London Lock Hospital

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London Lock Hospital
Location London, United Kingdom
Care system Public NHS
Hospital type Specialist
Speciality Venereal disease,
Maternity and gynaecology
Founded 31 January 1747 (1747-01-31)
Closed 1952 (1952)
Lists Hospitals in the United Kingdom

The London Lock Hospital, which opened on 31 January 1747,[1] was the first venereal disease clinic and the most famous and first of the Lock Hospitals. The Lock Hospitals were developed for the treatment of syphilis following the end of the use of lazar hospitals, as leprosy declined.[2][3][4] The hospital later developed maternity and gynaecology services before being incorporated into the National Health Service in 1948, and finally closed in 1952.


A charitable society had been working to establish this hospital since July 1746. In November of that year a house was bought for this purpose in Grosvenor Place, London, near Hyde Park Corner. The founder of the hospital was William Bromfield or Bromfeild, as he himself preferred to spell his name.[5] After opening in January 1747, the hospital treated almost 300  patients during its first year; the demand for its services stemmed from the unfounded belief that the treatments then available could be effective.[1]

Thomas Scott was a hospital chaplain here from 1785–1803. During this time he published his Commentary On The Whole Bible and became the founding Secretary of the Church Missionary Society.[citation needed]

The hospital moved in 1842 to 283 Harrow Road in Westbourne Grove. It was renamed The Female Hospital when a new site in Dean Street, Soho, opened for male outpatients in 1862; that was later expanded in 1867, as a result of the Contagious Diseases Act 1864.[citation needed]

The Female Hospital and the Lock Asylum

The Lock Asylum for the Reception of Penitent Female Patients (also known as the Lock Rescue Home) was proposed in 1787 and opened in 1792 as a refuge for women who had been treated at the Lock Hospital. It was originally sited in Osnaburg Row and moved, first to Knightsbridge in 1812, and then to Lower Eaton Street in 1816. However this address was felt to be too far from the chapel at Grosvenor Square that might provide guidance and support for "fallen" women, so the Home moved again in 1849 to adjoin The Female Hospital in Harrow Road. By 1890 Harrow Road consisted of 140 inpatient beds and 40 asylum places for women.[6]

The asylum changed its name in 1893, becoming known as a 'Rescue Home'. The full name of the hospital became the London Lock Hospital and Rescue Home.[7]

Maternity services

A maternity unit opened in 1917 at The Female Hospital, followed by an ophthalmology unit and a genitourinary unit that treated venereal and non-venereal gynaecological disorders. During the Second World War it was used as a Military Isolation Hospital, with Dean Street treating both sexes. A new maternity centre opened at 283A Harrow Road in 1938 and with the formation of the National Health Service it became a part of Paddington Hospital until 1952.[5]

History of the name

The name dates back to the earlier leprosy hospitals, which came to be known as lock hospitals after the "locks", or rags, which covered the lepers' lesions. This name was used as far back as medieval times, and was used by lock hospitals including those in Kingsland (established during the reign of Henry VIII) and Kent Street, Southwark as well as the one in Hyde Park Corner.[8][9][10]

The memory of the hospital continues with the London Lock Hospital Memorial Prize in Sexually Transmitted Diseases at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, which was established by bequest in 1965 by an old student and staff member of the school. With subsequent mergers of London medical schools, it is now part of the awards in communicable diseases for final year medical students at UCL Medical School.[11]

Traditional folk song

"The Lock Hospital" is just one of the many alternative titles for a popular, widespread, traditional British folk song, "The Unfortunate Lad", a warning against venereal disease, dating from the late 18th century. The hospital is often mentioned by name in the first verse:

As I was walking down by the Lock Hospital,
As I was walking one morning of late,
Who did I spy but my own dear comrade,
Wrapped in flannel, so hard is his fate.[12]

The chorus (or subsequent verses) mention the "salts and pills of white mercury" that might have saved the unfortunate youth's life if only his lover had warned him in time.

There are many variants of the song (such as "St James' Hospital", "The Trooper Cut Down in His Prime", "When I was on Horseback" etc.) in which the protagonist is variously a soldier, a sailor, or even a young girl "cut down in their prime".[13] (In American versions the central character may be a cowboy, a gambler, a drunkard – or perhaps all three – and often dies by violence rather than disease. The best-known American variants on the theme are probably "The Streets of Laredo" and the "St. James Infirmary Blues".[citation needed])

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Orlando Project – "An Integrated History of Women's Writing in the British Isles" Chronology
  2. European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology – "A Concise History of Venereology in the UK"
  3. Archives in London and the M25 area (AIM25) London Lock Hospital records
  4. J. Bettley, "Post voluptatem misericcordia: the rise and fall of the London lock hospitals", London Journal vol 10 no 2 (Winter 1984), pp 167–175
  5. 5.0 5.1 "END of the London Lock Hospital". Br Med J. 2 (4787): 768. 1952. doi:10.1136/bmj.2.4787.766. PMC 2021594. PMID 12978322.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. London Lock Hospital and Rescue Home at Lost Hospitals of London
  7. T F T Baker, Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot (1989). "Paddington: Public Services". In C R Elrington (Editor) (ed.). A History of the County of Middlesex. 9: Hampstead, Paddington. pp. 246–52.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: extra text: editors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Lock Hospital, Hyde Park Corner". Sara Douglass, Old London Maps. 2006. Retrieved 30 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Chapel of the Lock Hospital in Kent Street, Southwark". Sara Douglass, Old London Maps. 2006. Retrieved 30 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Lock Hospital, Kingsland". Sara Douglass, Old London Maps. 2006. Retrieved 30 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Royal Free Hospital/UCL (11 February 2009). "Lock Hospital Memorial Prize in STDs and The Stuart Mill Prize in Tropical Medicine". Retrieved 18 April 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Bodleian Library, Oxford: broadsheet in the Ballads catalogue
  13. Mudcat Café Discussion with links to several alternative versions of The Unfortunate Lad

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