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Bloomsbury Institutions


National Hospital for Nervous Diseases

Also known as National Hospital, Queen Square, for Diseases of the Nervous System including Paralysis and Epilepsy/National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic/National Hospital/National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN)


It was founded in 1859 by the Chandler siblings Johanna, Louisa, and Edward, after their experiences of nursing their paralysed grandmother, who had brought them up (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, entry for Johanna Chandler)

It opened at 24 Queen Square in the spring of 1860, at first with 8 beds for women patients; a ward for male patients followed in June 1860

As usually happened, demand for the Hospital led to the next door house also being purchased and adapted in 1866; further expansions took place in the following decade, with the first purpose-built hospital buildings constructed on the site in 1881 and 1885 (the former was demolished in the late twentieth century; the latter, the Albany Wing, still faces the square

It is often described as the first hospital to be established in Queen Square, although there was a short-lived Private Spinal Institution here a decade earlier; the National Hospital was the first successful hospital to be established here

In 1950 the University of London’s Institute of Neurology was built adjacent to the hospital; it retains close links with the hospital, having merged with University College London in 1997

It has an international reputation for neurological treatment, teaching, and research

An exhibition on site showcases some of the Hospital’s historic photographs, plans, newspaper cuttings, and other documents, including an extract from the Board of Management minutes noting that inhabitants of the Square had protested against hospital patients sitting at the end of the street (Board of Management minutes, 3 August 1860, National Hospital)

What was reforming about it?

It was founded by lay people, not doctors or other medical professionals

It was “the first institution devoted to the paralysed and epileptic”, who would otherwise have ended up in the insane wards of the workhouses (Nick Black, Walking London’s Medical History, 2006)

It was also the first hospital to open a country branch (in 1870) and its purpose-built 1880s buildings were acclaimed as the first artistic design for a hospital in the country (onsite exhibition, National Hospital)

Where in Bloomsbury

It was opened in a house rented for the purpose at no. 24 Queen Square (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, entry for Johanna Chandler)

According to Black, it opened in two houses with 36 beds; the premises were later extended in several directions (Nick Black, Walking London’s Medical History, 2006)

In 1883–1885, the original houses were demolished and replaced by a purpose-built hospital on the same site which is now a Grade II listed building

Website of current institution

The Hospital became part of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 1996; its website is www.uclh.nhs.uk (opens in new window)

National Hospital, Queen Square (Wellcome Library, London)

Books about it

Hospital Jottings, or, Reminiscences of the Rise and Progress of the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic, Queen Square, Bloomsbury (1870)

Godfrey Heathcote Hamilton, Queen Square: Its Neighbourhood and its Institutions (1926)

Gordon Holmes, The National Hospital, Queen Square, 1860–1948 (1954)

Queen Square and the National Hospital, 1860–1960 (1960)

Simon Shorvon, Andrew Lees, Martin Rossor, and Alastair Compston, The National Hospital Queen Square: 1860–2010 (2011)


The archives are held on site by the National Hospital itself

Records from 1898–1925 relating to its King Edward’s Fund applications are held in London Metropolitan Archives, ref. A/KE/253/9; details are available via Access to Archives (opens in new window)

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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