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In sickness and in health

Justine Sambrook

London's Royal Masonic Hospital ditched neo-Georgian for Streamline Moderne look

Credit: Architectural press archive | riba library photographs collection

The freemasons’ War Hospital opened duringWorld War I within the former Chelsea Hospital for Women on Fulham Road. By 1919 it had treated over 4,000 servicemen and was rapidly outgrowing its home. 

A purpose-built premises in Hammersmith, the largest of its kind in Europe at the time, was inaugurated in 1933 by King George V and won an RIBA Gold award the same year. The design of the new Royal Masonic Hospital in Ravenscourt Park exemplified a radical shift in architectural style for the practice Sir John Burnet, Tait & Lorne. 

Thomas Tait had won a competition for the building in 1929 with a dormer-roofed neo-Georgian proposal but completely revised the design in 1930 to create a Streamline Moderne flat-roofed edifice in red brick with nautical-style cantilevered sun balconies. 

Exempted from joining the NHS in 1948, the hospital continued as an independent concern but by the 1970s it was in dire financial straits and began to accept non-Masonic patients. After several decades of dispute it closed in 1994, reopened as a private clinic and was later leased to the NHS. 

Remaining unsuccessful, it has lain empty since 2006 but is now being redeveloped as the London International Hospital.  

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