Â (Click on photos to enlarge them)
Above and below: The Middlesex Hospital
This past week I’ve sadly had to say ‘goodbye’ to two very old friends. Not people, but buildings, or parts of buildings.
One was the Middlesex Hospital where I was born back in 1945, and where I was under constant treatment and underwent many operations (I was born with a cleft palate, hare lip and club foot, and also ended up with one leg shorter than the other. I also broke one leg in 1951.)
I was a regular visitor and in-patient of the hospital between the years 1945 and 1958, and was last admitted as an in-patient in 1969 for a final operation on my lip. I got surgical shoes and insoles toÂ facilitate my short right leg and fixed right ankle right up to the present day, though in latter years have just used the cork insoles or parts of them in shoes I buy in regular shops.
Although I’m still supposed to be getting surgical shoes from them, they didn’t even bother to tell me when they closed the hospital, nor tell me where I’m supposed to get shoes/insoles from now. In my most recent visits and contacts with the hospital they’d lost most of my enormous bundle ofÂ notes,Â so largeÂ because of the many departments I was under and the numerous operations I had as a child. One consultant told me all their older notes on patients had recently been shredded. This was not helpful when a social worker was trying to apply for disability benefit for me, wrote to the Middlesex and they had very little knowledge of me at all.
Although my stays in the hospital were quite traumatic for me as a child, I am very sad to see it not only closed and boarded up, but now demolished. All that has been saved of the main building is the chapel.
Built in the 1930s, it was a solid and pleasant looking building, and would have made an excellent hotel or block of flats. I think it is scandalous that it was just demolished. What, I wonder, happened to the beautiful paintings in the foyer?
The hospital had many innovations in the 1950s which would be a credit to hospitals today. Simple things like colored lines on the walls and staircases to lead you to various departments – follow the green line for orthopedic, etc. Also the ceiling railway (later dismantled) for X-rays. You’d have your X-ray, and they would be put in a metal container which then ran along rails just under the ceiling to be delivered to where the consultant would examine them.
I am of the very firm opinion that buildings should ideally last for hundreds of years, and that no structurally sound building less than 100 years old should ever be demolished. To demolish an esthetically pleasing modern building (any building dating from after the First World War is ‘modern’ in my book) is just scandalous.
The other sad ‘goodbye’ I had to say this week was to the maisonette in Havelock Road, Hastings where a gay couple my partner and I knew lived. Noel’s family had been in the maisonette since the 1940s, and Brian came to live there in the 1960s.
I spent many Christmases and New Year’s Eves there over the years, having been visiting the flat regularly since the early 1970s. It has been a ‘home away from home’ for me for nearly 40 years, much longer than I’ve lived in any of my own homes.
The flat was full of antique furniture, ornaments, etc. and some wonderful paintings by Noel’s uncle – Frederick Thomas Daws who featured dogs and other animals in most of his work. Below is a photo of myself, my partner and a friend withÂ Brian and Noel’sÂ twoÂ American SpanielsÂ Robbie and Max sitting below one of Daws greatest paintings of hunting dogs. Oh how I’ll miss that painting especially, which dominated the huge front room.
This is a paragraph of a longer article I found on the Net about Daws:Â
Frederick Thomas Daws. R.A. (British, b.1878)
F T Daws, Ranks amongst the most notable of British canine portraitists.
Born in London on the 2nd of October 1878, He studied at the Lambeth school of Art and exhibited widely. least of all a total of 12 works at the Royal Academy from 1896.
Noel died a few years ago, and Brian is now in a nursing home. This week Noel’s family have been instructed to clear the flat prior to it being handed back to the landlord, who will no doubt renovate it. Its position near the railway station, town center shops and sea-front make it a prime location.
I shall miss not visiting the flat when I go down to Hastings, a delightful muddle and treasure trove of artefacts going back to pre-War days. A mint condition collection of the pre-War comic ‘Magnet’ has just been rescued by Noel’s nephew, and there were many such things hidden away in drawers, such as a mint condition program for the Festival of Britain, and pre-War photos still in their Ilford envelopes complete with negatives.
I shall also miss the impressive facade of the Middlesex Hospital in Mortimer Street, just a few blocks from busy Oxford Street. Two old friends gone forever, as far as I’m concerned. Though the Hastings building remains, the flat/maisonette I knew has gone for good.
These two places join my father’s unique restaurant, the original ‘Swiss Cottage’ which stood in front of the pub of the same name and pre-dated it. That such anÂ historic building (which should have been listed) and the Middlesex Hospital can just be demolished is sacrilege. We’ll never see their like again.
Daws painting in front room, Hastings flat