The Battersea General Hospital, which stood on the corner of Prince of Wales Road and Albert Bridge Road, Battersea, has an involved history and its origins are not easy to trace. However, the following outline history has been compiled by reference to the minute books of the Board of Management (refs. H6/BG/A/01/001-010); papers in a legal case in which the hospital was involved in 1928 (refs. H6/BG/F/01/001-006) and files relating to the hospital amongst the records of the King Edward's Hospital Fund (refs. A/KE/45/4; A/KE/260(1)-(2); A/KE/512(5)).
The Battersea General Hospital was founded in 1896 as The National Anti-Vivisection Hospital by a Mrs. Theodore Russell Munroe, then Honorary Secretary of the Anti-Vivisection Society. A fund having been opened for the establishment of a hospital to be run on anti-vivisection principles, Mrs. Munroe then fell ill and the project was handed over to the International Council of Delegates from anti-vivisection societies. The Council appointed as trustees the Right Hon. Bernard John Seymour Baron Coleridge; the Right Hon. Edward George Percy Littleton Baron Hatherton; Abiathar Wall; Ernest Bell and the Revd. Augustus Jackson. The period from 1896-1901 was occupied with the preliminary work of raising funds and finding suitable premises.
The first Declaration of Trust (ref. A/KE/245/4) was dated 6 July 1897 and stated that it was proposed to raise a fund to found a general hospital to be known as The National Anti-Vivisection Hospital in or in connection with which no experiments on living animals were to be permitted and to the staff of which no one who supported or engaged in these practices was to be appointed, staff before appointment having to sign a pledge to this effect, and to the effect that they would not employ any remedies which could only be obtained as the product of experiments on living animals such as anti-toxin, Pasteur anti-rabic virus etc. It further stated that the trustees were to hold the £420 already subscribed and to raise more with the proviso that if after 21 years there was not a sufficient amount to found a hospital the funds were to be used for some other anti-vivisection purpose.
A second Declaration of Trust of 20 Nov 1899 (ref. A/KE/245/4) recites that £1,286 had been paid for a freehold site in Exmoor Street, Notting Hill for the founding of the hospital. This site could be sold to purchase another.
A third Declaration of Trust of 31 Dec 1900 (ref. A/KE/245/4) recites that the Trustees had paid £7,000 for a site in Battersea: a freehold plot on the west side of Albert Road and the north of Prince of Wales Road, together with a house, offices, coach-house and stables thereon called Lancaster Tower.
A fourth Declaration of Trust dated 22 June 1901 (ref. A/KE/245/4) made some minor amendments to the terms of the trust including that the word 'General' should be added before 'Hospital' in its title.
The legal papers of 1928 (ref. H6/BG/F/01/001-006) state that the first annual meeting was held on 13 March 1889, but it would seem likely that this is a misprint for 1899. It is also stated that a copy of the Report for 1901 shows that premises had been acquired and that the adaptation was nearly complete. The hospital opened to out-patients in June 1902 and to in-patients in Jan. 1903.
Of the 13 original governors 10 were women. The Hon. Treasurer was the Dowager Countess of Portsmouth, the Hon. Secretary and Hon. Assistant Secretary were women and Drs. Helen Bouchier of Paris and Anne McCall of Battersea were on the Honorary Medical Staff. A complete list of the staff in 1903 is given on a handbill promoting the hospital (ref. A/KE/260(1)). This also reveals that there were originally 15 beds, 4 of which were for children.
A report in The Evening News for 28 Dec 1936 (ref. A/KE/512/5) refers to 'Dr. Alexander Bowie, of Park Lane, the consulting physician, who opened the hospital between 30 and 40 years ago'. It quotes him as saying 'Even before the hospital was built there were two sections who differed about it and for a time the money went into Chancery. Then I was put in charge and opened the hospital. I remember that we began with one little girl patient. But it soon grew till the number was 100. I appointed the first house physician, a woman, the first nurse and the first medical staff'. Certainly Alexander Bowie is listed as one of the Trustees in the handbill of 1903 noted above.
The same article refers to the Brown Dog Memorial erected in Battersea in 1906 by the International Anti-Vivisection Council in memory of a dog allegedly cruelly treated during experiments at University College Hospital. For information on the memorial and the riots which led to its removal in 1911 see The Brown Dog Memorial in Wandsworth Historian, March 1985 and Battersea Metropolitan Council minutes 1904-1911, both in the Greater London History Library, and also the unpublished recollections of E.G. Slesinger who entered Guy's Hospital as a medical student in 1905, among the records of Guy's Hospital held by the Record Office (ref. H9/GY/Y/03/001 pp. 9-10).
An indenture of 15 Jan 1906 (summarised in A/KE/245/4) shows that the Trustees received a conveyance in trust of Darenth House, 34 Camberwell Green. The Grantors were the Trustees of an institution called The Hospital of St. Francis, which was dissolved in 1906 and merged in the Anti-Vivisection Hospital. By an Order of the Charity Commissioners of 4 June 1909 the Trustees were authorised to sell the land.
The Hospital of St. Francis had been founded in 1897 by Dr. Josiah Oldfield as an anti-vivisection hospital. The records of the Charity Organisation Society deposited here include among the records of the Enquiry Department a file on this man and the institution which he founded (ref. A/FWA/C/D30/1). It was originally at 145 New Kent Road, and a scathing attack in The Hospital of 26 July 1902 gives a detailed description of the accommodation there. The hospital was forced to close and although it was announced in the press in March 1903 that new premises had been purchased overlooking Camberwell Green for what was now to be known as The South London Hospital, it was closed in 1904, ostensibly following the decision of King's College Hospital to build nearby.
In 1909 (and again in 1927) an International Delegation visited the Anti-Vivisection hospital to investigate its work, one participant being the Vice President of the Union Ligue Populaire Contre la Vivisection et des Animaux Sauves de la Vivisection et de l'Abandon. The records of the hospital include a pamphlet in French publicising this Society (ref. H6/BH/F/01/006/006). There is a reference to the Anti-Vivisection Congress in the minutes of the Board of Management for 1 April 1909 (ref. H6/BG/A/01/001).
The hospital was incorporated on 27 Sept. 1910 and became known as The Anti-Vivisection Hospital, The Battersea General Hospital (Incorporated). This had been under discussion for several years (see minutes of the Board of Management for 6 June 1905 and 4 March 1909 ref. H6/BG/A/01/01). A copy of the Memorandum and Articles of Association drawn up in 1910 can be found in A/KE/245/4. In this, among other things, vivisection is more closely defined. It also states that the hospital is to be a public charity but with the power to take paying patients. Also, no major operation was to be performed without the written consent of the patient and no experiment, with or without drugs or anaesthetics, be made on any patient unless its object be to promote the healing and benefit of the patient.
A sketch of the constitution of the National Anti-Vivisection Hospital, The Battersea General Hospital enclosed in a letter dated 11 Nov 1907 in file A/KE/260(1) elaborates on this principle and stresses that treatment is with the sole aim of curing the malady and relieving the suffering and that the acquisition and spread of medical knowledge is regarded as a secondary object. It further states that one of the physicians is a homeopath and patients might receive homeopathic treatment. 'The only treatment absolutely shut out is that which (such as that of M. Pasteur) implies resort to Vivisection. The Buisson treatment of hydrophobia is installed at the Hospital'.
The hospital did not meet with universal approval. The minutes of the Board of Management for 5 Aug 1909 (ref. H6/BG/A1/1) record that the Board of the Metropolitan Hospital Sunday Fund had made injurious remarks regarding the system of the Anti-Vivisection Hospital and the efficiency of its treatment. An application for a grant made by the hospital to King Edward's Hospital Fund in 1907 was turned down on the grounds that 'The [hospital] does not comply with those general conditions which they consider should govern any hospital designed for the best form of relief for the sick poor....' (ref A/KE/260(1)), and the Committee recommended that the hospital 'not be visited in future in consequence of its work being based on considerations which are not exclusively directed to the welfare of the patients'. Applications in subsequent years up to 1935 were all turned down for the same reason, and the correspondence can be found in files A/KE/260(1) (1907-1928); A/KE/260(2) (1930-1934) and A/KE/245/4 (1935). These files also contain a large amount of material relevant to the history of the hospital such as newspaper cuttings (some of which comment adversely on the treatment of cases admitted to the hospital); articles in medical journals; extracts from Visitors reports; statistics; financial details and anti-vivisection pamphlets.
In 1928 the hospital was involved in a legal case over a disputed will (see H6/BG/A/01/004 and H6/BG/F/01). Constance Edith Guerrier, who died in France 24 Jan 1926, in her will dated 8 Nov 1919 bequeathed her estate in England to 'The Women's Hospital, Battersea'. Battersea Borough Council contended that their Maternity Home at Bolingbroke Grove, Battersea was the only hospital purely for women in the borough. However, the decision went in favour of the South London Hospital for Women which, it had been contended, was just outside the borough of Battersea. The Anti-Vivisection Hospital The Battersea General Hospital contested this decision, claiming that more than half the hospital was devoted to women's wards, contained a special cancer ward for women and in earlier days had been run entirely by lady doctors. They also produced evidence to show that the testator was a keen supporter of anti-vivisection principles. However, the final decision went against the hospital.
In 1928, according to the affidavit of the Chairman of the hospital in the Guerrier case (ref. H6/BG/F/01/001/013), the hospital was to a certain extent supported financially by and identified with anti-vivisection societies such as The Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society of London. In 1932, however, when applying to King Edwards Hospital Fund for a grant, the hospital reported that it had changed its practice as regards anti-vivisection principles, but that a three-quarters majority could not be obtained for a resolution in favour of changing the name of the hospital and the Memorandum and Articles of Association. The application was again turned down.
Early in 1935 the Chairman of the hospital announced that the hospital was in such financial straits that it was impossible to carry on. In May the Court of Governors passed a resolution amending the Memorandum and Articles of Association to omit any reference to anti-vivisection principles. However, it was discovered that the change would need the sanction of the High Court since the hospital was bound by trust deeds which pre-dated the Memorandum and Articles of Association and which strongly stressed the anti-vivisection basis. Furthermore the Incorporated Company was only in fact a Trustee Company holding property under these original Trusts. Meanwhile a large part of the hospital was closed for lack of funds. In June it was stated in the Press that a new chairman had been appointed who was prepared to guarantee a loan of £10,000 and that part of the hospital was to be kept open. Then in November the Court sanctioned the alteration of the Memorandum of Association and approved a cy-près scheme. Henceforth the hospital was to be known as the Battersea General Hospital (Incorporated).
The hospital now became eligible for grants from the King Edward's Hospital Fund (see file A/KE/512(5) for 1935-7). This file contains among other things a list of all the medical staff of the hospital in 1936 with their addresses and qualifications; a detailed questionnaire regarding the facilities and income of the hospital; the summary of a scheme for increasing the pay beds and reducing the ordinary beds and information, including press cuttings, regarding an attempt by the hospital to reorganise the basis on which its medical staff were appointed to bring it in line with other hospitals, during which a number of staff were sacked or resigned.
In 1943 Sir Peter Lindsay, the Managing Director of The Morgan Crucible Company, Battersea, was appointed Chairman of the hospital. Among the records of the Company (ref. Ac.78.66 B/MC) are a number of administrative papers relating to the hospital during his tenure of office. A list of these is available, but it is stressed that written permission must be obtained from the Company before they can be consulted.
The hospital was taken over by the National Health Service in 1948, becoming part of the Battersea Putney and Tooting (No. 3) Group. It was closed in 1972.