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Evelina Children's Hospital

Prince of Wales opening the Evelina Children's Hospital

The Evelina Children's Hospital was founded by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild.

The illustration shows Prince Edward (later to become Edward VII) with Princess Alexandra during their visit to the Evelina Hospital. They are accompanied by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild and Alice Cross, Lady Superintendent.

Illustrated London News, 2 August 1890


Baron Rothschild was originally from Vienna but settled in London and went to Cambridge University together with Edward, Prince of Wales. In 1865, the Baron married his cousin, Evelina, the daughter of his mother's brother. In 1866, Baroness Evelina went into premature labour, following a railway accident. Dr Arthur Farre, her Physician Obstetrician, was present but, tragically, Evelina died and the child was stillborn. Baron Ferdinand founded the Evelina Hospital for Sick Children in their memory. Dr Farre was asked to advise him on the planning of the hospital, in consultation with the architect, Mr Marsh Nelson, and the first patients were admitted in 1869. The Baron generously defrayed the cost of the hospital site and made provision to meet the expense of maintaining the initial 30 beds. As President of the Committee of Management, until his death in 1898, Baron Ferdinand always took the closest interest in the welfare of the hospital. He was fondly remembered by the Committee as 'an ever-ready helper and friend on whose judgement, sympathy and advice they could always rely.'

Recording the opening of the Evelina Hospital for Sick Children in June 1869, the Lancet described the building in detail, indicating the degree to which the hospital encompassed the very latest design concepts : '... As it was only possible to secure a small and irregularly-shaped piece of ground, it was found necessary to design the building to take advantage of the limited site. The hospital consists of four stories (a fifth was added in 1903) : two of these are devoted to the reception of patients, the ground-floor being for the accommodation of the house-surgeon, matron, and certain ladies who have undertaken the management of the nursing. In this part of the building also are situated the board room, medical officers' room &c. On the attic storey are sleeping rooms for the nurses and servants, and a quarantine ward for doubtful cases. Below the ground floor there is an extensive basement storey, which contains a range of kitchens and offices; and on the same level there is an open court, containing various outbuildings - wash-house, disinfecting oven, post-mortem room, &c. There are separate kitchens for Jews and Christians. Leading from the ground-floor is a detached wing, in which are the dispensary and an extensive out-patients' department, comprising large waiting-room, with separate rooms for physicians, surgeons, and dressers. The two stories devoted to patients are arranged on the same plan. Along the length of the building runs a single very handsome ward, 100 ft. by 24 ft., and 14 ft. high. External to this is a corridor, with a double row of windows, opening on the one side into the ward, and on the other into the open air. In the ward itself are nine large windows. All these windows are arranged in three swing compartments, so that they can one or all be partially or completely opened or shut in a moment. Abundant provision is thus afforded for the most perfect ventilation. In the ward are four fireplaces, so that it can at any time be divided into four smaller rooms, if this be deemed advisable. At one end is a handsome ward, which will be set apart for Jewish children, the rest of the hospital being for Christians. At the other extremity is a playroom, and beyond this two large and cheerful rooms, one of which will be for cases of whooping-cough and its complications - a novel feature in children's hospitals, - and the other probably for infants under a year old. The storey above is precisely similar in its arrangements to that already described. There is abundant provision for closets, lavatories, bathrooms, and quarantine wards; and, indeed, no expense has been spared to make this a model hospital.'

The Evelina was designed to provide Southwark with the most up-to-date child care facilities. Some of these were practically unique to all hospitals, including the early use of antiseptic technique. Guy's was the first hospital in London to adopt Lister's antiseptic methods. These had been introduced by Dr H. G. Howse when he was appointed Assistant Surgeon in 1870, and were practised by the Evelina when he joined its staff in the following year.

In the early years of the Evelina, the battle was on to combat the fatal diseases that reflected the appalling living conditions of the area. These were mainly infections (notably whooping cough), brain, nerve and lung disorders (particularly convulsions, pneumonia and bronchitis), and tuberculosis - all of which particularly affected the very youngest. In the year 1876-77, the total number of deaths in the parish was 1206, of which more than half were of children under the age of 5. Despite the availability of only 30 beds during the initial period, more than 300 children were admitted in the first year. By 1890, the number of beds and the rate of admission had both doubled. In that year, of 675 admissions, 158 died. The persistently high death rate was mainly due to the large numbers of moribund babies, many of whom died shortly after admission. By the end of the century, however, the number of annual admissions had reached more than 1000 and and the death rate was falling.

2005 Brand New Evelina Children's Hospital

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01/03/2006 SC