With it being January and that time of year when people strive to lay off of the booze, I thought now would be an appropriate time to examine a certain derelict building which can be seen rotting away on Hampstead Road close to Euston station.
These mouldering remains were once the London Temperance Hospital, an institution set up by the National Temperance League in the 1870s with the aim of providing medical treatment without the aid of alcohol.
At the time, alcohol (abuse of which aside) was generally seen as a healthy, positive substance (hardly surprising considering the filthy, disease-ridden water people had to endure) and was widely used to cure patients suffering anything from malnutrition to delirium. It was also not unusual for hospital staff to enjoy the odd tipple whilst on duty…
The Temperance Society on the other hand viewed alcohol as a curse which lay at the very heart of society’s ills, and their specialist hospital therefore discouraged the use of alcohol in treatment– although it wasn’t entirely ruled out, its use being tolerated in “exceptional cases.”
When it was first founded in 1873 the London Temperance Hospital was originally based on Gower Street, Bloomsbury. It moved to the larger, purpose built premises on Hampstead Road in 1885 where it was put under the control of a board of twelve teetotallers.
The land upon which the new hospital was built was purchased from St James’s Church– the ground being previously occupied by a chapel and the St Pancras Female Charity School (i.e. workhouse).
By all accounts the hospital was a great success and its policy of refusing to store stocks of alcohol resulted in thousands of pounds being saved every year.
Being so close to Euston, the hospital found itself on the front line in April 1924 when a specially chartered train carrying football supporters from Coventry en route to the Cup Final crashed with an electric train from Watford in a tunnel close to the station.
Four passengers were killed and many more injured, including the elderly driver who was trapped beneath heavy machinery for five hours.
A less serious accident occurred later that same year when a bus crashed right outside the hospital… the driver of which, John Summers was found to be drunk! Perhaps fate was trying to tell him something…
In 1931, American tycoon Samuel Insull gifted the princely sum of $160,000 to the hospital allowing an extension to be created. Insull’s name can still be glimpsed on the newer building today.
Shortly after Insull’s donation the hospital was renamed the National Temperance Hospital. It merged with the NHS in 1948 and was formerly closed in 1982.
The building found further use however in 1986 when it was leased to the organisation, Freedom from Torture who adapted the facilities for the treatment of victims of torture from across the world.
Over 1,000 people were treated at the hospital, but the unit was sadly forced to close abruptly in 1990 following budget cuts.
The building limped on, finding use as a clinic and training centre, but has lain empty since 2006 and is now in a dreadful state, strangled by weeds, its windows cracked, ornate balconies rusted and basement flooded.
If the planned High Speed Two rail project goes ahead it is likely the old Temperance hospital will be swept away forever.
Sneaky images of the hospital’s ruined interior, taken by an intrepid urban explorer, can be viewed here.