Skip to content

Lewisham Hospital – a history

A workhouse was built on  the site of  Lewisham hospital as early as 1612 and the present hospital has its origins in the replacement workhouse  built in 1817.
‘This workhouse is situated in the centre of the picturesque village of Lewisham, five miles south-east of London. It is a three-storied brick building of three blocks, and was erected in 1817. The centre has a south aspect, while the front of the house looks east ; the parallel wing being in the rear, with a west face.’

When it was enlarged in 1836 it included 4 cholera wards. 
An 1865 Lancet report shows that the workhouse was essentially functioning as a hospital at that time with 7 ‘sick wards’ and 4 ‘infection wards’ with a total of 94 beds. A separate Infirmary was built in 1892 and this building now houses the pathology department.
During the First World War most of the workhouse residents were relocated as the Infirmary became Lewisham Military Hospital. The workhouse continued to function until 1929
In World War 2 the hospital was hit by a V-1 flying bomb which destroyed 2 wards and killed a nurse.
After the National Health Service was founded in 1948 the hospital continued to expand over the decades with outpatients, a special care baby unit and other wards opened.
In 1968 the Intensive Care Unit was opened – the first district general hospital in England to have one.
In 2007 the Riverside building was opened by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was the first major NHS building to generate some of its own power using photovoltaic panels installed on the roof.
Lewisham hospital has been a part of borough life for centuries and has trained many health professionals and served the community well. 
‘The main aim of the nursing sisters I worked with during my training at lewisham hospital was to provide excellent nursing care to enable patients to make the best possible recovery.It has stood me in good stead for my career as a nurse’
Barbara Bowman Student Nurse Lewisham Hospital 1983
Family Nurse Kathy Cruise is carrying out some research
Please send in your stories by using the comment boxes at the bottom of this page

12 thoughts on “Lewisham Hospital – a history

  1. Elizabeth Sabey says:

    My son who is now 34 was born at Lewisham Maternity unit. I spent three months in hospital due to complications, without the staff dedication and skills he would not be here today a healthy young man with his own family
    Thank you Lewisham Hospital you have my support,as I still have family living in the area.

    • john busbridge says:

      In 1955 I was admitted to ward C1 of lewisham hospital with peritonitis and given up for dead, after several operations and several months I was eventually discharged.
      Had it not been for the huge dedication of the surgeon Mr Jemson and all the nursing staff I would not be here now, one of my most treasured possessions is a wooden kitchen spoon presented to me for being the best stirrer on C1 and it is signed by everyone from surgeons to porters, thank you Lewisham hospital for all you did for me.

  2. David Grout says:

    May I congratulate all those who have helped in the fight to save Lewisham Hospital. Both My parents worked at the hospital during the war years and I was born there in 1947. My father Victor Grout a porter was awarded the BEM for his role in saving the hospital when the V1 hit the hospital in 1944,I know that if he were still alive he would be deeply saddened at any closure of an establishment which played such an important part in his life.

  3. Gregory Kat says:

    I have been a diabetic outpatient at Lewisham Hospital for 20 years I have nothing but the best treatment one could ask for. It’s times like this that make a National Health System so invaluable for all our sakes.

  4. Margaret says:

    Does any one know the month and where the patients were transferred when the flying bomb hit in 1944, I am trying to trace my great grandmother who was at the hospital as a patient at that time?

  5. Malcolm Potts says:

    I trained there from 1983 until 1986 and as a staff nurse for over a year thereafter.I obviously got off on the right footing as now up to the dizzy heights of matron in Liverpool.Indeed, I have some fond memories of the hospital,although at times I was not always sure that nursing was quite the right career choice ! However, thankfully Lewisham imbued in me enough enthusiasm, tenacity and perseverance to see it through, for which I shall be eternally grateful.

  6. Daniel Kok says:

    I am looking for a student nurse Chong Yuet Lan from Penang, Malaysia who used to do training in Lewisham mental hospital some 35 years ago. Just wonder if possible to access old records?
    Would be much appreciated if anyone could let me have her last contact or address.

    Thank you.

    Daniel Kok

    • admin says:

      Sorry but we cannot access hospital records.

  7. ellen says:

    Me and my three sisters was placed in lewisham hospital in 1985 as we suffered abuse and stayed there till a family was found and it was one of the nurses there that fostered us and stopped us being institutionalized.

  8. Sandie says:

    My sister was born in Amersham in February 1947(The worst winter for decades) but in March 1948 I was born in Lewisham hospital, I have often wondered why we were born in different places, anyone know why that could have been, My mum and dad lived in Catford and Amersham was a long way to go to have a baby. I wold be grateful for any info. Thank you

    • Sandie says:

       Hi it is Sandie again, replying to myself.I really hope Lewisham hospital can be saved. Apart from being born there on 31st March 1948, my Nan and Grandad Price both died there after various illnesses, one in 1963 and one in 1970. Good luck with the campaign. I don’t live anywhere near Lewisham hospital now, but I would still like it to stay open. xxx

  9. Carol Reed says:

    My mom, Susan Wynter( nee Chambers) was a head nurse in maternity ward from mid 1950’s until approximately 1968, when she moved back to Jamaica. I was told she was the first black head nurse at Lewisham hospital. Is there any proof of this? She passed away in 2012.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *