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.
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.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.