The Middlesex Hospital – what sort of a name is that?

The Middlesex Hospital – what sort of a name is that?

Some of the adventures I have recounted in recent months happened while I was on the Consultant staff of The Middlesex Hospital in London (1973-86). You may wonder about the name, which could be misunderstood.

It was called The Middlesex because it was in the County of Middlesex, now part of the city of London. It was recorded in 704 as Middleseaxon, the territory of the “middle Saxons”, and is derived from old english “middel” and “seaxe” (the seaxe being a kind of knife). The “Middle” makes more sense when you know that there are other surrounding areas called Essex, Sussex and Wessex, which unsurprisingly are east, south and west of Middlesex. I wonder what happened to “Northex/Norsex”?

There was (and is) a North Middlesex Hospital, and indeed West and Central Middlesex Hospitals, wherein lies another confusion. You might think that “The Central Middlesex” would be in the center of London, but not so, a fact that caused trouble for one of my would-be trainees from overseas. He turned up there by mistake, assuming it to be THE Middlesex. But it was a good mistake, since he was able to study there under Sir Francis Avery-Jones, the local expert and grandfather of British Gastroenterology, instead of a young upstart.

Avery was kind when I started my Consultant career, taking me to lunch at the Atheneum, a very private London club, and telling me how to behave. I don’t recall the advice, but I do remember the pheasant and a modest claret.

So, back to THE Middlesex. It opened as the Middlesex Infirmary in 1745 with 15 beds to provide medical treatment for the poor. The hospital moved to Mortimer Street, in 1757.

The new and final building on the same site was opened by King George VI in 1935.

The medical schools of the Middlesex Hospital and nearby University College Hospital (UCH) merged in 1987 to form the University College and Middlesex School of Medicine, which itself merged with the Royal Free  in 1998 to form the University College London Medical School. The Middlesex building closed in 2005 with activities transferred with old UCH to the new hospital on Euston Rd.

Prior members and supporters of the Gastroenterology department held a wake party in the building in 2007 after it closed, and before it was demonished. Many familar faces, and in the front row: Chris Russell, Lord Bernie Ribiero, Marion and Peter Cotton, Adrian Hatfield.

When the hospital was demolished it left the chapel standing proud (for medical readers, looking like a “visible vessel” in an ulcer crater)

The site is now covered in fancy appartments, offices and restaurants, but the now renovated and renamed Fitzrovia Chapel is preserved and well worth a visit

Lots of nostalgia recently about the Middlesex, as evidenced by the popularity of its facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheMiddlesexHospital.

All part of life’s rich tapestry.

4 Responses

  1. Thank you for the facts. I was at the Middlesex from 71-76. Recently working with a gal from Mongolia- she was very perturbed by my Middlesex tee shirt!! I assumed it was because of counties as I knew of Sussex, Wessex and Essex but could not explain Northex!! Thanks

  2. Diana Moss says:

    Thank you very much for posting this account

  3. Christopher Ward says:

    Thank you Peter for the summary of the history of The Middlesex – it remains my fondest memories working as a deputy administrator doing my best to support you and your colleagues assisted by my boss Gareth Herbert, from whom I learnt that my role was to champion the clinical services I had responsibility for rather than curtailment as seems to be the case now – I wish you and your family all very best. Chris

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