BRIEF HISTORY DURING THE SNOW ERA (1813-58)
During the early nineteenth century, hospitals in London did not admit sick children. Instead, young children were expected to be dealt with by physicians at home or in clinics. In 1851, the situation changed with the founding of the Hospital for Sick Children by Dr. Charles West (1816-98) (see picture). West and colleagues rented a house at No. 49 Great Ormond Street, established a ward with 10 beds, and made the facilities available to children aged 2-12 years who were in need of hospitalized care.
While Dr. West provided the founding inspiration and medical care, public and financial support awaited the involvement of Charles Dickens who helped the Hospital for Sick Children avoid being lost among competing charities. Dickens gave a series of public readings in 1858, bringing attention to the budding institution. With the inflow of donations, Dr. West was able in 1858 to add No. 48 Great Ormond Street to the hospital, and thereafter expand the facility to 20 beds. During one of Dickens' fund-raising speeches, he encouraged his audience to consider a children's hospital:
This is the pathetic case which I have put to you; not only on behalf of the thousands of children who annually die in this great city, but also on behalf of the thousands of children who live half-developed, racked with preventable pain, shorn of their natural capacity for health and enjoyment. If these innocent creatures cannot move you for themselves, how can I possibly hope to move you in their name?
He ended with:
...you should find yourself... happily arrived at the end of a rather long speech, drinking "Prosperity to the Hospital for Sick Children," and thoroughly resolving that it should flourish.
- Dickens C. Freemasons's Hall, February, 1858.
And flourish it did. In 1877, a new Hospital for Sick Children was constructed at the same site, but with 120 beds.
The Hospital for Sick Children is not shown in the 1859 map but is located in cell I16 above "o" in Ormond Street just east of Powis Place.
Kosky J. Mutual Friends -- Charles Dickens and the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, 1989.
Weinreb B, Hibbert C (eds). The London Encyclopaedia, 1993.