Why Isn't Charing Cross Hospital In Charing Cross?

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 22 months ago
Why Isn't Charing Cross Hospital In Charing Cross?
Photo: Matt Brown

It's well-documented that Charing Cross, the road junction just south of Trafalgar Square, is the point from which all distances to central London are measured. Just around the corner are Charing Cross railway and tube stations. There's also a Charing Cross Hospital... but that's all the way out in Hammersmith, and has been since 1973.

There was originally a hospital near Charing Cross. It was called the West London Infirmary, and opened in 1818. It was a miniscule affair, with only 12 beds, and was situated on Villiers Street, before moving to the building which now houses Charing Cross police station on Strand:

The Strand building previously home to Charing Cross Hospital, in 1973 and 2013. Photo: roll the dice

In 1827, it was renamed Charing Cross Hospital, as can be seen in the image on the left, and in 1829 a medical school was opened on the site. It was continually expanded for over a century, until there was nowhere to expand into, and it was decided that the hospital should move out of central London.

Several locations were considered and rejected over a number of years. It moved to its present location on Fulham Palace Road in Hammersmith in west London in 1973, but retained its original name.

A little confusing, but we've only got started.

There is an actual Hammersmith Hospital; it's is north of White City, next to Wormwood Scrubs prison. OK it is in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, but it's certainly not in Hammersmith town centre, like Charing Cross Hospital.

Hammersmith Hospital. Photo: Chmee2 under a Creative Commons license

A workhouse and infirmary was built on the site in 1902 by Hammersmith Poor Law Guardians, and was used as such until 1916, when the War Office took it over due to its state-of-the-art facilities and called it the Military Orthopaedic Hospital Shepherd's Bush (which, to be fair, is more geographically accurate than its current name).

The existing patients were relocated to other hospitals, and it went through several name changes, including the Special Surgical Hospital and the Ministry of Pensions Hospital before Hammersmith Poor Law Guardians demanded the return of their hospital in 1926, eight years after the end of the war. In 1930, the Poor Law Guardians board was abolished, the London County Council took charge and renamed it as the Hammersmith Hospital, which it remains until this day.

Queen Charlotte's & Chelsea Hospital. Photo: Chmee2 under a Creative Commons license

Hammersmith Hospital now shares a site with Queen Charlotte's & Chelsea Hospital... despite this not being in Chelsea. This one is a little easier to explain; it's the result of two hospitals joining forces.

The Queen Charlotte's Lying-In Hospital has, under various names and guises, been situated in Jermyn Street, Marylebone and Bayswater since being established in the 18th century. The Chelsea Hospital, however, did used to be based in Chelsea, in the building now occupied by the Chelsea Wing at the Brompton Hospital. The combined Queen Charlotte's & Chelsea Hospital moved to its current location in 1998.

We hope London's ambulance drivers have been well prepped on the above.

Last Updated 21 December 2016