'The Grocers' Wing of The Royal London Hospital'

The NHS Livery Kitchen initiative renews a longstanding connection the Grocers’ Company has with The Royal London Hospital. The Grocers’ Company has a long tradition of supporting London hospitals, with charitable donations regularly given by individual Grocers and the Company to St Bartholomew’s, St Thomas’s, Bethlem, Bridewell, as well as Christs, from at least the 1500s. The largest donation made by the Company to a hospital however was made in 1873 for the building of a new wing to the London Hospital, built in 1752-78. As the population increased there were severe problems in finding enough beds The proposed solution was to extend the hospital to provide 200 additional beds.

A public fundraising campaign was launched with the aim of securing £100,000 towards new buildings and the operating costs of an enlarged hospital. The centrepiece of this wave of hospital expansion was theGrocers’ Company’s Wing, named in recognition of a donation from the City livery company. Their ‘princely gift’ of £25,000, one quarter of the whole fund raising target, was accompanied by numerous conditions, including that the proposed wing should be completed within three years. The Grocers’ Company’s Wing was formally opened by Queen Victoria in March 1876, in a grand celebration reported to have lent ‘an attractive and joyous aspect to (an) ordinarily dull and dingy but busy quarter’. The size of the Grocers’ Company donation can be put in the context of the Company's annual expenditure of £35,000 in 1880 (of which more than three fifths was spent on education and charity) not including the gift of 25,000l. to the London Hospital (and 28,000l. at Oundle School).

The picture showed the Illustrated London News: Her Majesty Queen Victoria visiting the London Hospital, Whitechapel: the Duke of Cambridge giving the loyal address. Wood engraving, March 1876. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

The Grocers' Wing of The Royal London Hospital