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  • Writer's pictureCarol Harris

A Hospital on Breakspears Road

Cigarette cards, royal benefactors and the babies of Brockley

This tiny picture from a cigarette card album, found by Tim Lund, shows Queen Elizabeth (mother of Queen Elizabeth II) who performed the official opening of the Brockley Babies Hospital on 12 July 1933.

The card is one of a set of 50, presented in this penny album and issued in 1937, the year George VI was crowned king.

The Brockley Babies' Hospital was at 25 Breakspears Road, a large house and grounds presented by Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone in 1929. It was a major extension of the clinic in Deptford, originally based at the Albany Institute, and founded by the Duchess of Albany, the countess' mother.

The Brockley Babies Hospital treated local mothers, babies and children. It had 22 beds, accommodation for two breastfeeding mothers, a nurses' home, a large outpatients department, and ultraviolet ray treatment rooms. At this time, child health was a major concern and sunray therapy was prescribed for a wide range of childhood ailments. One of the most common was rickets, caused by lack of sunlight and consequent vitamin D. The year after the Brockley Babies' Hospital opened, an open-air ward was added, and daily, most of the children would have an afternoon nap on beds or cots outside.

During the Second World War, on 29 October 1940, the hospital closed for the duration of the conflict, and the remaining children were evacuated. A few days later, the main building was hit during an air raid and and incendiaries started fires in the out-patients department and nurses' accommodation. Shortly after, on 7 November, another raid destroyed the out-patients department. Damaged beyond repair, for the rest of the war, the hospital's foundations were used as an emergency water supply and its grounds were dug up for allotments.

Sometime after the war, a housing development called Hadrian's Court was built on the site.

Thanks to Tim Lund and Jane Martin (@JaneCanDoSE4) for sending the picture.

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