The College Archives
From Psychiatric Bulletin, December 1999 page 761
The search for accommodation
When Samuel Hitch and his five colleagues agreed to form the
Association of Medical Officers of Asylums and Hospitals for the
Insane in 1841 it probably never occurred to them that it would
grow into an organisation needing its own headquarters. The first
mention of a permanent headquarters is in the minutes of the 1864
annual meeting when the President, Dr Munro, suggested 'if we could
get thus into bricks and mortar, and have a more solid existence
than at present, that would help to establish us very much'.
However the meeting decided against this on the grounds that it
would make the Association 'a strictly metropolitan one'. The
question was discussed at intervals until 1893 when the
Association, by then called the Medico Psychological Association
(MPA), began to lease space from the Medical Society of London at
11 Chandos Street.
The Association made a rather limited arrangement with the
Medical Society of London. A rent was paid for the use of 11
Chandos Street as an official address, for a room for meetings, for
a desk in the Library from which to deal with correspondence, and
for one bookcase. It seems that the use of a room for meetings was
more important at that time than office accommodation. Most of the
secretarial work and all the editorial and financial matters were
dealt with in the hospitals where the Secretary, Editor or
Treasurer worked and this may be why few 19th and early 20th
century archives of the Association have survived.
The MPA, which became the Royal Medico Psychological
Association (RMPA) in 1926, moved to BMA House in Tavistock Square
in the same year. It was hoped that here the RMPA would have rooms
of its own but these did not become available and so in 1932 the
RMPA returned to Chandos Street, this time with a room for an
office and a paid secretary.
A series of agreements for extra rooms in the archives show
how over the years the work of the RMPA, the staff and the need for
accommodation increased. In the early 1960s a move to the Royal
College of Physicians new building in Regents' Park was considered
but instead the RMPA moved from 11 Chandos Street to the Royal
Society of Medicine's Chandos House.
In the early 1970s, the change in status to a Royal College,
the increase in administrative staff and the ending of the Chandos
House lease led to the decision to find a permanent headquarters.
Various options were suggested, including moving to a property
adjoining the Royal College of Physicians, moving outside London,
building on a new site in London and renting or buying within
London. A number of properties were considered. These included St
Peter's Hospital in Henrietta Street 'an attractive brick
building', Queen Mary 's Maternity Home, Hampstead 'solidly built
in Neo-Georgian style', the Moorfields Hospital Highgate Annexe 'a
very respectable residential area' and the Royal Victoria Patriotic
Asylum in Wandsworth, originally 'built to house 300 orphaned
daughters of the brave Crimea dead'.
However in 1974 the College moved to 17 Belgrave Square. There
was a lot of work to be done when the College moved in and it soon
became clear that there were opportunities for extending the
building. It was extended at the back and a fourth floor was built
to provide additional office space. The archives include
specifications, correspondence and architects' plans for the
extensions and alterations.
In 1997 an extensive refurbishment of the formal rooms was
begun with the aim of meeting both the College's practical needs
and enhancing the period detail of its property.