Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
Dulwich Hospital, originally known as St Saviour's Union Infirmary, was built in 1887 by the St Saviour's Poor Law Union. The Union consisted of four parishes in the north of today's borough - St Saviour's (Bankside), St George the Martyr (Borough), Christchurch (Blackfriars Road) and St Mary Newington. By the end of the 19th century with both population and poverty increasing, the Union workhouses in Mint Street, Westmoreland Road and Marlborough Street were overcrowded and inadequate. Land in the area covered by the St Saviour's Union was scarce, and plans were made to build a new infirmary on land purchased outside the area. First a site near Peckham Rye was considered but proved to be too expensive, then in 1881, the Union purchased a site of 6.5 acres in East Dulwich Grove.
Despite a condition of the sale of land being that the new building to be erected should be of a more pleasant appearance than generally associated with institutions of this kind, there were objections from local residents. Charles Barry, architect for the Dulwich Estate, was concerned property prices would fall and Sir Henry Bessemer objected that his home would overlook the new building. Nevertheless the Infirmary opened in April 1887 that offered 723 beds to the destitute infirm. It comprised a central administration block which was flanked each side with three storey wings containing wards.
During the First World War, the Infirmary was used to treat war casualties and was renamed the Southwark Military Hospital. Over 400 paupers were evacuated to other nearby insitutions to make way for wounded soldiers. 12,522 soldiers were treated at the Hospital between 1915 and 1919 and only 119 died.
The Hospital was returned to the St Saviour's Board of Guardians in 1919 and in 1921 renamed Southwark Hospital. The Hospital came under the administration of the LCC in 1931, in 1948 became part of the newly formed NHS, and in 1964 was incorporated into the King's Hospital Group. The Hospital closed in 2005 but maintains some community services such as local specialist outpatient care that includes dyalisis and blood tests. Planning permission was granted by Southwark Council for a new community hospital to be built on the site, and as delays were not foreseen, one of the ward blocks was demolished and hoarding erected. Building work is now well under way (April 2018) for a new Charter Secondary School on the same site.