We've been caring for children and young people for 150 years
Watch a special BBC report about our history.
Built in memory of Evelina
The original Evelina Hospital for Sick Children opened in 1869 on Southwark Bridge Road, London. Funded by Austrian Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, it was built in memory of his wife, Evelina. Evelina had died three years earlier along with their son who was premature. Rothschild wanted to open a maternity hospital, but was persuaded by his friend Dr Arthur Farre, a famous obstetrician and physician to the Queen, to open a children’s hospital for the poor.
The latest design
The new four-storey hospital was located south of the river Thames and was described as having ‘the very latest design concepts’, including ‘a quarantine ward for doubtful cases’, ‘abundant provision for the most perfect ventilation’ and ‘large and cheerful rooms, one of which will be for cases of whooping-cough and its complications’, ‘with no expense spared to make this a model hospital’.
When the hospital first opened, patients with infectious fevers and children under two years old were not allowed. These rules were repeatedly ignored by doctors and eventually overturned. By 1900, over 50% of admissions were babies and toddlers.
In the first year, over 300 children were admitted to the hospital’s 30 beds. By 1900, bed numbers had doubled, with over 1,000 admissions and more than 20,000 children visiting the hospital each year.
Other children’s hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, had a convalescent home where they discharged patients; however Evelina did not have one until 1931. Children were sent to seaside and country homes, which was paid for by a fund.
From 1896-1907, thanks to public donations, Evelina was able to have:
- electric lighting
- a new isolation ward
- an additional floor
- an expanded outpatient department
- x-ray facilities
- a new operating theatre
- a roof garden.
Second World War
During the Second World War, Evelina closed to inpatients as it served as a casualty post.
It was hit by bombs three times during the blitz; 1940, 1941 and 1944.
Evelina moves to Guy’s
Following the creation of the National Health Service in 1948, Evelina merged with Guy’s Hospital and moved to the newly opened Guy’s Tower in 1973. Several of the children’s wards in Guy’s Tower were named after those who had contributed to the original hospital, including Rothschild, Arthur Farre and Caleb Diplock.
Over the next 30 years, as hospital services for children became more specialised, the children’s department developed a worldwide reputation in a number of areas, including children’s heart surgery, nephrology and neurology.
Evelina moves to St Thomas’
In 2005, Evelina moved to St Thomas’ Hospital. The award-winning building was designed around the needs of the children, their families and staff to provide the best possible care. The result is ‘a hospital that doesn’t feel like a hospital’ with state-of-the-art equipment and services. Evelina London was the first new children’s hospital to be built in London for over 100 years, and it is now the second largest provider of children’s services in London.
Since its relocation to St Thomas’, two new operating theatres have been built.
Highly specialist children’s services
Today, Evelina London Children’s Hospital offers a wide range of services meeting the needs of south London’s children while offering highly specialist care for children from across south east England and beyond.
Thank you to the children and young people who have so brilliantly illustrated our history pages.