About the Trust

Mothers' Hospital (1884 - 1986)

In 1884 the Salvation Army opened a refugee home at Ivy House on Mare Street, Hackney. Many of the women arriving at the house were pregnant and unmarried.

mothers' hospital

To be so at this time would mean becoming a social outcast, with employers and parents disowning the women; so in 1888 the Salvation Army decided to dedicate Ivy House to the care of pregnant, unmarried women.

The house was the first to look after unmarried mothers, previously all hospitals would only cater for those who were married. The house was also used as a midwives’ training school; the first student midwife was trained in 1889 and for the 18 years the hospital was based at Ivy House, where more than 250 student midwives graduated.

ward at Mothers' hospital (1915)

Whilst based at Ivy House the hospital expanded and more land was bought, including a mother and baby home called Cotland based on Springfield Road, Upper Clapton. Eventually the Salvation Army built a hospital solely for unmarried mothers based on Lower Clapton Road. Opened in 1913 by Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise, the hospital was officially called the Mothers’ for the first time. 

The hospital was available for all mothers, but particularly catered for the poor and unmarried; during the First World War it also began to look after a large number of women who had become widowed or destitute and from this point on the hospital agreed to take married or unmarried mothers. The hospital was originally built to cater for 600 births per year, but it was soon expanded upon as this number increased. As part of the developments to the hospital, a new nurses’ home and theatre was opened by Queen Mary in 1921. By the 1930s the number of births per year had risen to 2,000. The hospital also continued to train midwives and encouraged research and innovation. 

midwives at Mothers' hospital

During the Second World War, the hospital suffered some damage; plans were made to evacuate to Willersley Castle in Matlock, Derbyshire and to Bragborough Hall in Northamptonshire, but the hospital remained open for those who did not leave London during the war. Between 1939 and 1945, 6587 babies were born.

During the wartime period, mothers were made mobile on the second day after delivery, to ensure that transfers to air raid shelters were orderly (and also allowing more space due to less beds being taken down). This was contrary to nursing techniques at that time, however is a method used in modern medicine.

Mothers' hospital front facade (1980s)

In 1948 the Mothers’ Hospital became part of the NHS, although it was agreed that a number of staff could be Salvation Army members – this relationship between the NHS and the Salvation Army continued until the Mothers’ closure. Further growth allowed the hospital to open a training centre and home for 24 nurses in 1952. At this time, the hospital also started to provide a service for mothers giving birth in their own homes.

In 1974, the hospital became part of the City and Hackney Health Authority. The hospital was closed in 1986 when Homerton Hospital opened and all the maternity and obstetric services were transferred.

During 1912 and 1986 the Mothers’ Hospital delivered 124,000 babies and trained 3,000 nurses through its Midwifery Training School.