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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