Skip to main content  

National Orthopaedic Hospital, 234 Great Portland Street, 1982

​National Orthopaedic Hospital, Great Portland Street, London. 1982. Reference: Collage 101886

​Patient records from The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital collection

Jeff Gerhardt, Senior Archivist

Historical background

The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) is a specialist hospital for the treatment of neuro-musculoskeletal maladies i.e. bones, muscles, tendons, joints and the nervous system. Although London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) previously held various patient registers for the RNOH, the main archive was deposited in 2008. The collection contains records of the RNOH from its foundation in 1905, and also its predecessor hospitals stretching back to 1838. The RNOH is an amalgamation of the Royal Orthopaedic, National Orthopaedic and City Orthopaedic hospitals, which were all located in London.

In roughly 13 years, London progressed from having no dedicated hospital for orthopaedics to three. The history of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital begins in 1831. The surgeon Dr W. J. Little worked at the London Hospital, Whitechapel and was studying in Hanover where he met Georg Louis Stromeyer. Stromeyer developed a revolutionary new procedure for the treatment of limb contractions. Little brought the technique back to London and established the Club Foot Infirmary in 1838, opening in Bloomsbury in 1840. Queen Victoria approved the hospital being renamed the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in 1845.

The National was formed in 1838 as a private venture for treating spinal complaints. However, it received no support from the medical establishment until 1860 when its standing was strengthened under the reputable surgeons Mr Carr and Mr Dick, the latter a former surgeon in the French Army.

The City Orthopaedic Hospital opened in 1851 in Hatton Garden. It was founded due to the inability of the Royal to cope with the number of patients seeking treatment. However, it struggled for much of its existence and lack of funds almost led to its closure in 1878.

The RNOH was established in 1905 with the amalgamation of the Royal and National hospitals, with the City merging a couple of years later. In 1909, new hospital buildings were built in Great Portland and Bolsover Streets which were opened by King Edward VII.

During the First World War, the hospital offered the War Office beds for military cases; it also cared for discharged disabled soldiers after the war. In 1922 a 'country' branch of the hospital was opened at Brockley Hill, Stanmore and the buildings in the centre of London became known as the 'town' branch. There were 100 patients at Stanmore in 1923 and by 1927 the hospital had been extended to meet increasing demand. In the 1920s, proposals for a merger were received from the National Industrial Home for Crippled Boys based in Kensington. Amalgamation occurred in 1935 and the Stanmore Cripples Training College opened at the country branch in 1937. Due to financial difficulties, it closed in 1949.

During the Second World War, the Great Portland Street basement was taken over by Marylebone Borough Council and the British Red Cross as a first aid post and Stanmore started receiving military patients in 1940.

The Institute of Orthopaedics and Musculoskeletal Science opened at the Stanmore premises in 1946, where it continues to conduct formal post graduate scientific research into orthopaedics with close links to University College London. The Great Portland Street premises were closed in 1984. In 2008, the building at Bolsover Street was sold for redevelopment and a new state of the art out-patient centre was built at 45 Bolsover Street, opening in 2009. In 2011, approval was given for the complete redevelopment of the Stanmore branch.

Highlights of the archives

What are the highlights of the collection for researchers?

Unfortunately, there is not a large amount of material for the predecessor hospitals. For the Royal Orthopaedic, there’s a range of Court of Governors minutes, Management Committee minutes, and annual reports from 1840 to 1905. Those for the National Orthopaedic Hospital start later; for example Management Committee minutes date from 1888 and annual reports from 1874 to 1904. For the City Orthopaedic we hold Management Committee minutes from its foundation in 1851 and also some later annual reports. There are neither patient registers nor photographs for any of the predecessor hospitals.

The records for the RNOH are more comprehensive. The minutes range from those for the Management Committee (later Board of Governors) to those for committees investigating anything from infections and medical equipment to discussing clinical research. The main series of minutes began at the hospital’s inception in 1905, but expanded as the hospital’s functions developed. Most of the administrative records date from after the Second World War, although some are restricted access for data protection reasons. There is also a good range of annual reports for 1905 to 1948.

A substantial number of records relate to patients, from admission registers, out-patient and in-patient registers, to operation registers and registers of patient complaints and many of these are good genealogical resources. Unfortunately, the registers are generally unavailable as they begin in the 1920s and are restricted for 100 years. There are also papers relating to associated organisations that the hospital was closely connected to, for example the Teaching Hospitals’ Association (which is a leadership body for hospitals that conduct research and medical training) and the British Orthopaedic Association. Among the photographs there is a large album for the Stanmore hospital in the 1920s which includes images of children lying outside in hospital beds while being treated for rickets.

A variety of other records are of potential interest to researchers such as records of staff, financial material and various legal records. In the main, the collection will be useful to those researching medical history and particularly orthopaedics, as these hospitals were at the forefront of orthopaedic care and research. Researchers will be able to find information on the functioning of the hospital and various areas of research undertaken.

Further information

Documents consulted

You can search the records of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital on our online catalogue under reference H/08. Other sources quoted above can be found under the following collections:


Find out more about our collections relating to the care of the sick, dispossessed and destitute on our collections pages.

30 January 2013
Last Modified:
11 September 2018