BIRMINGHAM CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

©  COLIN BAKER   2007                                                                                       

The Birmingham & Midland Free Hospital for Sick Children was founded by Thomas Heslop, with the first hospital dedicated to caring for children opening in 1862, in the former Eye Infirmary in Steelhouse Lane. He was convinced that children could not be treated adequately in an adult general hospital.

In 1869, the hospital transferred to a former lying-in hospital in Broad Street, An extension was added in 1877, for use as an isolation block with two six-bedded scarlet fever wards and a four bedded diphtheria ward.

By the 1900’s, it had again outgrown its premises and so a 2 ˝ acre site was found in Ladywood Road, and an appeal was launched to raise funds to build a new purpose-built children’s hospital. The Children’s Hospital Brick League was inaugurated.  For every guinea from a child, the donor’s initials were carved on a brick.

In 1913, the foundation stone of the new hospital was laid, by HRH Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll. Building progress was interrupted in 1914 by the outbreak of WW1, so the hospital was not opened until 1917, with the first outpatient being treated in a partially completed building on Christmas Eve of that year. It soon became a leading centre for paediatric medicine.

In 1937, due to the risk of infection in the main wards, a separate Babies Block was built. This was completed in 1941, with building being again delayed by war. It was officially named as the Leonard Parsons block after the physician who had worked at the hospital since 1910, on his retirement in 1946; he was knighted for his contribution to paediatric medicine.

When the NHS started in 1948, the Hospital became part of Birmingham United Hospitals Teaching Group.

By the 1990’s, to remain at the forefront of paediatric healthcare, a larger home was needed, so in 1998, more than 130 years after it first started, the Children’s Hospital returned to Steelhouse Lane, moving into the former General Hospital, with the old hospital building at Ladywood becoming Broadway Plaza, an entertainment complex.

The hospital, re-named the Diana, Princess of Wales Children’s Hospital was opened by HM the Queen on 30th October 1998.

Broad Street Hospital c 1880