Rare Pictures of St Clements Hospital in Mile End

St Clements Hospital in Mile End closed in 2005. The services it offered were transferred to the nearby Mile End Hospital. The building, with it’s grand facade, was slowly left to decay. That was until the whole area was extensively redeveloped over the last five years. Now the hospital has entered a new phase. It’s distinctive clock tower still dominant above a whole new housing complex.

The building first opened as a workhouse in 1849 it was called the ‘City of London Union Workhouse‘. Dreaded places, people would go there only when there was no alternative. There were many workhouses in London at the time. In 1874 it was converted into an infirmary for the London Union. It’s core role being to assess patients presenting with mental health issues. In 1902 it had 511 beds.

The front sign of St Clements Hospital in Mile End. Photo by Damien Hewetson

From Workhouse to Hospital

It closed in 1909 when the Homerton workhouse re-opened. By that time it had become superfluous. Eventually in 1912 it became the ‘City of London Institution’. This time with a role to look after chronically ill people. It then became known as the ‘Bow Institution’ in 1913. The London County Council took over the running of it in 1930.

Eventually in 1936 it became a psychiatric unit and renamed St Clements Hospital. Despite suffering damage in the war it survived and became part of the NHS in 1948. Merging with the London Hospital in 1968 it was renamed London Hospital (St Clements). The hospital closed for good in 2005 with it’s services transferring to the nearby Mile End Hospital.

St Clements Hospital taken from the rear. It’s dominant clock tower watching over the East End. Photo by Damien Hewetson

Exploring the Past

The hospital with its distinctive clock tower and facade would have been well known in East London. Photographer Damien Hewetson managed to visit the hospital during 2014 and 2015. The time was just prior to it’s extensive development. Capturing the building in it’s decayed state. It was virtually untouched since locking it’s doors the best part of 10 years before.

The photographs reveal the grand architecture inside. The building, despite it’s original use as a workhouse, was built to make an impact. Damien’s photography reveals grand staircases and elaborate architectural features. His explorations around the dusty interior capture the dying essence of this former proud building.

Photographs of the Dying Days of St Clements Hospital

The exterior of St Clements. Photo by Damien Hewetson
The atrium of St Clements Hospital. Photo by Damien Hewetson
Wrought iron staircase at St Clements. Photo by Damien Hewetson
Landing at St Clements with work of art. Photo by Damien Hewetson
Corridor with doors to cells at St Clements. Photo by Damien Hewetson
A chair with restraints in a cell at St Clements Hospital. It is not thought that this chair was original. Rather a potential art installation from a previous visitor. Picture by Damien Hewetson
An old piano at St Clements. Photo by Damien Hewetson
Chair in a decaying room at St Clements. Photo by Damien Hewetson

Paul Insect Street Art in St Clements.

Hidden around the building were also a number of pieces from street artist Paul Insect. The abandoned nature of the place was perfect for the artist. Insect used to have a studio around the corner so knew the area well. Knowing that the area was to be developed he went in and created a number of pieces. Not concerned whether anyone actually saw them or not it was just an interesting environment to paint in.

St Clements Hospital was visited at times in 2014 and 2015 by photographer Damien Hewetson. All pictures used in this post have been provided by him. You can see his instagram and facebook by clicking on the links.

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  1. I worked there in Medical Records /Reception in the 70’s. My G Aunt was as impatient, she had dementia

    1. HI Gloria, you worked there at a key time that I’m researching, but have been told that in accordance with NHS guidelines they’ve destroyed all records that are 30+ years old. I’ve recently found out my Father was there/receiving treatment there between 1974-1977. Would you remember any patients (bipolar/schizophrenic) that were sent there. He was very distinctive (tall/slim). If so, or if you know how I can find out more given no records, i’d love to DM you or talk more?

  2. I worked there in Medical Records /Reception in the 70’s. My G Aunt was as impatient, she had dementia

    1. Hi Gloria thanks for sharing that. From what I’m learning about this place there really is a lot of history to it.

  3. I trained there as a post graduate RMN. 1980’s, worked there on and off until 2004- Then worked in Mile End Unit.
    St Clements has a lot of history, and certainly lots of history of the local people in the area. I recall from training days until I left being involved in several generations of care with some families. I remember them well and with fondness. Along with some of the more notorious users from the local area, well known publicly. Some good colleagues, team spiritedness. A few colleagues still working in the MEH unit and out in the community. A lot of memories for such a small hospital. Interesting the artist Paul Insect 🦟 has installed some of his artwork, given the hospital had a truly dreadful problem with cockroaches, and cat fleas at one time from the feral cats living in the ducts under the building- the admin block at the front of the hospital… came up the vents and bit a number of secretaries and admin staff.
    Some good happy memories and people helped to stay well – and bricks of shame for services that failed service users in the name of treatment. Thoughts of service users even today, hoping their lives are better and more hopeful. Social determinants like poverty, poor housing still need to be radically changed, not poor people punished for poor circumstances.
    The East Enders deserve much more, and better.

    1. Hi Suzanne thanks so much for sharing your memories with us. This hospital certainly has left it’s mark on the area. Transformed now but its history remains

    2. HI Suzanne, i’m trying to research some of the treatments you refer to, say for a patient who went there in the late 70’s. I’ve written to NHS but they tell me that ‘in accordance to their guidance they’ve destroyed all records of 30+ years old.’ Sad given we now know how much medical DNA can help future generations. Would you know what kind of treatments a person with say bipolar/schizophrenia would have received? I’d love to DM or speak more via social media? Thank you.

  4. The eponymous Austerlitz, central character in WG Sebald’s great novel, spends some months in St Clement’s, “feeling nothing inside my head but the burnt-out four walls of my brain”. Watching the birds and the animals in the neglected and overgrown garden from his window seems to aid his recovery.

  5. If anyone was connected to St. Clements in the 1970s I’d love to hear more about techniques and treatments used, as the NHS say they’ve now destroyed all records from there that are 30+ years old. 🙁 Thank you. Such interesting photos, helping me build my research. Thank you.

    1. My mum had a nervous breakdown she was put in this hospital and was sectioned this place horrified me as a child I remember some alful things. A man hung him self in an unused bath room upstairs . There was a woman called rosemary that got pregnant when she was outside on her days out . My mum had electric shock treatment on 3 occasions and the smell from the eitha not sure I spelt that right. It lingered for days it was an awful experience. As a teenager to see her go through this it tormenyed for years and I could still cry about it now

    2. I’ve left a reply to someone below my mum had electric shock treatment. And the smell of eitha torments me today

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