Each night this week
BBC London has focused on Dickens’ legacy to London, to tie in with a major new
exhibition at the Museum of London on the life and work of Charles Dickens. Last
night BBC London aired a short feature on Charles Dickens’ relationship with
Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) opened in 1852 with just ten beds and was the first institution in the UK to offer inpatient care to children only.
Initially the hospital was regarded as a suspicious innovation by many people, and few patients came, but soon its reputation began to spread across the city.
Principal founder Charles West was fortunate in having Charles Dickens as a friend. Dickens wrote a powerful article in his popular magazine Household Words to publicise the hospital when it opened and also raised money by holding public readings of his works, including A Christmas Carol.
"He featured the hospital in a disguised advert in his last published novel, Our Mutual Friend, in 1865,” explains Nick Baldwin, GOSH archivist and curator. “The fundraising campaign he took part in really saved the hospital from bankruptcy and enabled it to double in size. It was certainly a very significant contribution."
Today, Great Ormond Street Hospital is the country’s leading centre for treating sick children, with the widest range of specialists under one roof and has more than 192,000 patient visits a year.