The story of Euston’s iconic Temperance Hospital

This local Victorian building currently has a new life as a Collective co-working hub. But what of its rather unusual past?

London Temperance Hospital

Still visible, the brickwork detail. Photo: Georgia Grimond
For many years it lay derelict. Sometime soonish it will vanish completely as a result of the HS2 construction project. But for over a century before that, the grand but faded building on Hampstead Road that’s currently home to The Collective hub (see box below) was a rather unusual hospital, one that refused to use alcohol in the treatment of patients.

The London Temperance Hospital (later, in 1939, the National Temperance Hospital) opened in 1873 in Gower Street. It moved to the familiar site in 1885 (you can still see the foundation stone), where the use of alcohol was prohibited – except in the most extreme circumstances.

Exterior pre-refurb 002. Photo: Duncan Nicholl
Exterior pre-refurb. Photo: Duncan Nicholl

Alcohol? In hospital? Yes, in the 19th century booze was widely believed to have medicinal qualities. The sick – and, alarmingly, staff – were often given alcohol, usually to treat a host of complaints including weakness, delirium and respiratory diseases (with a terrifying blistering technique).

The temperance movement encouraged abstinence, thinking alcohol responsible for many of society’s ills. They were also dubious about the restorative qualities of the booze, hoping to save money and improve staff efficiency by running a hospital based on their beliefs. According to one advert, the Temperance Hospital saved over £80,000 a year by staying sober.

In the early days, among other things, it had beds for cholera victims. When it shut, in 1990, it had a unit for the treatment of torture victims. In between, the hospital was a home to a host of different areas of medicine, from dentistry to casualty. This was an important part of the community, employing and treating many locals.

The hospital building in the abandoned era. Photo: Georgia Grimond
During the 90s and early 00s, the building stood empty and fell into serious disrepair. The basement became flooded by a gushing water main and filled with noxious fumes. Then, in 2006 the Medical Research Council bought the site for £28 million as a potential location for the eventual Francis Crick Institute, (which ended up being constructed a little further down Euston Road, behind the British Library).

Today, the Temperance lies smack in the path of the forthcoming HS2 development, so it’s time as a local landmark is almost up. Before that day comes though, it has been reborn as a thriving hub of start-up business.

Scrubbed and open: the building today. Photo: © Mckenzie Brown
Scrubbed and open: the building today. Photo: © Mckenzie Brown
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The Collective Hub

Main space post-refurb Photo © Duncan Nicholl
Main space post-refurb Photo © Duncan Nicholl

The building’s Insull Wing now plays host to three floors of workspace for creative startups, combining hot-desking, event space, rehearsal rooms, workshops, classrooms and subsidised individual lockable offices. Oh, with a colourful green roof to boot (which handily covers up those historic cracks too.)

Camden Collective – the regeneration project that acquires vacant and underused spaces and refurbishes them – has done a stirling job in transforming the place. They teamed up with the Collaborative Design and Build and the Clapton-based Redundant Architects Recreation Association (RARA) and now play host to a range of exciting businesses, many of which we will be profiling on Eustontowner in the coming weeks and months.

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The co-working hub space is currently full, but more details on how to apply for space are here

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