St Charles' Hospital

Exmoor Street, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, W10 6DZ

Medical dates:

Medical character:

1881 - current

Acute. Later, rehabilitation and mental.

In 1876 potential sites for an infirmary for the sick poor of the parish of St Marylebone were being considered in the West End, Hampstead and Ladbroke Grove in North Kensington.  The last site was finally chosen - a 3.5 acre site in Rackham Street costing almost £8100 - and the foundation stone was laid in 1879.

In 1881 the St Marylebone Union Infirmary was officially opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales.  The building was three storeys high, with a central block and four pavilions.  It had accommodation for 744 patients (372 males in the two pavilions to the west of the central block and 372 females to the east) and 86 resident staff (the Infirmary also had 82 non-resident staff).  

The staff included a resident Medical Officer, whose annual salary should have been £500, but the Guardians managed to beat this down to £450, an Assistant Medical Officer, who earned £150 a year, a dispenser (£120 a year) and a Matron, who earned between £100-150.  The Assistant Matron received £50-70 a year, while a pavilion nurse earned £28-32.  A day or night nurse received £20-25 a year, while the Head Night Nurse received £32-38.  Accommodation, rations, uniforms and laundry were included.

In 1884 more land was bought and a Nurses' Home built, which was opened by Princess Christian, daughter of Queen Victoria.  Florence Nightingale established a Training School for Nurses at the Infirmary, one of the first in a poor law establishment.

In 1902 an X-ray apparatus was installed and an operating theatre opened.

In 1923 the Infirmary was renamed the St Marylebone Hospital.  By this time it had 732 beds; the patients were mainly chronically infirm adults and children.  The following year an extension adjacent to the west end of the original Nurses' Home was opened by the then Minister of Health, Neville Chamberlain (the extension became known as the Chamberlain Home).  In 1926 some wards had bedside wireless sets installed.  In 1928 an internal phone system was installed.

In 1930 the LCC took over administrative charge and renamed it St Charles' Hospital.  New buildings were erected in the open spaces between the pavilions during the 1930s and, in 1936, another new Nurses' Home opened.  In 1937 new accommodation was built for the night nurses at the northwest corner of the site, which had previously been occupied by the doctors' garden (the Chamberlain Home had proved to be inadequate and noisy).  In 1938 an epidemic of infective enteritis in babies caused several to be admitted.  Some died and this affected the reputation of the Hospital for a while.

In 1939 it became a District General Hospital, but facilities were inadequate and few operations were performed.  For the duration of WW2 all the top floor wards were closed.  A bomb demolished the southern boundary wall and several windows were blown out.  A few incendiary bombs fell in the open spaces, but the Hospital survived relatively unscathed.

In 1948 the Hospital joined the NHS under the control of the Paddington Group Hospital Management Committee.  The number of beds decreased as wards were taken over for other uses.  By 1949 there were 400 beds, 260 of which were medical, including 60 for TB patients, 12 for venereal disease and 45 for children.

During the 1950s the Hospital acquired several Portakabins and an Out-Patients Department opened.  In 1952 an 8-bedded plastic surgery unit was opened by Sir Harold Gillies (1882-1960).

In 1960 a bleeper system was installed for the medical staff.  New pathology laboratories opened in 1964 and, in 1966, the wards were modernized.  The Peter Pan Ward, with 36 beds, was opened as a facility for mothers to stay with their children.  In 1967 a modern, fully air-conditioned twin operating theatre with anaesthetic and recovery rooms was built.  The following year a new plastic surgery ward was opened by Lady Gillies.

The Out-Patients Department was extended in 1972 and, in 1973, a Paediatric Department was opened by Sir Keith Joseph (1918-1994), Secretary of State for Health and Social Services.

By 1981 the Hospital had 350 beds with 600 staff (one-third of whom were resident), reversing the earlier situation when there had been more beds than staff.  104 beds were for general medical cases, 81 surgical, 36 orthopaedic, 36 paediatric and 63 for the elderly.  The wards were upgraded and the following year plans were made for a new  psychiatric and psychogeriatric unit to be established between the main Hospital and St Marks Road, giving an extra 116 beds and 120 places in a Day Hospital.

In-patient services gradually reduced though and, by 1998, the Hospital had 120 beds.  The site became underused and its future uncertain.  In 2007 NHS Direct closed its call centre based at the Hospital.

The Hospital is currently managed by Kensington and Chelsea Primary Care Trust (PCT), although historically most in-patients had been from Westminster.  The PCT runs a Minor Injuries Unit, a palliative care centre and a pharmacy; there are 61 beds for patients requiring rehabilitation.  About one-third of the site is occupied by a Mental Health Centre operated by the Central and North West London Mental Health Trust (CNWL).

Present status (September 2009)

The Grade II listed buildings survive and part of the Hospital  is to be redeveloped as a community hospital.

The Hospital chapel above the arched entrance way was used for many years as a storeroom.  Once the layers of paint were stripped away, the original painted walls and tile work were revealed.  The chapel, which could seat 250 people, has been restored and is now a room used for meetings and conferences.

The 182-ft tall water tower, previously containing the Hospital laundry, now houses a gym for NHS staff - the St Charles' Fitness Suite.

Update:  January 2011

In November 2010 the newly built community hospital opened - the St Charles' Centre for Health and Wellbeing.

Update:  December 2015

The site is jointly occupied by the Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust, which manages the St Charles' Centre for Health and Wellbeing, and the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services in St Charles' Hospital.

St Charles Hospital

The entrance driveway in Exmoor Street.

St Charles Hospital

The porter's lodge is to the left of the entrance drive.

St Charles Hospital

The main entrance building is along and to the right of the main driveway.

St Charles Hospital

The former Hospital chapel is located above the entrance archway.

St Charles Hospital

The barely legible 1879 foundation stone is on the left side of the archway. It was laid on July 7th 1879 by Edmund Boulnois, Chairman of the Board of Guardians for the parish of St Marylebone, and his two Vice-Chairmen.

St Charles Hospital

The Hospital frontage along Exmoor Street.

St Charles Hospital

Ward blocks on the eastern part of the site.

St Charles Hospital

Ward blocks at the western side (above and below).

St Charles Hospital


St Charles Hospital

One of the eastern ward blocks is currently undergoing reconstruction to become the community hospital.

St Charles Hospital

The water tower as seen from the drive.

St Charles HospitalSt Charles Hospital

The goods entrance (left).  The water tower (right) in the north courtyard is now a gym.

St Charles Hospital

The modern Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit with 10 beds backs onto St Marks Road and is owned by CNWL (above and below).

St Charles Hospital


St Charles Hospital

The back of the Hospital from St Marks Road.

Carmelite Monastery

Nothing at all to do with the Hospital:  the Carmelite Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity, on the northwest corner of St Charles Square, is adjacent to St Charles' Hospital and has its entrance in Exmoor Street.


Update: March 2011

St Charles Hospital

New signage for the St Charles' Centre for Health and Wellbeing (above and below).

St Charles Hospital

St Charles Hospital

The Urgent Care Centre.

St Charles Hospital

The E.C.T. Suite is located in a modern building.

St Charles Hospital

Nightingale House on the southern part of the site provides mental health care for older people.


Update: December 2015

St Charles Hospital

The main entrance to the Hospital is through the archway on the left.

St Charles Hospital

The former chapel is above the entrance arch.

St Charles Hospital

The main entrance to St Charles' Hospital (mental health services) is through the arch.

St Charles Hospital

The St Charles's Centre for Health and Well-Being is to the east of the main St Charles' Hospital.

St Charles Hospital

St Charles' Centre for Health and Well-Being.

St Charles Hospital

The Urgent Care Centre (above and below).

St Charles Hospital

In 1949 John Reginald Christie attended the Out-Patients Department complaining of a strained back.  He had spent the morning struggling down the stairs with the body of his latest victim for concealment in the washroom of his home at 10 Rillington Place.

References (Accessed 26th December 2015)

Curle B 1981 St Charles Hospital. A Century of Service 1881-1981.  London, Smith Kline & French Laboratories Ltd.

Neate AR 1967 The St Marylebone Workhouse and Institution 1730-1965.  London, St Marylebone Society.

http://wellcomeimages.org (1)

http://wellcomeimages.org (2)








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