St Mary Abbot's Hospital

Marloes Road,  Kensington, W8 5LQ

Medical dates:

Medical character:

1871 - 1992

General, acute.  Later, geriatrics, psychiatry.

St Mary Abbot's Hospital had originally been two former workhouses - the Kensington workhouse and infirmary (built in 1847 in the parish of St Mary Abbot's) and the Westminster workhouse with its schoolhouse and separate infirmary (built in 1853 on an adjacent site belonging to the St Margaret and St John parishes).

The main Kensington workhouse was a 3-storey building in the 'Jacobethan style', with a taller central block and projecting wings.  It had originally housed 400 inmates, but soon became overcrowded.  In 1871 a separate 4-storey infirmary was built in a matching style.  It had 375 beds, mainly for the chronically sick.  A new dispensary served both in-patients and the poor of Kensington.  A 4-storey wing for 300 able-bodied poor was also built; facilities included a laundry and a dining room for the inmates.  Over the next two years the workhouse buildings were improved and extended.

In 1875, following the receipt of £2500 from a legacy, a chapel dedicated to St Elizabeth of Hungary was built, serving both the workhouse and the infirmary (previously the main dining room behind the workhouse had been used for services).

In 1878 a mortuary was built at the cost of £182.  In the same year the Westminster workhouse was vacated when the inmates moved to the new extension to the workhouse in Fulham Road (which later became St Stephen's Hospital).  Thus, the 3 acre site immediately to the south of the Kensington workhouse became available and was acquired in 1880 by the Kensington Board of Guardians.

In 1893 a new administration block was erected in Marloes Road (in 1890 Wrights Lane had been renamed Marloes Road and, by 1914, the whole road as far as Cheniston Gardens had been renamed Marloes Road).  Three linked 3-storey ward pavilions for male patients were built to the south of the administration block, and the 1871 building became an infirmary for female patients.  Conditions continued to improve for staff and inmates.  In 1899 new hydraulic lifts were installed.

In 1908 a Phthisical Committee was formed because of the growing concern with tuberculosis.  It recommended that patients of good character in the early stages of the disease be sent to sanatoria, while the chronic and incurable ones remain in the Infirmary in specially erected verandah accommodation made of iron and glass.

In 1912 the workhouse was renamed the Kensington Institution, while the hospital facilities became the Kensington Infirmary.  Electric lighting, which had been installed in the chapel and the Guardians' offices in 1909, was installed in the Infirmary in 1912 and finally in the Institution in 1923.

In 1923 the Infirmary became known as St Mary Abbot's Hospital.  It had become a general hospital and was used by the public for the treatment of accidents and for cases of mental illness.  (The Guardians wished to amalgamate the Hospital and Institution, partly because non-pauper patients resented being transferred to Institution wards to convalesce.)  The postmortem room and mortuary chapel were improved in 1923, having been rebuilt in 1892 and recognised as inadequate in 1913.

In 1926 the former Westminster workhouse was converted into a Nurses' Home.

The LCC took over administrative control in 1930 and St Mary Abbot's Hospital became an acute hospital, while the Institution cared for the chronically ill.  The eastern wing of the Hospital - originally the lying-in wards built in 1886 - was converted into a pathology laboratory, which also served a local group of hospitals.  The maternity patients moved to the main block.  In 1931 the Master of the Kensington Institution retired and was replaced by a Medical Superintendent.

In 1933 the Institution became integrated with the Hospital, becoming St Mary Abbot's Hospital (II), the former infirmary being St Mary Abbot's Hospital (I).  The former Westminster infirmary became a hospital for young children and infants.

In 1935 the LCC installed two new operating theatres in a new block which incorporated the western wing of the original lying-in wards; an anaesthetic room, recovery room and X-ray darkroom were also added.

During WW2 the Hospital suffered bomb damage in 1940, when four people were killed and one of the blocks was destroyed.  St Mary Abbot's (II) was forced to close in 1944 when a flying bomb scored a direct hit.  The southern end of the 1847 main block - Stone Hall - and the 1871 infirmary were destroyed.  Five nurses, six children and seven adult patients died.  33 casualties were transferred to St George's Hospital and the remainder of the patients evacuated.  The Hospital gradually opened again, still carrying out repairs during its transfer to the NHS.

In 1948 the Hospital joined the NHS and both parts were united formally, coming under the administrative care of the Fulham and Kensington Hospital Management Committee.  It became a general hospital with about 400 beds.

In 1951 the original Guardians' Board Room and offices at 28 Marloes Road were refurbished as a maternity unit and a casualty department.  In 1953 the Metropolitan Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital moved to the St Mary Abbot's Hospital site, existing as a separate unit with 27 beds.  In 1955 St Mary Abbot's Hospital became an acute general hospital with 395 beds.

In 1967 a new single-storey building to the west of the original workhouse block was built to accommodate short-stay psychiatric patients.

By 1972 the Hospital had begun to specialize in geriatrics and psychiatry; there were very limited surgical facilities (patients needing surgery were referred to St Stephen's Hospital). By this time the Hospital had 268 beds. In 1974 the maternity and casualty units closed and their premises - the former Board Room and offices - were demolished to make way for a new 2-storey geriatric Day Hospital. The chapel, which had been damaged during the war, was also demolished.  It was replaced by a new red brick inter-denominational chapel, built immediately south of Stone Hall; it opened in 1977.  A further 2-storey building replaced one of the ward blocks of the former Institution at the northeast corner of the site.

By 1984 the Hospital had become a long-stay hospital for chronically sick, geriatric or psychiatric patients.

The Hospital closed in 1992, one of the four that closed when the new Chelsea and Westminster Hospital  opened on the St Stephen's Hospital site in Fulham Road.  The others were the Westminster Hospital, the West London Hospital and St Stephen's Hospital.

Present status (February 2008)

Most of the Hospital buildings were demolished, but much of the original 1847 main building survives, as well as the gatehouse, perimeter railings and gate posts.  The site has been redeveloped as luxury housing in a secure gated community.  It is now known as Stone Hall Gardens.

St Mary Abbot's Hospital
The entrance archway on Marloes Road.

St Mary Abbot's Hospital
Stone Hall and its courtyard can be seen though the archway.

St Mary Abbot's Hospital
Stone Hall, built in 1847, is the only part of the workhouse that survives today.  Its southern end was destroyed by bombs during WW2.

St Mary Abbot's Hospital
St Mary Close, the guarded entrance to the gated complex. The Hospital's gate posts, railings and gatehouse survive.

St Mary Abbot's Hospital
An old fountain set in the Marloes Road wall. The inscription reads "Lord from thy blessed throne * the griefs of earth look upon * God bless the poor! * Teach them true liberty * make them from strong drink free * Let their homes happy be * God bless the poor"

St Mary Abbot's Hospital
The gated complex from the south.

St Mary Abbot's Hospital
The view of the complex from the north - Stone Hall can just be glimpsed.

The Anthony Nolan Trust was based at St Mary Abbot's Hospital following its move from the Westminster Children's Hospital.  It is now at the Royal Free Hospital.

In 1970 the 27-year-old rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix was brought here after being found dead of asphyxiation, choking on his own vomit, in an apartment in a private hotel.

References (Accessed 22nd November 2015)

Hughes B 1991 From Workhouse to Hospital. The Story of St Mary Abbots Hospital, Kensington.  London, St Mary Abbot's Hospital.


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