Royal Trinity Hospice
30 North Side, Clapham Common, SW4 0RN
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1891 - current

Terminal care
On Christmas Day 1891 The Times published a letter from Col. William Hoare, a member of the banking family, appealing for funds to establish a home "for the man who is neither curable nor incurable, but simply dying".  It was written on behalf of Clara Maria Hole, Mother Superior of the St James' Sisters of the Poor, then residing in Cornwall.

Named after the Hotel-Dieu in Paris, the Hostel of God (Free Home for the Dying) opened shortly after at No. 82 The Chase, Clapham Common. Col. Hoare had personally provided £1,000, half the money needed, the other half being raised by public subscription.

The Hostel of God had 10 beds.  Patients were of all classes, from all parts of the country, with no distinction of nationality, colour or creed.  Most were in the final stages of consumption (TB) or cancer.  They required constant attention, entailing heavy expense.  Nursing care was provided by the St James' Sisters of the Poor, an Anglican teaching order.

However, the building soon proved unsuitable, lacking adequate sanitary arrangements for the patients.  It proved impossible to rent a more suitable property and the Mother Superior decided that the best solution would be to buy a property and adapt it to the needs of the patients and staff.  In 1893 she appealed to the public to raise £5,000 for that purpose.

In 1896 management of the Hostel was taken over by the nursing order of the Sisters of St Margaret from East Grinstead.

In 1899 The Elms at No. 29 North Side, Clapham Common, was purchased and the Hostel moved there shortly afterwards.  It then had 36 beds.

In 1907 the neighbouring property - No. 30 - was purchased.

By 1933 the Hostel had 55 beds, which were 'in constant occupation'.

In 1939 it had 50 beds.

At the outbreak of WW2 in 1939 the Hostel was evacuated to Beckworth House in Lindfield.  It returned to London in 1946.

In 1948 the Hostel was disclaimed from the NHS.  In that year Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) visited.

In 1951 Princess Alice laid the foundation stone for a new extension.  This opened in 1953 as St Michael's Ward, with 25 beds.  The bed complement of the Hospital was then increased to 75.

On 30th April 1969 Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother visited.

In 1977, with rising costs, more home care available and difficulties in recruiting novices, the Sisters decided to leave.  The Hostel's Council began to recruit staff directly, running the establishment as a secular independent home offering modern palliative care.

In 1978 refurbishment work began to improve and upgrade the buildings.  During this period, only 18 beds were available.

In 1980 the Hostel was renamed the Trinity Hospice.  Its first full-time Medical Director was appointed and a home care team established.

In 1981, while building work continued, restoration of the neglected 2-acre garden began, with the Royal Patron, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, planting a copper beech tree on the lawn behind No. 29.

During the 1980s the education services were expanded.

By 1985 the Hospice had 30 beds in three wards.  The largest ward - St Michael's, located on the ground floor - contained 13 beds.  All the bedrooms looked onto the garden, to which each patient had direct access.  St Margaret's Ward on the first floor had 7 beds - 3 beds in each of the two semi-private rooms and one single room.  These rooms either overlooked the garden or Clapham Common.  In the other building on the upper floor was Elizabeth Clark Ward with 10 beds in much the same configuration as St Margaret Ward.  Each ward had a dayroom for patients and visitors to use.

In 1987 the Day Centre opened.

The Hospice celebrated its centenary in 1991 with a visit from the Duchess of York and a service in Westminster Abbey.

In 2008 a £10m purpose-built 2-storey in-patient block was added to the site.  It contained 28 beds, mainly in en-suite rooms, as well as new medical facilities, more private areas for patients and their families, and counselling and bereavement rooms.  The garden was re-designed again to integrate it with the new, partly sunken building, which had balconies overlooking the garden.

In 2011 Mulberry Place opened to provide out-patient services.

In 2015 The Elms at No. 29 (the original hospice building) was converted into six apartments to provide an income for the Hospice.

In 2016 the Hospice added 'Royal' to its title, becoming the Royal Trinity Hospice.  Its Patron, the Duchess of Cornwall visited to celebrate its 125th year of operation.  An Appeal was launched to raise funds to open a Royal Trinity Centre north of the river.

Present status (August 2018)

The Hospice remains operational, providing palliative care and support to those living in central and southwest London.

N.B.  Photographs obtained in November 2008

No. 30, North Side, Clapham Common.  The Hospice remained operation in the midst of a major rebuilding and refurbishing project in 2008.

The entrance driveway to the Hospice.

Royal Trinity Hospice

The Elms, No. 29 North Side was Grade II listed in 1955 (above and below).  It has been converted into an apartment block.


The entrance to No. 29 on the corner of North Side and The Chase.
References (Accessed 25th August 2018)

(Author unstated) 1895 "Our brother's" bed.   Freemason's Chronicle 41 (1058), 166.

Clark D 2016 To Comfort Always: A History of Palliative Medicine since the Nineteenth Century.  Oxford University Press.

Dowling S 1981 The hospice tradition.  Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 74, 558.

Hole CM 1893  Home for the Dying.  Lancet 151  (3639), 1286-1287.

Verberder S, Refuerzo BJ 2003  Innovations in Hospice Architecture.  Abingdon, Taylor & Francis.


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