Headington history: Miscellaneous

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Origins of the hospitals of Headington

Headington has numerous hospitals within the same square mile. The old local saying “Down in Oxford the air’s like stale beer; up in Headington it’s pure champagne” gives one reason why Headington initially proved a magnet for hospitals. Here is a brief history of the main hospitals, in the order of their date of foundation.

Warneford Hospital (1826)

The Radcliffe Infirmary opened in 1770 on a five-acre site on the road to Woodstock, in a rural setting well outside the city boundary. But when there was a proposal in the 1812 to build a sister institution, the Oxford Lunatic Asylum, there were problems in finding a suitable site in the area around the Infirmary. The asylum eventually opened in 1826 on a site in the countryside off Old Road, where land was cheaper. Later renamed the Warneford after a major benefactor, the asylum aimed to recreate the atmosphere of a gentleman’s country house. Thus Headington acquired its first hospital.

Fuller history of the Warneford from Oxfordshire Health Archives

Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (from 1872)

The relocation of Oxford University Press in Walton Street in 1830 led to the development of Jericho, whose tightly-packed terraced houses doubtless produced plenty of smoke. So when Mrs Hannah Wingfield gave £1500 in memory of her husband for a convalescent home for the patients of the Radcliffe Infirmary, the original site no longer provided the fresh air deemed necessary for recovering patients, which probably explains why in 1872 the Wingfield Convalescent Home was built in Headington, on an isolated plot on the corner of Old Road and Windmill Road. In 1914 it was converted into a twenty-bed military hospital, and in 1918 the commandant of the hospital, Miss K. J. D. Feilden of High Wall, Pullen’s Lane, paid for additional buildings, and the site became the 100-bed Wingfield Hospital. The work of Gathorne Girdlestone led to its development as a specialist orthopaedic hospital, and in 1931 (after a gift of £70,000 from the then Sir William Morris) it was renamed the Wingfield-Morris Orthopaedic Hospital. The name was updated in 1950 to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital.

Fuller history of the NOC from Oxfordshire Health Archives

John Radcliffe Hospital (from 1927)

In 1919 Headington Manor House was sold with its remnant of 75 acres of land to the Treasurer of the Radcliffe Infirmary (the Revd R. B. Cronshaw), especially to develop tuberculosis facilities. The British Red Cross Society gave £15,000 (left over from wartime appeals) towards the cost of the land. A photograph of the Manor House, described as the Radcliffe Infirmary's new branch, was published in the Oxford Journal Illustrated of 9 July 1919. (The present John Radcliffe Hospital complex only occupies about half of the original grounds of the Manor House, as the governors were forced by financial worries to sell off adjoining chunks for building Sandfield and Staunton Roads.)

The Osler Pavilion for Consumptives (below), which was named after Sir William Osler, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford from 1904 to 1919, was opened by Neville Chamberlain, Minister of Health, on 2 February 1927.

History of the Osler Pavilion and Osler Hospital by the Oxfordshire Health Archives

Osler Pavilion

In 1930 the convalescent home in Hollow Way, Cowley in the house called Sunnyside, together with its estate of 50 acres, was sold, and a new 30-bed convalescent home called Sunnyside (below) was built in the grounds of the Headington Manor House.


The ward at Sunnyside

Sunnyside Convalescent Home

History of the Sunnyside Convalescent Home by Oxfordshire Health Archives

In 1954 the Sunnyside Home was combined with the Osler Pavilion to form the Osler Hospital.

Serious planning for the John Radcliffe site started in 1963, and the Osler Hospital closed in 1969. In 1971 Phase I (a maternity unit with 180 beds and cots) opened. Phase II (the main hospital) cost £30m to build and opened in 1979.

The third phase was completed in January 2007, when the last departments in the original Radcliffe Infirmary closed and the West Wing and the Oxford Children's Hospital opened on the JR site.

History of the JR by Oxfordshire Health Archives

The Laurels, London Road

When Headington Workhouse closed in 1930, it was converted into a hospital known as “The Laurels”, but was usually referred to as the London Road Hospital.

London Road Hospital

It closed in about 1960, and was demolished in 1964 and replaced by housing.

History of the London Road Hospital by Oxfordshire Health Archives

Park Hospital for Children (1936)

When the grand mansion Highfield Park off Old Road and its 28 acre estate came up for sale in 1933, its then next-door neighbour, the Warneford, bought the house and its 28 acres for £18,000, and in 1936 it opened as a convalescent villa for 16 women. In 1939 Highfield House was converted and became the Park Hospital for Functional Nervous Disorders with 26 beds; in 1958 it became a children’s psychiatric hospital; and since 1986 it has been a general children’s hospital, incorporating the National Centre for Children with Epilepsy.

It has always been part of the same administration as the Warneford Hospital, and is now Boundary Brook House.

History of the Park Hospital by Oxfordshire Health Archives

Churchill Hospital (from 1940)

Named after the then Prime Minister, the Churchill opened as an Emergency Medical Services Hospital in 1940. In 1942 it was taken over by the US Medical Services, and at the end of the war it was placed under the administration of the Management Committee of the Radcliffe Infirmary.

A member of the Women’s Institute wrote: “Standing by the Wingfield roundabout at the junction of Windmill Road, The Slade and Old Road in Headington, we threw cigarettes and magazines to the lorry loads of wounded soldiers and airmen as they were brought to the Churchill Hospital. The hospital was used by the Americans during the war, and as a Girls’ Training Corps cadet in my spare time, we were asked to visit the wounded and put flowers on their lockers beside their beds.”

History of the Churchill Hospital by Oxfordshire Health Archives


Private hospitals

Both of these began life in north Oxford, but followed the John Radcliffe Hospital to Headington.


The Manor Hospital (formerly the Acland) moved to the Manor Ground site from the Banbury Road in 2003.


St Luke’s Hospital moved from Linton Road to Latimer Road in 1982. McMaster House is also run by the St Luke's Housing Society


Right: Grave of Ian McMaster in Holywell Cemetery

© Stephanie Jenkins

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