A new look at the Whittington
The Whittington hospital has a new aspect - or an old aspect revealed. The demolition of an undistinguished building on the east side of Dartmouth Park Hill (I think a nurses' home) has revealed once again the full magnificence of the building at the heart of the Whittington estate.
So here in its majesty - well, it's a pity about the fire escape - is the west facing side of the Smallpox and Vaccination hospital. It's the oldest part of what is now the Whittington and was built over 1848-1850.
Grand as this Italianate facade is, this is not the front of the building. That's the south facing side, complete with portico, clock and inscription.
It is so much more stylish than modern hospitals, don't you think?
By the end of the nineteenth century, a new smallpox hospital has been built, and the old smallpox hospital became the administration block for the adjoining Islington workhouse infirmary (which is also part of the Whittington these days).
What is now the Whittington combines three former workhouse infirmaries. On the east side of Highgate Hill there's what the was the Holborn and Finsbury infirmary. And on the left side of Dartmouth Park Hill is the St Pancras infirmary, now a mental health centre, altogether more distinguished and dating from the late 1860s. Some clearing of trees and shrubs in Waterlow Park, plus the weight of the snow on the branches, offers just at the moment a marvellous view of what was the imposing administration block of St Pancras infirmary.
And below is what this western section of the Whittington once looked like - taken from the Camden History Society's excellent Streets of Highgate.
The Whittington hospital in north London is much improved. The new wing is light and spacious. The A+E is as friendly and efficient as an inner city casualty ward can be. But spending a Sunday morning at the Whittington isn't anyone's idea of fun.
The saving grace is the wonderful architecture hidden within the hospital grounds.
And above all, there's the majesty of the double-fronted Smallpox and Vaccination Hospital - not visible from the road, but well worth a wander through the maze of Whittington buildings.
The Smallpox and Vaccination Hospital dates from 1848-50 - an Italianate design by Samuel Dawkes (that information lifted from the Camden History Society's excellent Streets of Highgate). The hospital was earlier at Kings Cross, but was displaced by the building of the station.
Two workhouse infirmaries were later built in the same area - one, an equally splendid design just across Dartmouth Park Hill, is now the Highgate Mental Health Centre. You can get a good view of the main infirmary building from Waterlow Park, next door. Highgate cemetery is also very close at hand.
The Whittington was created at the time of the birth of the NHS in 1948 - bringing together Highgate Hospital, on the current main site and including the Smallpox and Vaccination Hospital, with the two former workhouse infirmaries.
This distinctly dated photo of the Smallpox Hospital - used for many decades as a nurses' home - is from the history page of the Whittington's website.
The name of course comes from the Dick Whittington legend. The Whittington stone, where young Dick was prompted to 'turn, turn and turn again' back to London, is nearby on Highgate Hill.
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