Thursday, 24 January 2013
In the last blog entry, we promised to share
with you the history of our new building – which at first glance
appears quite short. Built in 1988, the building is only just
celebrating its 25th birthday. But delve a little deeper
and we uncover a fascinating past that reveals we are certainly not
the first medical establishment to occupy the site.
As London’s population grew in the
18th century, the city expanded rapidly. Once known as
Great Prescott Street, Prescot Street was one of the first London
streets in which the houses were given numbers instead of
In 1741, the single house at Number 21 became
the site of the 24-bed London Infirmary – later known as the
Royal London Hospital. The Infirmary was funded by wealthy
businessmen and philanthropists to care for ‘sick and diseased
manufacturers, seamen in the merchant service and their wives and
families’ from the East End of London.
According to The Royal London Hospital
archives, the house was rented for 24 guineas a year. But soon the Infirmary needed to
expand and took out leases on another four adjoining houses. By the
mid 1740s, the row of five houses was becoming increasingly
run-down and in 1757, just 16 years after it arrived, the Infirmary
relocated to a new purpose-built hospital in Mount Field,
New tenants were sought for the Prescot Street
site and, in 1758, the Magdalen Hospital
for the Reception of Penitent Prostitutes moved in. The
hospital took a seven-year lease on the building, pledging ‘to
provide for women and girls on the streets a safe, desirable, and
happy retreat from their wretched and distressful
A decade later the Magdalen Hospital made
plans to move south of the river, and the only reminder of the
hospital is the narrow Magdalen Passage which runs down the side of
Number 21 (see photo).
"In the 18th century, the Prescot Street area had a shady
reputation ... Today, we enjoy the company of altogether more
Over the years, the houses on the site on 21
Prescot Street received a succession of
different occupants, including the National Cigar Makers &
Tobacco Workers Union.
In the Blitz, the buildings were badly
damaged. They stood derelict until the 1970s, when they were
demolished and the current 21 Prescot Street building was erected
on the site.
In the 18th century, the Prescot
Street area had a shady reputation – notorious for its bawdy
brothels and troublesome taverns. Today, we enjoy the company of
altogether more polite neighbours. The 5-star
Grange Tower Bridge Hotel is directly opposite, while the
Inn London City (Tower Hill) is at Number 24. Just down
the road, at Number 9, are based a number of corporate departments
of Barts Health NHS
But don’t despair. For those yearning for a
taste of traditional Victorian London, a trip to the historic
of Prussia pub at Number 15 may help.
If you would like to post a comment on the Prescot Street
blog, please email the Website Manager, who'll be
happy to upload it for you.