Stockwell’s smallpox hospital

Smallpox, once just a part of London life, has been practically eradicated in the Western world, largely due to the vaccination programme.

The disease caused terrible suffering, often leading to death or disfigurement. Treatment was basic and most victims stayed at home, where they spread the disease, or ended up in workhouse hospitals.

The Metropolitan Asylums Board (MAB), set up in 1867, devised a plan for regional smallpox and fever hospitals, each serving a part of London. The Stockwell hospital (South Western) opened in 1871 on the site of the Lambeth Hospital on Landor Road. The site cost £15,500, which was given by the Poor Law Board. The hospital included a purpose-built isolation block which suffered extensive bomb damage during World War II.

There were other hospitals at Hampstead, Fulham, Homerton and Deptford. However, in the next major outbreak of the disease, in 1881, Hampstead and Fulham, succumbing to the influence of their rich and powerful inhabitants, pushed all of their patients to hospitals in poorer districts. There’s further information on this at the PortCitiesLondon website. The MAB also made use of a number of floating hospitals and an asylum at Darenth, Kent.

  • The MAB also had to combat the anti vaccinators. More on these people can be found on here.

Photo: Lambeth Hospital by sarflondondunc

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