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My first years in the UK - Part 2
Last uploaded : Sunday 18th Mar 2018 at 14:37
Contributed by : Carol Gould



At this point it is worth looking at the history of the hospital in which most of my Cedric Chambers, Northwick Close NW8 neighbours had worked as nurses -- all ‘unaccompanied ladies of good repute..’ This historical background may be found on the website of ‘Lost Hospitals of London.’

‘Maida Vale Hospital - 1867 - 1993

‘The London Infirmary for Epilepsy and Paralysis was founded by the German physician Julius Althaus (1833-1900). It opened for out-patients only in Charles St (now Blandford Place) in Marylebone but soon in-patients were admitted.

‘In 1872 the lease of the house expired and the Infirmary moved to a 3-storey building, Winterton House, in Portland Terrace, on the north side of Regent's Park. The ground floor contained the Secretary's office, the Out-Patients Department and the dispensary. The wards were on the first floor, while the top floor contained accommodation for Matron and the staff. The following year the name of the Infirmary was changed, as it was considered too similar to the Hospital for the Relief and Cure for the Paralysed and Epileptic in Queen Square. It became the Hospital for Diseases of the Nervous System but, in 1876, the name was changed again - to the Hospital for Epilepsy and Paralysis. From 1873 until 1903 it had only 20 beds - 8 for male patients, 8 for females and 4 for private patients.

‘In 1884 a 25-year-old man with Jacksonian epilepsy was the first case to be successfully diagnosed and treated for a brain tumour. The tumour was surgically removed, but the patient died of meningitis a month later.

‘In 1890 an anonymous gift of £1200 enabled the Hospital to renew its lease for Winterton House for another ten years, but it was recognised that a new hospital building was urgently needed.

‘In 1900 a 99-year lease for a site at 2-4 Maida Vale was obtained from the Harrow Estate. Building work began and the first part of the Hospital for Epilepsy and Paralysis and Other Diseases of the Nervous System, Maida Vale, was completed in 1902 on the north side of the site. The building, formally opened in 1903 by Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, had an Out-Patients Department, a dispensary and offices, and ward accommodation for 38 beds (lack of funds prevented completion of the Hospital until 1913).

‘In 1908 a School of Massage and Electrotherapy was founded. In 1910 discussion had taken place concerning amalgamation with the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases, but nothing came of it. The lack of neuropathology laboratories and a radiology department were serious defects and would cause difficulties later; X-rays could only be obtained from private consulting rooms, which was expensive and inconvenient.

‘Princess Louise returned in August 1913 to open the now completed Hospital, which had cost a total of £35,000 ..At this time there were 70 beds. Most of the patients admitted suffered from chorea, tabes dorsalis (tertiary syphilis) and epilepsy.

‘During WW1 military and air force casualties with neurological injuries were treated at the Hospital. The Hospital offer of 50 beds for the use of the Royal Navy was accepted but never implemented. Instead, 35 beds of the Hospital became a section of the Third London General Hospital.

‘In 1917 the Hospital arranged with the Ministry of Pensions to create a Home of Recovery at Highfield in Golders Green for servicemen suffering from neurological injuries and war psychoneurosis. Later, neuological casualties from the Royal Flying Corps were also accepted. The Home closed soon after the war ended.

‘In the 1920s the Hospital pioneered the use of phenobarbiturates (Luminal) for the treatment of epilepsy - previously bromides had been used.

‘In 1937 the name of the Hospital was modified to The Maida Vale Hospital for Nervous Diseases including Epilepsy and Paralysis. A new science was introduced for the investigation of nervous disease - electroencephalography - the study of brain physiology.

‘At the outbreak of WW2 the medical staff became depleted and no patients were admitted. Later, in December 1939, the first floor only was opened for in-patients. The surgical department moved to the Leavesden Hospital, a large mental hospital.

‘In October 1940 the Hospital suffered a direct hit from a high explosive bomb, but the small number of patients had been moved to the X-ray Department in the basement, and there were no casualties. The Out-Patients Department managed to keep functioning. Later more damage was caused by incendiary bombs. [Emmanuel Church at the entrance to Northwick Close also suffered damage during this Luftwaffe raid. CG]

‘The small X-ray department had been set up in the basement some years previously to obtain ‘ski grams’ of the skull and the first neuroradiologist had been appointed in 1939, but it was not until after the war that a proper service could be established. A number of small single wards on the third floor used for the treatment of chorea patients were sacrificed and a new X-ray department installed. Radiological investigations, such as ventriculography, air encephalography and arteriography could then be carried out.

‘In the latter years of the war the King Edward's Fund had discussed the possibility of amalgamation of the three London neurological hospitals - the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases, the National Hospital in Queen Square and the Maida Vale Hospital - and indeed the latter two did merge in 1947. Throughout its history, clinical staff at the Maida Vale had resigned and taken up contracts with the National Hospital, so it seemed fitting that the two Hospitals should become one. In 1948 they became a single postgraduate teaching hospital within the NHS.

‘A new pathology laboratory was built at the Maida Vale site, which became known as The National Hospital for Nervous Diseases, Maida Vale. In 1956 a new Out-Patients Department, a new X-ray Department and operating theatre, were officially opened by the Duchess of Gloucester. The third floor had been rebuilt, the bomb damaged wards had been repaired and new lifts installed. By this time the Hospital had 90 beds.

‘In 1974 it had 84 beds, but like many other NHS hospitals, the building had become run down and neglected. The Hospital closed in 1993 and the site sold.

‘The Hospital was demolished in 2008 and the site redeveloped as a luxury apartment block. The Westminster Cardiac Centre is located at 4b, on the ground floor. A new apartment building next door is called Winterton House.

‘Winterton House, the other, Regent’s Park home of the Hospital, also no longer exists. The site now contains North Gate, an apartment block.’

Interestingly enough despite living in Northwick Close from 1977 I never visited Maida Vale Hospital.


Another landmark in Northwick Close/Northwick Terrace was Emmanuel Church, about which many of the elderly ladies told me - several had been parishioners until it closed after World War II and was demolished in 1952.

Shirley Strang writes in the website St John’s Wood Memories :

‘Emmanuel Church was built in Northwick Terrace in 1833/34 as a Chapel of Ease to Christ Church, Cosway Street. ( It would later have been known as Emmanuel parish Church.)

‘The building was paid for by the Honourable James Henry Keith Stewart (son of the 7th Earl of Galloway) and his relative Captain Frederick Malan at a cost of £10,624. Both were Evangelical churchmen. In 1876 it became Emmanuel Church and the Emmanuel Parish was created. The nearby Wharncliffe Gardens were built in 1897.

‘In June 1923 the 7th Marylebone (Emmanuel) Girl Guides Company gave a display in aid of their camp and the Company funds in the Emmanuel Parish Hall Room in Aberdeen Place NW8. The Chairman was the vicar, the Rev J Vezay-Mason, and their Captain was Rosamund Bartley, who lived at 20 (now 52) Hamilton Terrace NW8.

‘In 1931 the new curate at the Emmanuel was the Revd Guy Bullock, who had been a British spy in World War I before taking holy orders. He was also at one time British Consul in Switzerland. The new vicar’s plans for the restoration of Emmanuel Church included converting the galleries into seven rooms for social activities -- anticipating the eventual loss of of the Parish Room, due to be demolished in 1937 when the lease reverted to the Borough Council.

‘October 1934 was the centenary of the building of Emmanuel Church. However 1936 was the end of a 33-year lease of the Parish Hall and Church School in Aberdeen Place, around the corner from Northwick Terrace/Northwick Close, when the Council decided to enlarge its electricity power station.

‘Emmanuel Church closed on 27 October 1950 - repairs required were estimated at £6,000 - and the parish was divided amongst three adjoining churches - St Paul’s Rossmore Road; St Marks’ Hamilton Terrace and St John’s Wood Chapel. Emmanuel was demolished in 1952.’

Following on from Shirley Strang’s narrative I would like to fill in some wartime data from my elderly neighbours in Northwick Close.who remembered the 1940 bombing raids and later the 400 mph German V1/ Buzzbombs/Robot bombs as they began to reach London. According to Phyllis Seymour in 4 Northwick Close the V2 attacks in 1944 were fierce and the damage around St John’s Wood was extensive. Lord’s Cricket Ground in St John’s Wood Road and the Liberal Jewish Synagogue across the street from Lord’s were damaged as were nearby streets and other buildings. Many people could not get to work as water mains and gas pipes had exploded. Phyllis said a grand piano had flown out of a flat in Northwick Terrace and landed in the middle of the road, several feet under the surface.

Entering Northwick Close there is a small car park on the right hand side behind the houses built in the 1950s that replaced Emmanuel Church. The back wall is the original wall of the burial ground. There are marks on the wall from incendiary bombs. On the west side of Edgware Road W2, two city blocks from Northwick Terrace alongside what is now an ambulance station, are two brick pillars with headstones that fronted a convent hit by a Luftwaffe rocket. No 16 Northwick Close suffered subsidence from bomb damage and in the 1990s had to be partially rebuilt.

In Northwick Terrace in one of the 1950s houses on the site of Emmanuel Church is Ros Broomer, who has lived in her house since 1955. Ros and her young husband David, a WW2 veteran, bought their house for a song but I understand the properties on the church site are now worth millions. The Broomers and I became friends and I used to love being invited to her teas because she was Indian-born and made bhajis and somosas. She and David met in India when he was stationed there after the war. He was Jewish and was astonished to discover that this beautiful young Indian girl he was courting was Jewish! Theirs was a match made in heaven and in recent years since his passing she has become stooped over, perhaps from grief. However each year she grows enormous sunflowers in a small garden in front of the house; some grow to eight feet tall.

I interviewed Ros for a documentary and she told me that on a trip with her mother to India after the 1973 Israeli Yom Kippur War, for some reason their flight was diverted to Aleppo, Syria. Technically Syria was in a state of war with Israel and Ros and her mother were petrified that their passports would be examined, their travel stamps from Israel discovered and they might be carted off to a Syrian prison, never to be seen again. Passengers were indeed asked to disembark for passport control but one of the officers knew why the two women were fretting; he bravely told the ground inspection officials that there were no other passengers onboard and they believed him. Eventually the rest of the passengers returned and they took off. Ros said it was one of the most terrifying episodes of her life.

When I moved to Northwick Close in 1977 there was a truly eerie siren that went off once a month or so; it was attached to a telephone pole in Aberdeen Place. Thankfully after many years of pleas to have it disabled by locals who still had grim memories of the Blitz, it was removed in 1977.

In her narrative about Emmanuel Church Shirley Strang mentions a school in Northwick Terrace : ‘ In the 1870s there was a private school at 16 Northwick Terrace run by Abraham Mendes from Jamaica. He was married with eight children, and employed two assistant masters and six servants. There were eighteen pupils, all boys, aged 9-18 and coming from as far afield as Jamaica, the Azores, Egypt, Portugal as well as London. ‘

The ‘Jewish Chronicle’ reported in a mid-nineteenth century edition that a residential school for Jewish girls was also located at 14-16 Northwick Terrace. As Mendes is a Sephardi Jewish name it is possible the aforementioned Abraham Mendes had some connection with this establishment as well. When I moved to Northwick Close in 1977 14-16 Northwick Terrace was a large 1920s-built apartment complex that appears to have escaped enemy bombing.

Why was Germany so determined to destroy this neighbourhood? The electricity sub-station in Cunningham Place NW8 that comprised the grid powering Paddington and Marylebone included major railway lines and St Mary’s Hospital. Knocking out the grid meant plunging a substantial part of London into darkness and death. The Luftwaffe never hit the grid! Sadly, however, much death and destruction befell the neighbourhood…

A landmark that escaped the Blitz is Crocker’s Folly, my local pub built in 1898. Frank Crocker decided this would be the ideal location for a lavish pub and guest house by a new terminus for the Great central Railway but the terminus never materialised -- Marylebone Station being the nearest, half a mile away -- and he was ruined. The subsequent landlord Frank Durden committed suicide. . It is said Crocker’s ghost haunts the pub.


Next door is Landseer Studios at 10 Cunningham Place NW8 , home of the Landseer brothers Sir Edwin (1802-1873) and Thomas, both painters. Sir Edwin was best known for his paintings and sculptures of animals; his most famous works were the lions in Trafalgar Square. Sadly in his thirties he suffered a nervous breakdown throughout the remainder of his life had bouts of depression. His family felt compelled to declare him insane in 1871 but when he died on 1 October 1873 his passing was widely marked in England: shops and houses lowered their blinds, flags flew at half mast, his bronze lions at the base of Nelson’s Column were hung with wreaths, and large crowds lined the streets to watch his funeral cortege pass. Landseer was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.

I feel a special attachment to Landseer Studios because I rented a studio there for three years from 1991 after leaving Anglia Television as a place away from home to write and as my office as Development Executive of JE Entertainment (now Endemol) - the rear garden unit, which had been the Landseer brothers’ studio. It was a five-minute walk from my flat in Cedric Chambers. I was allowed to rent this studio because the Landseer will specified that only creative people could rent studios in the building. Whenever friends visited with their dogs the animals became agitated and often ran about in circles. This could only be explained by an urban legend that Sir Edwin neglected the animals he had kept and buried them in the garden. Whenever friends took pictures in my studio a strange white blob appeared on the negatives. Locals told me this was the ghost of a neglected animal.

Next door to me in Landseer Studios was Dr Hans Feibusch, a painter and sculptor. He visited me every day -- or I would venture into his vast studio filled with hundreds of paintings, charcoal drawings and bronzes. Hans had been one of the group of German artists deemed ‘degenrate’ by Adolf Hitler. He told me the one day in 1933 he had ventured out of the artists’ studio to have his daily coffee at a favourite local restaurant. The proprietor told him that one of the artists’ group was actually an SS spy. Hans said this was astonishing because the others wondered why he had had such appalling ‘artist’s block,’ staring at an empty canvas for weeks at a time. Hans was told the SS was about to raid the studio and cart everyone off to ‘a camp.’ To his great sorrow Hans decided to abandon his body of work and never return to the studio, escaping Germany for Britain. He joined the London Artists’ Group in 1934 and sought help and refuge from the Jewish community but in the end after a visit to a church was hired by the Church of England to paint murals and was also hired by various municipalities to create large wall scenarios inside government buildings. He married into the Gestetner family.

Hans told me he was so grateful to the Church of England that he decided in 1965 to convert from Judaism to Christianity. When I met him in the early 1990s he told me that in his very old age he wished to ‘reconnect’ with his Jewish roots. I introduced him to the Progressive rabbi David J Goldberg of the Liberal Synagogue around the corner , with whom I was working in my studio on a screenplay about his visit to post-Soviet Russia. The two men hit it off like a house on fire. Hans donated a large painting of Abraham and the Angels to David’s synagogue and eventually came to a Saturday service with me. Hans was bowled over when I showed him a ‘Feibusch Haggadah,’ a bound Passover prayer book from the 14th century. Although Judaism discourages sacred images the book is full of extraordinarily colourful illustrations that are very much of Hans’s style. Perhaps the artist was an ancestor..I think Hans wanted to believe that.

Hans walked every day from his home in Hampstead all the way to Landseer Studios - a two -hour trek. He would stop all traffic by lifting his stick ! It is a miracle he was not hit by a car for all the years he made this daily journey. He did give in most evenings and have a cab home. In 1994 Hans painted me - I look at this beautiful work on my wall in my flat in Cedric Chambers and I look so sad. He had captured how grief-stricken I was over the death of my beloved father. Hans gave me the charcoal drawing of Moses and the Tablets, the prototype of a mural he had painted for West London Synagogue. Sadly Hans did not make it to the birthday for which he would have received a telegram from Her Majesty the Queen and died at age 99 in 1998. He was buried in a Jewish ceremony at Golders Green cemetery.
To be continued...

Please do visit the website 'Lost Hospitals of London'

and 'St John's Wood Memories.'


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