Royal Waterloo Hospital | Accidentally Wes Anderson

Royal Waterloo Hospital

Accidentally Wes Anderson - Royal Waterloo Hospital Enlarge

London, United Kingdom | C.1816

Photo Credit: @lifeandacupoftea

One of the earliest buildings on Waterloo Road, The Royal Waterloo Hospital for Women and Children has a long and sometimes dark history. The London institution was founded in 1816, moving into this now Grade-II listed building in 1823. 

Dr. J. Bunnell Davis founded the institute, first known as the Universal Dispensary for Sick and Indigent Children, in St. Andrew’s Hill. He included the word “universal” in the name to indicate that children from any area would be cared for. 

David Laing, also the architect of the Customs House, designed the imposing brick structure on the corner of Waterloo Road and Stamford Street. But the current Lombardic Renaissance-style structure is the result of a rebuild in 1905. This rebuild gave the structure its distinctive Doulton-ware porch and characteristic lettering. One corner turret displays the Royal Arms.

Although the hospital was patronized by royals, it was perpetually underfunded. As a result, treatment was reserved for outpatients by 1851, and part of the building was rented as a school. Not long after, a surgical ward opened and the hospital began receiving women.

After WWII, the hospital became part of the NHS and was joined with St. Thomas’ Hospital Group. From 1948 to about 1973, Dr. William Sargent used it for psychiatric inpatients. He administered many controversial and dangerous treatments, creating the infamous Ward 5, otherwise known as the Narcosis Room. Though government-backed and highly respected at the time, Sargent has since been rightfully discredited.

The hospital closed in 1976. Five years later, it was sold to Schiller International University, serving as their London campus. Schiller moved out in 2011, selling the building to Notre Dame University, based in the U.S. The hospital, including Ward 5, now functions as dormitories for students studying abroad.

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