Health in Hackney
Hackney was first recorded in 1198 and for 400 years remained as a farming community in Middlesex; districts we know today including Homerton, Dalston, Clapton and Shacklewell were hamlets in the parish of Hackney.
Hackney Mare Street in an original print from 1805 – collection of Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
It quickly established itself as an area of diversity; as well as nonconformist worshipers in the 1600s and 1700s, there were a number of immigrants from Europe. The communities we know today can also trace their roots back to the 17th Century; Jewish people have lived here since 1684, there has been a Black presence since 1630 (although the afro-Caribbean community did not fully develop until the 1950s), and Asian nurses for British children have been staying in the area since the early 1900s. As you will see from the history of the hospitals in this area there had also been a strong German community from the 1800s.
Hackney's first hospital was founded in 1280, called the Kingsland Leper Hospital (based on Kingsland Road). It was one of ten leper hospitals set up in London; it was eventually closed by St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1760. Although the area was very diverse, in terms of healthcare Hackney conformed to the English system. By the 1800s there were two kinds of hospital in England: the voluntary hospitals, which were funded by donations from private sources who were then able nominate patients for treatment by writing letters of introductions; or the workhouse infirmaries, public fever and mental hospitals. All hospitals were used only by the poor; patients had a higher chance of recovery if they were nursed at home and so those who could afford to would pay for a nurse to tend to them there.
We realise that many of you may remember the 'old' hospitals in Hackney - St Leonards, St Matthews, the Mothers', Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children, the German, the Eastern and Hackney.
In this section we look more closely at just four of them - those which closed at a similar time to Homerton; remembering though that all have contributed to Homerton becoming what it is today.