St James' Hospital

Ouseley Road, Balham, SW12 8HW

Medical dates:

Medical character:

1909 - 1988


Rapid population growth in the early 1890s had resulted in increased demand for poor relief, so the Wandsworth Union purchased the site of the St James's Road Industrial School for £21,000 from the Westminster Union.  The School had been built around 1851 to house juvenile offenders.  The existing buildings were converted and became known as the St James's Road branch of the Garratt Lane workhouse.

In 1909 the Wandsworth Board of Guardians built St James' Infirmary in Sarsfeld Road, on what had once been the workhouse gardens.  

It was officially opened in November 1910 by the Rt Hon John Burns, President of the Local Government Board, with the main ceremony taking place in an unfurnished ward. The buildings had cost £66,550 and could accommodate 606 patients. The central 2-storey administration block had a long corridor either side, linking it to the 3-storey ward blocks to the south (for men) and the north (for women).   The old workhouse buildings which fronted onto St James's Road were also taken over by the Infirmary.

During WW1 the Infirmary became an auxiliary military hospital to the First London (T.F.) General Hospital, with 68 of its beds allocated to wounded or sick servicemen.

In 1920 its name was changed to St James' Hospital.  By this time it had 670 beds.  In 1923 staff accommodation was improved with a new Nurses' Home that could accommodate 155 members of staff.  In 1926 another block for the Nurses' Home was built at the southern part of the site.

In 1930 the LCC took control and it became a general hospital with 746 beds.  Between 1931 and 1936 the Hospital was greatly expanded; two new blocks containing six extra wards were added, giving a total of 898 beds. In 1935 new X-ray and Physiotherapy Departments were built and, in 1936, a further extension to the Nurses' Home provided lecture rooms for the Nurses Training School as well as accommodation for 44 nurses.

During WW2 the Hospital suffered superficial damage from incendiary bombs - on one occasion over 200 fell on the site.  In 1944 a flying bomb damaged three wards, the boiler house and laundry.  A second flying bomb not long afterwards fell outside the gates and damaged the opposite side of the Hospital.

It joined the NHS in July 1948 with 610 beds under the control of the Wandsworth Group Hospital Management Committee, part of the South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. By December 1948, the Hospital had 628 beds.

By the end of 1949 it had 637 beds and, by the end of 1950, 642 beds.

In 1949 land had been acquired at the junction of St James's Drive (previously named St James's Road) and Sarsfield Road, and a new entrance for the Hospital had been made on St James's Drive.

  As the Hospital had not been originally designed for the treatment of out-patients, this department had had to be housed in the former Casualty Department - a small obsolete building - along with the X-ray Department, the dispensary and pathology laboratory.  In October 1951 it was decided to replace the workhouse buildings on St James's Drive with a new central complex containing an Out-Patients Department, Accident & Emergency and Admissions Departments on the west side (with kitchens and dining rooms above), X-ray and Physiotherapy Departments at the north, and a Nurses' Home at the south.  

The foundation stone for the new main building was laid in 1952 by Frank H. Elliott, the Chairman of the South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. Building works began, but little steel was available in the post-war years and the building had to be redesigned to reduce the amount of steel used. Thus, the 'prestressed concrete' incorporated wire instead of rods for the metal reinforcements. While this work was carried out, it was necessary to transfer some patients to the Grove Hospital and St Benedict's Hospital.

Following the rebuilding, the Hospital had 1082 beds.

In 1974, following a major reorganisation of the NHS, it came under the auspices of the Wandsworth and East Merton District Health Authority, part of the South West Thames Regional Health Authority.

In 1980 the Hospital amalgamated with St George's Hospital.  It closed in 1988 when the new St James Wing opened at the Tooting site.

Present status (February 2008)

The Hospital buildings were demolished in 1992.  The site has been redeveloped for housing.

Old Hospital Close

New housing in Old Hospital Close.

Old Hospital Close

Looking down Old Hospital Close towards the centre of the site.

St James Drive

Looking along St James's Drive (which had once been named St James's Road) from the south.

St Angela's Hospital

During 1975-1983 the outdoor scenes of the TV series 'Angels' were filmed in the Hospital grounds.  St James' Hospital starred as St Angela's Hospital.

References (Accessed 5th December 2015)

(Author unstated) 1908 Medical News. British Medical Journal (December 19) 1825.

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


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