A Richmond charity has published a book which traces the history of Barnes Hospital, a facility opened in the late 1800s to treat infectious diseases.

At a time when the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the lives of everyone, The Friends of Barnes Hospital, have remembered the hospital’s 130 years of service to the community.

Founded on Fever, Fostered by Friends is based on archive research and conversations with former patients and staff, documenting the hospital’s story from its controversial beginnings until the present day.

In the late 1800s "The Barnes Isolation Hospital" was proposed, a facility to treat and care for patients with infectious diseases, including diphtheria, scarlet fever and smallpox.

But the plans were met with fierce resistance from the community, with the Vicar of Mortlake leading a bitter campaign against a fever hospital so near to people’s homes.

A public enquiry, covered extensively by The Richmond and Twickenham Times, ruled against him, and permission was granted for a hospital so long as patients with smallpox were not admitted.

In August 1889 a hospital with beds for 14 patients opened, at a total cost of £5,000.

Over time, the initial animosity towards the Barnes Hospital gave way to support, as more diseases such as tuberculosis and chronic illnesses were treated, and buildings were expanded.

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Tuberculosis Poster, from the Friends of Barnes Hospital

In more recent years, the facility has treated people with mental health problems such as dementia and depression.

The book details how the hospital survived both wars, despite the loss of staff in the First World War, and several bombings in the Second.

Anecdotes relay the decision to replace the horse pulled ambulance with a “motor ambulance”, and the purchase of ladders for parents wanting a glimpse of their sick child in a first-floor isolation ward.

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Photo of Barnes Hospital nurses, from the Friends of Barnes Hospital

Over 100 years later, the South West London and St. Georges Mental Health NHS Trust, have now applied for planning permission for a new health centre, a special educational needs school and some housing.

In light of the hospital's different future, the Friends of Barnes Hospital want to commemorate its important contribution to the community.

To obtain a copy of “Founded on Fever, Fostered by Friends” – £10 including postage – email admin@fobh.org.uk or telephone 07928 650077. All proceeds go to the Friends.