The Royal London Hospital museum and archives

View of the Royal London Hospital Museum

Please note that all public-facing services at Barts Health Archives and Museums are currently closed to visitors and researchers, in order to protect staff, visitors and volunteers during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

This includes the Royal London Hospital Archives and Museum. The Royal London Hospital Archives will be moving from its current location in late 2020. For more information on the move plans and impact on access to the archives, please see the Royal London Hospital Archives section below.

The London Hospital (now The Royal London Hospital) has cared for the community of East London since 1740, and the archive and museum collections document the hospital from its earliest days, as well as some of the fascinating patients, nurses and doctors who have passed through its doors. The archives also holds records of numerous other hospitals, charities, training institutions and individuals.

Visit the museum to find out more about the hospital’s history, its role in the development of modern medicine, and key figures including Edith Cavell and Joseph Merrick. You can make an appointment to visit the archives for your research. The objects on display in the museums are only a small part of the collections - to find out more, search our catalogue online

The Royal London Hospital museum

Please note, the Royal London Hospital Museum is currently closed for the safety of our volunteers and visitors during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whether you live or work in Whitechapel, are visiting the hospital, or are interested in the role of the Royal London Hospital in the history of East London, you'll find something of interest at our museum.

See a replica skeleton of Joseph Merrick (the ‘Elephant Man’), with original documentation from his residence in the hospital, alongside the original hospital charter of 1759. Find out about the lives of key figures such as Sir William Blizard, hospital matron Eva Luckes, Dr Barnardo, Frederick Treves and Edith Cavell, and look at the impact of medical advances that took place in the hospital, on modern medicine and the local area.

Other displays include original surgical instruments used in the era before antisepsis, forensic medicine, hospital uniforms and dentistry equipment.

A display sponsored by the late Dr Mona Grey (1910-2009) celebrates nurses who have made a difference to people’s lives. 

We are located in part of the former crypt of St Philip’s Church.The grade II* listed church, was designed by Arthur Cawston and completed in 1892. The upper part of the building now houses the library of Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Find us

We are located in the former crypt of St Philip’s Church. The entrance is on Newark Street at the eastern end of the church. The address is:

The Royal London Hospital Museum
St Augustine with St Philip’s Church
Newark Street
London
E1 2AA

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Visiting us - temporary museum closure

To reduce the risk of spread of infection and to protect the health of our volunteers, who supervise our museums, the Royal London Hospital Museum is currently closed to visitors. 

We will continue to follow public health advice and hope to reopen in 2021. Please check our Twitter account for up-to-date information on openings.

Our museums are free to enter, though a donation towards maintaining the collection is appreciated.

The museum is usually open every Friday, 10am -12.30pm and 1pm - 4pm (closed over Christmas, New Year, Easter and public holidays). Please note that the museum has recently changed its opening hours to avoid the need to close at short-notice and ensure that we can provide a consistent service to our visitors. 

Follow us on Twitter for up-to-date information about opening hours and displays, or call us on 020 7377 7608 or 020 7480 4823.

The museum is accessible for wheelchair users with ramped access. For more details about our access provisions, read The Royal London Hospital Museum's access statement.

I am Human – a walking tour of the Royal London Hospital

I am Human: a new walking tour of the Royal London Hospital

I am Human retells the story of the hospital’s most famous resident, Joseph Merrick, the so-called ‘Elephant Man’, through the eyes of Merrick himself. Based on sources held in the Hospital’s archives, the audio guide brings 1880s Whitechapel to life through the voices of Merrick, the Hospital’s celebrity surgeon Frederick Treves, its resourceful young Matron, Eva Luckes and a medical student training at the College. Follow a route around the old hospital site using the audio guide and/or accompanying walk leaflet, finishing up in the museum, where you can learn more about Merrick, Treves and Luckes.

Download the guide free from the izi.Travel app or from Soundcloud.

Pick up a copy of the leaflet in the Royal London Hospital Museum or download a copy of the 'I am Human' walking tour leaflet [pdf] 3.7 MB.

Groups

Group visits are welcome. Space in the museum is limited; we can only accommodate up to 30 people at a time and so for larger groups we advise that your visit is staggered to avoid over-crowding. It is advisable to contact the museum in advance on 020 7377 7608 or email us.

We do not offer guided tours. A member of staff will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

School groups

The museum is a fantastic place to learn about the role of the hospital in the social history of east London and medical developments which led to today’s world-class hospital.

We welcome school groups from Key Stage 2 up to A-Level and our resources are closely linked to the national curriculum. We can provide activity sheets aimed at KS2-3 students.

Please note that due to space limitations groups of more than 30 students may have to stagger their visit. If you are organising a visit to the museum please contact us in advance to discuss your requirements on 020 7377 7608 or email us.

School groups may also wish to consider a visit to the Centre of the Cell, an interactive science education centre a few streets from the museum, sited in a working bio-medical research laboratory at Queen Mary, University of London.

Publications for sale

The museum has a small shop selling a range of books, prints and postcards -  please see our publications for sale list [pdf] for details. To order any of these items, please email us or call 020 7377 7608. All proceeds go towards the development of the archives and museums.

Useful websites

The Royal London Hospital Archives

The archives are amongst the largest and most important hospital collections in the UK, with records filling over 2km of shelving.

The archives of The London Hospital (now The Royal London Hospital) date back to 1740, although patient records are only complete from 1883. The archives also hold records of numerous other hospitals, charities, training institutions and individuals and most of these are available for research, though access to some later records may be restricted under the Data Protection Act. 

 

Searching the archives collections

To find out more about our archives, view the online catalogue for the collections of The Royal London Hospital Archives and Museum.

We are continually adding new material to our online catalogue, and are very grateful to the Wellcome Trust for its support of two recent cataloguing projects which focused on archive records relating to infectious disease. Read more about our recent projects The Fight Against Tuberculosis and STIs in East London in the Twentieth Century on the project blogs. In 2019, The Story of Barts Charity project, generously funded by the charity, allowed us to add catalogues of the archives of Barts Charity and its predecessors to our online catalogue.

We can help and advise researchers, so please contact us with your enquiry. Please note that the remote enquiry service will be suspended from Friday 28 August 2020 until Monday 4 January 2021 due to the move of the archives - for more details on the temporary closure, please see below.

Temporary closure of the archives, 2020

It is not currently possible to visit the archives to undertake research in person. After 15 years in its current location, the Royal London Hospital Archives will be moving out of 9 Prescot Street in November 2020, due to the expiry of the lease. Unfortunately our new archive premises will not be ready to move into this year, and so we are currently preparing our collections to move into secure storage offsite for the interim period until the new archives space is complete.

The archive collections based at Prescot Street include the records of 21 current and former hospitals including the Royal London, alongside material produced by individuals and other organisations involved in the provision of healthcare and medicine in the City and East London - for more details, see 'What we hold' below. 

All Barts Health Archives and Museums sites remain closed to researchers and visitors to protect our staff, volunteers and the public during the Covid-19 pandemic, and for this reason we will not be resuming on-site archive research appointments prior to the move.

Both Royal London Hospital Archives and St Bartholomew’s Hospital Archives will be closed to new archive enquiries from Friday 28 August 2020, until Monday 4 January 2021. This will allow us to focus on preparing the collections at Prescot Street for the move to their temporary home, delivering the move and preparing for new access arrangements. We will respond to all existing enquiries, including those put on hold due to the closure of the archives during lockdown, by the end of October 2020.

Details of the new public access arrangements for all Barts Health archive collections are currently being developed, in line with public health guidance on Covid-19. We look forward to being able to share our collections with researchers again in 2021, once they are safely stored at their temporary new home. If you would like to be kept informed about the archives move and updated access arrangements for Barts Health NHS Trust Archives, please contact  us and ask to be added to our move mailing list.

For more details on arrangements for the move and future access arrangements, please see our Frequently Asked Questions 293KB.

What we hold

The archives of The Royal London Hospital, former District Hospitals and Special Health Authority Hospitals, and NHS hospital management committees, health districts, authorities and Trusts  are held by virtue of the appointment of the Archives as a Place of Deposit for public records under Section 4(1) of the Public Records Act 1958.

As well as the archives of the Royal London Hospital, we hold records of the following hospitals:

  • Albert Dock Hospital
  • Bethnal Green Hospital
  • East End Maternity Hospital
  • East London Hospital for Children
  • Forest Gate Hospital
  • Harefield Hospital
  • London Chest Hospital
  • London Jewish Hospital
  • Mildmay Mission Hospital
  • Mile End Hospital
  • Newham General Hospital
  • National Heart Hospital
  • Plaistow Maternity Hospital
  • Poplar Hospital for Accidents
  • Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children
  • Queen Mary’s Hospital for the East End
  • Queen Mary's Maternity Home
  • Royal Brompton Hospital
  • St Andrew's Hospital
  • St Clement's Hospital
  • Whipps Cross Hospital

View the locations of these hospitals and click through to our catalogue using the map below:

We also hold:

  • The archives of City and East London Area Health Authority (Teaching); Newham District Health Authority; Tower Hamlets District Health Authority; Bow Group Hospital Management Committee; Stepney Group Hospital Management Committee
  • The archives of The Royal London Hospital and its Associated Community Services NHS Trust
  • The archives of the Special Trustees of The Royal London Hospital
  • Works of art and historical materials relating to the above bodies
  • The archives, works of art and historical materials of the London Hospital Medical College,  and of  Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, held on deposit
  • The archives, works of art and historical materials of clubs and societies associated with the London Hospital and Medical College.
  • The archives, works of art and historical materials of Princess Alexandra & Newham College of Nursing and Midwifery and associated bodies.
  • The archives of The Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust
  • Personal papers and historical materials of private individuals and external organisations, including Sydney Holland, 2nd Viscount Knutsford; Eva Luckes; Edith Cavell; Thomas Horrocks Openshaw; Hubert Maitland Turnbull; Dorothy Russell; Francis Camps, Donald Hunter, Douglas Northfield and Hamilton Bailey.

Useful websites