Our history

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.

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