Chelsea Hospital for Women Clinical Society: Minute Book, 1923-1973

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Minute book kept by members of the Chelsea Hospital for Women Clinical Society documenting the proceedings of the meetings, containing details of the operations and procedures performed during the meetings, the social entertainment, and discussion of matters related to the Chelsea Hospital for Women, together with loose dinner menus and correspondence.

Administrative / Biographical History

Chelsea Hospital for Women was founded in 1871 for the treatment 'of diseases peculiar to women'. The Hospital was initially situated at 178 King's Road, Chelsea, where it had eight beds for inpatients. Two of its founders, Dr Thomas Chambers and Dr James Aveling, became the first physicians to the hospital. Initially the main object of the charity was to provide treatment for ladies of limited means, whose 'social positions and refined sympathies' precluded them from entering the general hospitals. Although they could not afford expensive and prolonged medical treatment at home, they were expected to pay a minimum fee of a guinea a week towards the expenses of the Chelsea Hospital for Women. Poor, respectable women were admitted free of charge if they could obtain a subscriber's letter. The Duchess of Albany opened a new and larger hospital containing 63 beds, situated in Fulham Road, in 1883. This was followed in 1890-1891 by the building of a convalescent home at St Leonard's-on-Sea.

The development of the hospital was interrupted in 1894 and 1895 by a series of disputes between the Board of Management, members of the medical staff, and the medical press. A Committee of Enquiry chaired by Lord Balfour investigated allegations that hospital staff had carried out unnecessary and dangerous operations upon poor patients. In consequence ten of the medical staff resigned. Some, but not all, of the medical officers were reappointed by the governors. This led to a campaign in the medical press culminating in fresh elections of the medical staff in January 1895. The new surgeon to inpatients, Mr O'Callaghan, quickly proved to be so difficult to work with that the governors with the backing of the rest of the medical staff relieved him of his duties.

In 1911 Earl Cadogan gave a site in Arthur Street, Chelsea for a new and larger hospital. This opened on 11 July 1916 with 95 beds. The nurses' home was completed in 1924. The following year 'Pay Wards' were introduced. Eighteen beds were set aside as a 'Paying Floor' for patients able to pay £5.5s a week as well as fees to their medical officers. The east block wards were enlarged in 1933. This was followed in 1938-1939 by further extensions to the hospital and nurses' home that increased the accommodation to 126 beds, including a wing of six single rooms. At the same time a new heating system was installed. In 1939 Arthur Street was renamed Dovehouse Street.

In 1940 the hospital was designated Class 1A in the Emergency Hospital Service Scheme whereby 60 beds were placed at the disposal of the Ministry of Health for civilian casualties. In September 1940 the danger from air raids caused the evacuation of the top floor of the hospital thereby further reducing the number of beds. In 1939 some patients from Chelsea Hospital for Women were transferred to the convalescent home at St Leonard's but in 1940 this had to be closed because of the threat of invasion. Between 1940 and 1945 some patients from Chelsea Hospital for Women were treated at South Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth.

Despite suffering damage in an air raid in April 1941, Chelsea Hospital came through the War relatively unscathed. In 1948 it became part of the National Health Service and was designated a teaching hospital. It shared a Board of Governors with Queen Charlotte's Maternity Hospital, Hammersmith. In 1988 the former Chelsea Hospital for Women in Dovehouse Street ceased to be used for hospital purposes. All functions were transferred to the Queen Charlotte's site in Goldhawk Road.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers by appointment, Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. mailto: archives@rcog.org.uk

Archivist's Note

Catalogued by Penny Hutchins, Archivist.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is vested in the Chelsea Hospital for Women.

Reproductions are available at the discretion of the College Archivist.

Custodial History

Transferred to the RCOG Library by Mr John Malvern in March 2001 on transferring responsibility for the running of the Clincial Society to Mr Edmonds. It was later transferred from the College Library to the Archive in September 2007.

Related Material

The records of the Chelsea Hospital for Women are held at the London Metropolitan Archives at reference H27/CW