The Early History of Harrow Cottage Hospital

There is so much archive material on the Harrow Cottage Hospital (1866-1998) that it’s hard to know where to start, but I found its earlier history the most interesting. The hospital began in 1866 in a pair of rented cottages, but in 1872 it moved to a new site, where it remained until 1907. There is a very good photograph of this second site, in the archive. The hospital is the building on the far left.

The site was a plot of land on Lower Road, Harrow, purchased for the hospital by a benefactor, Charles Leaf, for the sum of £360. The hospital board raised the funds to have a new hospital built there, for a figure of £1,470, and the result, although a purpose-built hospital, looked very much like a private house. However, it had a dispensary, an operating theatre, eleven beds, and accommodation for nurses. There were two paid nurses at the time.

The hospital had a medical director — a local doctor, who would have given his time for free, and a lady manager, by the name of Constance Hewlett. For funding it relied on charitable donations, and payment by patients. Patients did not pay the full cost of their care, as the hospital aimed to provide for the poorer sections of society, though in 1887 it did add a ward intended for patients who could pay the full cost of their stay. This was probably to try and boost its income.

In 1901, the hospital treated 129 inpatients, and carried out 43 surgical operations. But it was proving unsuitable for the growing population of Harrow, and its steep, narrow staircases made transfer of patients between floors difficult. Shortly after, patients requiring surgery were being referred to London hospitals, because the cottage hospital was no longer suitable. A new site was therefore found. The Lower Road building became a private residence and was destroyed by a bomb in the Second World War.