Our history | St Joseph's Hospice

Our history

As well as the wonderful explanation of our history below, please do view the flickbook version of our Heritage Centre too.

1900: Arrival of Sisters in Hackney

  • At the turn of the century, living conditions were grim in the crowded tenements of Hackney.
  • On June 27 1900, five Religious Sisters of Charity (Irish Sisters of Charity as they were known at that time) arrived in Hackney – Winefred Sugrue, Mary Sabas O’Connor, Mary Uriel Duffy, Catherine O’Flynn and Agnes Aloysius Martin.
  • They were invited initially by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vaughan.
  • Their arrival was largely due to Father Peter Gallwey, an Irish Jesuit priest, who through a wealthy contact was able to raise enough money for a Foundation.
  • The Foundation was funded by the generosity of Grace Goldsmid
  • In 1901 as a result of a bitter winter and widespread unemployment needy mothers and children arrived at the convent door. Nobody was turned away. 

1903: Cambridge Lodge

  • In the spring of 1903, the Sisters moved into 6 Cambridge Lodge.
  • In June 1903 the Cambridge Lodge Estate was put up for sale. However the Sisters did not have enough funds to buy it.
  • On December 4 1903 the Estate was sold to an anonymous buyer for £10,000.
  • On March 25 1904, the anonymous buyer handed over the property to the Religious Sisters of Charity for use as a Hospice for the Dying.

1905: St. Joseph’s Hospice Opens

  • Necessary renovation work (funded by the Religious Sisters of Charity) was completed in January 1905.
  • A day before the opening a tram driver, Mr Richard Whelan, was carried in by work colleagues. Suffering from tuberculosis he died two weeks later.
  • St Joseph’s Hospice opened quietly on January 15 1905. 
  • Among the Patrons were Queen Alexander and her daughter, Princess Victoria.
  • From the very beginning, the Hospice welcomed patients of all faiths and none. 
  • In 1907, the first Annual Report was produced. In the two years since opening 212 patients had been admitted.
  • The Sisters were kept also busy serving the people of Hoxton and Hackney in their own homes and witnessed the poverty and suffering first hand. 
  • They also served breakfast to the men and women of the roads every day from the huts at the back of the Hospice. 
  • In 1909, St. Joseph’s Hospice was feeding starving people in conditions of high unemployment and harsh weather.

1911: Hospice Expands

  • The first building project was the construction was of a chapel, just 45 feet long by 24 feet wide, with outer walls of corrugated iron. It cost £450.
  • In 1922 three new wards were built. These housed patients with tuberculosis.
  • In 1923, the hospice was recognised by the Ministry for Health as a home for “the reception of advanced cases of pulmonary tuberculosis”.
  • In 1927, 8 King Edward Road, just around the corner from the Hospice, was purchased as a nurses’ home.

1932: The Permanent Chapel Opens

  • In 1932 a new chapel, designed by John Sterrett, connecting the convent to the hospice was opened.
  • This chapel still exists today and is the oldest remaining part of the present day building.

1945: Reconstruction

  • In 1939, the hospice was requisitioned for defence purposes. Hospice patients and equipment were moved to accommodation in Bath which was owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity.
  • Bombs fell on Hackney damaging parts of St Joseph’s Hospice.
  • In 1945, following this time of conflict, improvements were made to update facilities and increase the comfort of patients.
  • The Sisters also embarked on plans for a new hospice wing to meet the increasing demand for beds.

1950 – 2000: A New Era of Expansion

  • Following the reconstruction of 1945, a new chapter began in the life of the hospice.
  • There were now 25 nuns, a large staff of doctors, nurses, ancillary workers and volunteers.
  • In 1958, Cicely Saunders (founder of St. Christopher’s Hospice) began working on her clinical studies at St Joseph’s Hospice.
  • In 1969, the Day Centre and Occupational Therapy Unit was opened.
  • The hospice was caring for 120 patients in their own homes, and contained 112 in-patient beds that accommodated between 600 and 700. patients each year.
  • At its peak, St Patrick’s wing also housed up to 60 long stay patients. 
  • Herman House rehabilitation and respite care unit was opened in 1977 and had 26 residents. 
  • In 1975, Home Care (MacMillan Cancer Support) was launched by Dr Richard Lamerton and Sr Antonia.
  • In 1979, Dr James Hanratty (pioneer of hospice medicine and co - founder of Help the Hospices) became St Joseph’s first Medical Director.
  • Under his leadership, the hospice expanded and multidisciplinary meetings were introduced for patients and families.
  • In 1984,  the Norfolk Wing Education Centre and Day Hospice was opened by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. 
  • September 26 1990 saw the inaugural meeting of the Board of Management.
  • In 1996, the first issue of St. Joseph’s Newsletter was produced.

The 2000s: An Expansive and Modern Hospice

  • The twentieth century saw St. Joseph’s transform from a modest establishment providing solitude and care to the dying poor, people of all faiths and none, to an expansive modern hospice including palliative care, education and research.
  • Over the course of a century, St. Joseph’s Hospice has demonstrated that it can adapt and change with the times, while still maintaining its original mission and remaining rooted within its local community.

We would like to hear from you