154 Camden Road, NW1 9NL
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1930 - 1954

Specialist (Out-Patients only)
The Institute of Ray Therapy was officially opened in March 1930 by the Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Sir William Waterlow.  (However, it had already been operational since January, with the administrative offices being used as treatment rooms until the whole building was ready. The Institute's initial equipment consisted of a quadruple carbon arc lamp, a mercury vapour lamp, a Kromayer lamp, a water-cooled tungsten lamp and an ordinary cooled tungsten lamp.  A more extensive installation of equipment was planned for the end of February before the official opening).

Ray treatment had nothing to do with X-rays.  It was otherwise known as light treatment (the Institute's subtitle was Sunlight Clinic), which had emanated from Denmark with the use of the Finsen's lamp.  

The Institute, on the corner of Camden Road and Rochester Square, was a big white building with green shutters and had been designed for its purpose.  It was a voluntary hospital, established to treat people of small means (patients paid from 1 to 5 shillings (5 to 25p) or, if poor, for free.  It also acted as a training and research centre for such treatment.

Actinotherapy (treatment using ultraviolet and infrared light) was offered to convalescents who had become debilitated after illness or operation, workers deprived of sunlight in their work, those with wasted muscles due to fracture or accident, weakly children and those with rickets or bronchitis, patients with rheumatism or rheumatoid arthritis, or various forms of paralysis, and those with skin diseases, varicose ulcers, baldness, lumbago or sciatica.  Small children were treated in the early afternoon, and older children in the late afternoon.  Children referred by the L.C.C. school doctors were seen from 4.00 until 6.00 p.m.  The Institute had rooms for the reception of patients, separate and group treatment rooms, rooms for patients to rest in after treatment and for shower baths.

Patients required a letter of referral from their G.P. and were obliged to attend for treatment three times a week.  They were not allowed to cease treatment until they were discharged.

During the period March 1930 to December 1933 some 6,313 patients had been treated.  In 1933 additional diathermy machines were installed, in addition to apparatus for medical electrical treatment - ionisation, galvanism and Faradism.   An Extension Fund was established to raise £10,000 for an electrotherapeutic section.

By the mid 1930s the Institute employed six qualified doctors and nurses.  A Resident Medical Officer had an apartment on the premises.

In 1934 an independent daughter institute was established in Luton.

In February 1938 the Princess Royal, Patroness of the Institute, which had been renamed the Institute of Ray Therapy and Electrotherapy, opened the new extension, which had been added to the rear of the building.  It had cost £7,500 to build the new Department of Electrotherapy, but another £1,500 was needed to complete the equipment.  The nursing staff of the Institute now consisted of 7 Sisters and one assistant.

During WW2 it was found that the stress of war conditions actively affected 'rheumatism', whilst the blackout resulted in malnutrition and anaemia.  Patients were advised to sleep as much as possible, to exercise in the fresh air, eat nourishing food and to take artificial sunbaths under medical supervision.

By 1944 the Institute had been renamed the Institute of Ray Treatment (Hospital for Physiotherapy), from where all forms of electrical or irradiation treatment, massage and hydrotherapy could be obtained.

In 1948 the Institute joined the NHS under the control of the Paddington Group Hospital Management Committee, part of the North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.

The Institute closed in 1954 and its premises became a Medical Rehabilitation Centre, offering physiotherapy to out-patients only.

Present status (October 2008)

The building has been demolished.  It was replaced in the early 1990s by a 3-storey brick building which housed the Camden Road Nursing Home (a residential care facility facing Camden Road) and the Camden Mews Day Hospital (backing on to Camden Mews).

The site now houses offices for the New Routes Mental Health Outreach Team of the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.
 152-154 Camden Road
152-154 Camden Road.
Ray therapy

Ray therapy encompassed the use of infrared rays, radiant heat, diathermy (including new shortwave therapy), ionisation and Schnee baths.

In 1893 Finsen, of Copenhagen, used a carbon arc lamp for the artificial production of ultraviolet rays in the treatment of lupus vulgaris (tuberculosis of the skin).

Later, the invention of the mercury vapour lamp led to a rapid development of ultraviolet (UV) treatment (actinotherapy).  The main artificial sources of UV light were the carbon arc lamp, the tungsten arc lamp and the mercury vapour lamp (either air-cooled or water-cooled).  The rays were used generally to promote resistance to infectious disease, and locally to produce erythema of the skin in the treatment of psoriasis and acne.  UV light was also used to destroy diseased tissue, such as in lupus vulgaris and port-wine naevus.

Heliotherapy (light therapy) is contra-indicated in diseases associated with light sensitivity, e.g. lupus erythematosus, and acute inflammatory diseases of the skin.

Burgess N 1937 Physiotherapy in diseases of the skin.  Postgraduate Medical Journal (June), 209-214.
(Author unstated) 1930 An Institute of Ray Therapy: a voluntary 'light' clinic for London.  British Medical Journal 1 (3603), 163-164.

(Author unstated) 1932 The Camden Road Institute of Ray Therapy.  British Journal of Radiology 5, 427.

(Author unstated) 1938 Nursing echoes.  British Journal of Nursing (February), 33.

(Author unstated) 1939 War worry cures.  The News and Courier, 17th December, 7.

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