The first meeting of 'the Governors for erecting a Lying-in Hospital for married women in the City of London and p.... adjacent and also for Out-patients in Phisic and Surgery' was held at the Black Swan Tavern in Bartholomew Lane on 30 March 1750. Mr Jacob Ilive was in the chair. The governors elected John Nix as the first secretary, Thomas Chaddock as treasurer, Richard Ball as surgeon and man-midwife and William Ball as apothecary. Slingsby Bethell subsequently became the first president of the hospital.
The hospital opened in May 1750 at London House in Aldersgate Street as the 'City of London Lying in Hospital for married women and sick and lame Outpatients.' The General Court of Governors decided on 6 September 1751 to admit no more outpatients and the second part of the title was dropped. The hospital moved in 1751 from London House into Thanet or Shaftesbury House also in Aldersgate Street. In 1769 the Governors decided to erect a new purpose built hospital. They leased a site from St Bartholomew's Hospital on the corner of City Road and Old Street and commissioned Robert Mylne to design the new hospital which was opened on 31 March 1773.
In the 18th Century, all children born in the hospital were expected to be baptised publically in the hospital chapel. Money for the hospital was raised by the collections taken at the public baptism ceremonies. The attendance of potential donors was encouraged by the performance of anthems and other sacred music. Special sermons, benefit plays, and performances of musical works such as El Penseroso and The Messiah also contributed to hospital funds.
Despite the rhyme 'You may go to Aldersgate-Street A kind reception there you'll meet Most safely to lie-in? No one will know my charming Fair But you are gone to take the Air So return a Maid again' (Joyful News to Batchelors and Maids: Being a Song in Praise of the Fondling Hospital and the London Hospital Aldersgate Street c 1760 quoted in R. McClure Coram's Children 1981 Coram's Children 1981, p.109) the benefits of the hospital were intended to be for married women only. Not until 1888 were single women admitted for a first confinement and then only in exceptional circumstances after careful investigation by the Committee of Management. The rules of the hospital were relaxed in 1912 to allow any 'Singlewomen who are sufficient recommended and are found to be deserving of the Benefits of the Hospital's Charity' to be eligible for admission for their first confinement.
1 Joyful News to Batchelors and Maids: Being a Song in Praise of the Fondling Hospital and the London Hospital Aldersgate Street c 1760 quoted in R. McClure Coram's Children 1981, p.109
In 1872 the hospital established an outdoor maternity department. Patients were delivered in their own homes by district midwives employed by the hospital. The district attended by the hospital was at first to be only the area within a mile of the hospital, but it was rapidly extended until by 1883 it included Shoreditch, Islington, St Luke's, Bethnal Green, Clerkenwell, Spitalfields, Hackney, Whitechapel, Holborn, and the City of London. By 1898 it also included parts of Stoke Newington and South Hornsey. The outdoor maternity department rapidly became very popular and by 1880 was admitting over a thousand patients a year, roughly three times as many outpatients as inpatients. In 1910 2742 outpatients were delivered compared to 842 inpatients. After the introduction of maternity benefit in 1912 through the National Insurance Act, the numbers of outpatients decreased and the area of the district contracted to the parts nearer the hospital.
Midwifery training at the hospital was reorganised in the 1880s. From 1886 midwifery pupils in their last month of training were allowed to attend outpatients living near the hospital.
During the 19th Century the hospital suffered a number of outbreaks of puerperal fever. A severe outbreak of puerperal fever in 1877 caused the hospital to be closed for almost eighteen months from 24 November 1877 to April 1879. Despite sanitary improvements, mortality in the hospital remained excessively high and in June 1880 antiseptic rules were introduced. However in February 1883 the hospital again had to be closed temporarily.
The hospital building was badly damaged by the construction of the Great Northern and City Railway underneath Old Street. Between 1904 and 1907 the old hospital was demolished and a new hospital built on the same site. The name of the hospital was changed in 1918 to The City of London Maternity Hospital. A royal charter was granted to the hospital in 1935.
On the outbreak of War in 1939, the hospital equipped and staffed Brocket Hall near Hatfield in Hertfordshire as a maternity unit for evacuated mothers administered by Hertfordshire County Council. The hospital in City Road was badly damaged by bombing on 10 September 1940, 16 April 1941 and 10 May 1941. The rear part of the building subsequently had to be demolished. Although the front portion of the building could still be used for clinics and administration, no inpatients could be admitted into the hospital after September 1940. Inpatients were transferred to Friern Barnet Hospital until March 1941 when the maternity beds were required for war casualties. Out patients continued to be delivered in their own homes and expectant mothers who were willing to leave London were evacuated to Brocket Hall. In January 1942 twelve beds were made available for emergency cases in the London Fever Hospital in Liverpool Road, Islington. The number of beds was later increased to forty.
At the end of war in 1946 the City of London Maternity Hospital took over financial responsibility for Brocket Hall from Hertfordshire County Council. It was decided not to rebuild the hospital on the very noisy site in City Road. Former homes for the blind in Hanley Road, Islington, were acquired from the Institute for the Blind and the hospital opened in Hanley Road in November 1949. Clinics continued to be held in the City Road building until 1955 when a modern building was opened adjacent to the hospital in Hanley Road.
In 1948 the hospital was taken over by the National Health Service and came under the control of the Northern Group Hospital Management Committee. In 1974 the hospital became part of Islington Health District. The hospital closed in 1983.
The chief authority in the hospital lay with the General Court of Governors which met twice a year, though special courts could be summoned more frequently if required. The main business of the hospital devolved on to the House Committee which was chosen by the General Court. The House Committee met every week at the hospital to admit and discharge patients, to inspect the running of the hospital and to deal with other business. The Committee, which was also known as the Weekly Committee or the Committee of Governors, reported its proceedings to each General Court and a copy of the report was entered in the hospital minute books. After March 1857 the House Committee met only once a month. A rota of the committee consisting of two members of the committee in rotation met once a week at the hospital to admit patients. This became known as the Rota Committee.
In 1880 the constitution of the hospital was amended. Governors' meetings were to be held in future once a year in February. The Committee became the Committee of Management meeting once a month while the Rota Committee was to continue to meet once a week at the hospital. A Finance Committee was established which held quarterly meetings.
Under the Royal Charter granted on 28 January 1935 the annual general meeting of the Governors was to be held in March. The Committee of Management was replaced by the Board of Management which was to have the entire management of the hospital.
The fourth surviving governors' minute book includes an inventory of the books and papers belonging to the hospital drawn up on 1 June 1789¹. It is clear from this and from references in the hospital minute books that far more records were kept than have survived. Some records may have been destroyed when the hospital was bombed in 1940 and 1941. Others, including eight of the first nine admission registers, were sent for salvage during the Second World War.² Onward for June 1942 states that 'In common with other Hospitals we have 'salvaged' a large quantity of paper (correspondence, records, books and the like) which, in the piping times of peace, accumulated over a long period of time, but in these critical days is put to National use.'³