In the mid-nineteenth century it was common in most hospitals for alcohol to be given to both patients and staff. Some members of the temperance movement began to argue that this impaired staff efficiency and restricted patients' treatment. A temperance dispensary was opened in 1860 in Upper Park Place in north west London, by an apothecary, Dr. C.H. Yewen. On 17 February 1871, Dr Yewen presented a paper on the subject of establishing a hospital founded on temperance principles at a meeting chaired by the President of the National Temperance League, Mr. Samuel Bowly. A committee was appointed and a lease was acquired on 112 Gower Street for twenty one years. The first meeting of subscribers was held on 6 May 1873, and the London Temperance Hospital opened, receiving its first patients on 6 October that same year. The Board of Management which was appointed to manage the Hospital was composed of 12 total abstainers.
Under the rules of the new hospital, the use of alcohol to treat patients was discouraged, but not outlawed: doctors could prescribe alcohol when they thought necessary for 'exceptional cases', and a record of such cases was kept.
A Building and Extension Fund was launched in 1875, which eventually resulted in the acquisition of land next to St James' Church on the Hampstead Road. The foundation stone of the first section to be built, the East Wing, was laid in 1879 and the new hospital was eventually opened in 1885 by Dr. Frederick Temple, Archbishop of York.
Inpatients were admitted to the new hospital free by a letter from a governor, or on payment of a fixed amount. Outpatients could be admitted with a governor's letter or pay at least a shilling a visit. Subscribers of a guinea per annum were entitled to recommend 6 outpatients a year, and those of 2 guineas per annum one inpatient and 6 outpatients. Life Governorship was conferred on payment of a lump sum of 20 guineas.
A children's ward was opened in 1892 by the Duchess of Westminster. In 1893, 12 beds were set aside for cholera patients at the request of the Metropolitan Asylums Board.
There was further expansion of the hospital on the site of the vicarage of St. James' Church, the foundation stone being laid on 25 October 1906. The Ear, Nose and Throat and Skin Departments were opened in 1913/14.
A new Nurses' Home was opened in 1925, built as a memorial to Sir Thomas Vezey Strong, who had been Chairman of the hospital from 1899 until his death in 1920. An Appeals Department was established in 1923 to help with fundraising. The Insull Memorial Wing was opened in 1932, after a gift from Mr. Samuel Insull of Chicago. It provided accommodation for special departments, private wards and nurses. The name of the hospital was changed to The National Temperance Hospital at an extraordinary general meeting held on 10 February 1932.
During World War Two the hospital was designated a Grade A Unit and a 1a Casualty Station.
Under the National Health Service Act 1946, the hospital was transferred to the North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board under the Paddington Group Hospital Management Committee. Within the Hospital Management Committee, the National Temperance Hospital was managed by House Committee No. 1, together with the Institute of Ray Therapy and the Mayor of St. Pancras Home for Children. (There were 6 House Committees in total, and they reported to the General Purposes Committee, which was a sub-committee of the Hospital Management Committee.)
Between 1960 and 1969 a number of beds were set aside for use by the Eastman Dental Hospital to reduce their waiting lists.
The private patients' beds in the Insull Wing were closed on 1 January 1968, and on 1 April the Hospital was transferred to the University College Hospital Group, at which point the Casualty Department was closed and all casualties referred to UCH instead. In May and June 1969 the Camden Chest Clinic, formerly the Holborn Chest Unit and the St. Pancras Chest Unit, and the UCH Asthma and Allergy Clinic moved into the National Temperance Hospital. The Nurses' lecture room was closed down when the UCH School of Nursing opened at Minerva House in 1969 and nurses' training in the UCH Group became centralised there.
The Hospital eventually closed down, probably at some point in the 1980s, although the date is unknown.